American Society of Hematology

Congress Averts Sequestration, But Only Until March 1

Published on: January 02, 2013

Late January 1, the U.S. House of Representatives passed 257-167 the Senate-passed fiscal cliff deal (HR 8) to extend expiring tax cuts and delay automatic spending cuts that were set to take effect today. In both the Senate and House, the measure passed in a bipartisan manner. In the Senate, the vote was 88 to 8; in the House, 85 Republicans joined 172 Democrats in passing the measure (notable "ayes" include Speaker Boehner and Budget Commitee Chairman Paul Ryan).

The legislation is now headed to the president for his signature today. The final deal: Permanently extends the 2001 and 2003 tax rates for ordinary income, capital gains and dividends for individuals with annual incomes below $400,000 and couples with incomes below $450,000. It preserves the current estate tax exemption and permanently fixes the alternative minimum tax. The measure also continues unemployment insurance. Of particular significance to hematologists, the legislation delays the sequester, including cuts to the National Institutes of Health, until March 1.

Democrats are hopeful that the bill sets a new model for deficit reduction and sequester termination - that future efforts must include 50 percent revenue and 50 percent spending cuts.

While the legislation protects the country from going over the so-called fiscal cliff for the time being, NIH and other non-defense discretionary programs are not safeguarded from future cuts and the new cliff deadline of March 1. To complicate matters even more, funding for NIH has only been provided through March 28 and it will be up to the new Congress to finalize FY 2013 funding after the temporary continuing resolution expires.

Given this uncertain outlook, ASH will continue to urge lawmakers to provide balanced deficit reduction that does not further cut programs like NIH. In the coming weeks, ASH will work to educate all members of the new 113th Congress about the value of biomedical research so that they understand federal funding for NIH protects the well being of this country, generates jobs, and helps secure America's position as a global leader in science and medicine.

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