On Friday, the House voted 215-195 to approve a bill (HR 4628) that would cut funding from the federal health reform law's Prevention and Public Health Fund to offset the cost of extending low-interest rates for subsidized student loans, Reuters reports (Ferraro, Reuters, 4/27).
The measure's passage largely was symbolic because it likely will be defeated in the Democrat-controlled Senate (Johnson, National Journal, 4/27). In addition, White House officials on Friday said President Obama would veto the bill (Reuters, 4/27). The Senate next month is expected to begin debate on a similar student loan bill, which does not include the cuts to the public health fund (National Journal, 4/27).
Democrats Label Legislation 'Politically Motivated,' Note Cuts Would Harm Women's Health
The White House in its veto message said the bill "is a politically motivated proposal" and noted that "women in particular" would be helped by the prevention fund. Democrats noted that the fund allocates money for cancer screenings and other initiatives (Fram, AP/U-T San Diego, 4/27).
Democratic lawmakers said the cuts would eliminate all of the remaining $12 billion in the public health fund (Reuters, 4/27).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it is not surprising that the GOP would try to eliminate the fund "because they have an ongoing assault on women's health" (Kasperowicz, "Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 4/27).
GOP Says Democrats' Position Hypocritical
Republicans argued that Democrats' defense of the fund is hypocritical because they previously have supported proposals to cut the overhaul's public health fund ("Floor Action Blog," The Hill, 4/27).
Obama's fiscal year 2013 budget proposal suggested cutting $4 billion from the program, while House Democrats supported legislation that cut the public health fund to pay for a "doc fix" (AP/U-T San Diego, 4/27).
Public Health Groups Push To Preserve Fund
Several public health advocacy groups have been vigorously lobbying against the cuts, saying the public health fund protects important programs from annual funding fluctuations.
The American Public Health Association in a call for support noted that changes "in funding streams make it difficult to maintain and enhance public health programs."
Richard Hamburg, deputy director of the Trust for America's Health, said proposals to eliminate the fund represent "a series of short-term 'fixes,'" which would jeopardize "the health and well being of all Americans" (Fox, National Journal, 4/27).