WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he expects a bipartisan spending deal to be reached by Thursday night’s deadline to fund the government and avoid another shutdown.
Speaking to the Rural Health Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday morning, Gardner responded to an audience member asking about the status of the continuing resolution.
“I do think that the risk of a lapse in funding is very, very slim,” Gardner said. “I don’t think that’ll happen.”
Gardner told the rural hospital advocates that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if a two-year bipartisan spending deal is announced Wednesday. The Senate will have to pass a short-term continuing resolution deal before it passes the long-term deal, Gardner added.
“I think it leads to a longer term discussion in Washington about what has to be done about the budget,” Gardner said in a speech to the group. “No business, no hospital, no rural health clinic operates knowing that every three to six weeks we’re going to decide to have a crisis, self-inflicted, on funding,” he said.
For providers in rural communities, the self-inflicted, continuing budget battles in Washington have real consequences for these rural providers, who heavily rely on federal grants and other federal funding to stay operational.
When the federal fiscal year expired Sept. 30, funding for Community Health Centers (CHCs) expired. A previous temporary spending bill patched CHC funding through the end of March, but these providers are anxious to see funding restored.
On Tuesday, Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) joined 64 senators in signing onto a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling for the immediate restoration of funding of for CHCs.
A temporary spending bill passed by the House of Representatives last night, the fifth stopgap measure since the end of September, restored funding for the next two years for CHCs. The House bill is expected to be completely rewritten by the Senate.
“While there may be some differences in the House and Senate approaches over how to do these things, I do think they will get done,” Gardner said.
It is expected that the Senate proposal on long-term spending will increase caps on both domestic and defense spending, sweetening the deal for both parties. Gardner hinted that CHC funding, as well as other rural health care provisions addressed in the House bill, would be funded in the upcoming Senate bill.
“There shouldn’t be a last-minute hang up that we see at midnight or 11:59 on Feb. 8,” Gardner said.