Emory advocates for longer-term federal budget deal

By Cameron Taylor, Director of Federal Affairs | Dec. 10, 2013

It is a time of weary frustration and muted optimism on Capitol Hill. Most congressional staffers will tell you that their member of Congress is eager for a budget deal, one that provides sequester relief for at least a year, and sets budget caps enabling the appropriations’ process to return to "regular order." However, while Congress continues to nibble around the edges of a federal deficit plan, looking for "low-hanging fruit" off the menu of budgetary offsets, many stakeholders are demanding that Congress focus on the big picture.  

On Nov. 25, Emory President James Wagner and Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos sent a letter to Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Congresswoman Diane Black (R-Tn.), both of whom sit on the Budget Conference Committee working to formulate a budget deal by Dec. 13.  The letter advocates for a "sustainable spending and deficit reduction plan." Georgia and Tennessee congressional members received copies.   

Read the letter here.

Like Emory, Vanderbilt is a major academic health center that owns its own health care system. Vanderbilt’s congressional delegation is similar to our own:  two Republican senators, and a majority Republican House delegation.   

The letter notes the impressive collective economic impact numbers of Emory and Vanderbilt, contributing $13.7 billion to the economy and generating 107,000 jobs.  "Working together, we hope to impress upon our members the rising threat posed by federal disinvestment in our enterprises," the letter says.  

The letter also points out the dangers of a limited budget deal: "As you seek a deal, we…urge you to be discerning in the choice of cost offsets by crafting a package that does not single-out or disproportionately impact certain types of stakeholders."  

While it is important for Americans and the world to see that Congress and the Administration can work together, even if in small steps, a limited budget deal poses threats to institutions like Emory and Vanderbilt.  For example, if the sequester is relieved for one year using Medicare provider cuts as an offset, we would benefit from the relief to research funding but would face cuts in health care service payments.  For that reason, Emory has been advocating for a deal that puts meaningful tax and entitlement reform on the table, as well as necessary funding adjustments to discretionary funding.   

On Dec. 3, Congressman Price expressed support for the Emory-Vanderbilt position and optimism for a budget deal. He has spoken with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan about the disproportionate cuts already being shouldered by academic health centers.  He urged the institutions to continue sharing their message.  

Emory came to Capitol Hill on Dec. 4 with the message: "We were already facing a 'perfect storm' of shrinking federal investment in our research, training and patient care funding.  The sequester has hastened that storm and, if allowed to continue, will sideline cutting-edge research, irreparably damage our nation’s researcher and health care provider pipelines, and reduce our own enterprise’s highly valuable workforce."  

Emory understands and respects the overwhelming challenges that Congress faces as it sets budget priorities, and appreciates the strong leadership by our own congressional leaders.  We will continue to work with our members to find a solution that allows us to advance our tripartite mission—teaching, research and patient care—while continuing to act as economic engines in the communities we serve.

Editor's Note

This column from Emory's Office of Governmental and Community Affairs is designed to provide timely information on legislative issues related to higher education and academic and medical research.