Federal Budget Update
Yesterday, President Obama signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (H.R. 1314). The measure provides modest increases to the overall spending caps for both discretionary and defense spending for federal fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and extends federal borrowing authority at least through March 15, 2017.
The new law effectively ends any chance that an across-the-board sequester cut will occur in the next two fiscal years. The Budget Act should also reduce the chances of a government shutdown which would occur after December 11 if Congress does not act on the actual appropriations measures. Policy riders, including continued efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to defund Planned Parenthood could still provoke a shutdown.
Ways & Means Committee Chair Vacant
The election of Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) as Speaker of the House, means that the chairmanship of the Ways & Means Committee is vacant. Two Republicans have expressed their interest in being selected – Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH). Tiberi is viewed as the more moderate of the two candidates but he has slightly less seniority on the Committee. That factor may be balanced by the fact that there are six Texans already chairing one of the 20 standing committees. The House Republican Steering Committee is expected to meet later this week.
Poverty is Focus of Senate and House Hearings
Both the House and Senate have held hearings on poverty recently. Last week, the House Budget Committee held a hearing entitled, Restoring the Trust for Vulnerable Americans to explore ways of improving low-income programs. The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over TANF and child welfare programs, heard from witnesses at an October 30 Welfare and Poverty in America hearing. During that hearing, both Republican and Democratic Senators agreed that the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program was not responding adequately to poverty in many parts of the country. There was no indication during the hearing, however, that the Committee was going to craft or act on a bill anytime soon.
And today, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing entitled, Better Coordinating Welfare Programs to Serve Families in Need. The hearing intends to review dozens of human services programs, as well as ways they could be consolidated or better coordinated.
Family Stability and Kinship Care Act (S. 1964; H.R. 3781)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Ranking Member of the House Ways & Means Human Resources Subcommittee has introduced the House companion measure to Senator Wyden’s Family Stability and Kinship Care Act. Among its many provisions, the measure would provide a federal IV-E foster care match for 12 months of services for children at imminent risk of entering or re-entering foster care; a child in foster care; or, a pregnant or parenting foster youth. Parents or potential or designated kin caregivers would also be eligible for services.
CWDA commented previously on a discussion draft and has provided additional input to both the Senate and House. A copy of the letter sent to Senator Wyden is attached.
The Senate Finance Committee has been sending specific provisions of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to obtain estimates of the federal costs and savings of the measure. In order to maintain the bipartisan nature of child welfare bills, it is expected that any bill considered and voted on by the Finance Committee would have to be budget-neutral.