Capitol View on Kids: Cliff Battle Delays ’13 Spending, ’14 Proposal

With the ongoing uncertainty over the debt ceiling increase and the across-the-board cuts looming with the March sequestration, the entire traditional and legally-required timetable for next year’s budget have fallen by the wayside.  It was announced on Friday that President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union on February 12.  Normally, the president would deliver his address near the end of January.  That would be followed by the release of the proposed budget on February 4.

This year, the administration has said the budget would be delayed and may be as late as March.  In most years, the various cabinet departments would have negotiated spending levels with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in late November, but reports are that that has not happened.  As long as Congress is undecided on what the spending levels will be due to the sequestration, it is also unclear how much money departments will have and how much they may have to cut.

In addition to the sequestration, there is the fact that current year funding will end on March 27. The budget agreement from a few days ago also included additional spending cuts for the current year, approximately $4 billion. Potentially close to $1 billion of this total could come from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the funding source for most child welfare funding. All of this means that Congress will once again be behind in its appropriation’s work.

The budget law requires a budget resolution to be agreed to by both houses by April 15.  The resolution sets the allocation of federal spending between the departments and subcommittees.  Congress has not been able to agree to a budget resolution in several years and it seems almost certain that will happen again in 2013.  That, in turn, increases the chance they will not pass all twelve appropriations bills by October 1.

The last time Congress was able to enact all the appropriations by the start of the federal fiscal year on October 1, was 1996.  In that year, Congress combined HHS funding with an omnibus bill and passed several other appropriations bill individually but all funding was sent to President Clinton’s desk by October 1.  The last time Congress passed each of the appropriations bills individually and got them to the President before October 1 was 1994.

Key Committees Begin To Take Shape

There will be significant turnover in some of the key committees that most directly affect child welfare. Some decisions and vacancies must still be addressed but both houses are beginning to fill in the gaps created mainly by retirements and some election defeats.

The Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over all programs funded through the Social Security Act, had a number of departures including (probably) Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) The new Democrats on the committee are Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bennet (D-Colo.), with one more vacancy once Mr. Kerry resigns.

On the Republican side, the three new members are Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Senator Johnny Isakson (Okla.) and Senator Pat Toomey (Penn.).  Gone from the Committee are retiring Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and John Kyl (R-Ariz.).

The Finance Committee’s House counterpart, the Ways and Means Committee, still has some vacancies to fill and has to decide on the various memberships of the subcommittees. The Committee has expanded the number of Republican members by two to a total of 23, and the Democrats receive 16 members, an increase of one from the last Congress.  The new Republican members are Congressmen Todd Young (Ohio), Mike Kelly (Penn.) and Tim Griffin (Ariz.).  For the Democrats, new members are Allyson Schwartz (Penn.), Danny Davis (Ill.), and Linda Sanchez (Calif.).

The House Appropriations Committee has undergone significant changes with a dozen new members with six from each party.  New Republicans to the Committee include Reps. Jeff Fortenbury (Neb.), Tomas Rooney (Fla.), Charles Fleishmann (Tenn.) Jaime Herrera Beutler (Wash.), David Joyce (Ohio) and  David Valadao (Calif.).  For the Democrats new members include Reps. Steve Israel (N.Y.), Tim Ryan (Ohio), Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Fla.), Henry Cuellar (Texas) and Chellie Pingree (Maine).

The new chair of the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee on Appropriations will be Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who is replacing Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-Montana), who failed in his bid to move to the Senate.  The full committee also has a new ranking member with the retirement of Norm Dicks (D-Wash.).  He is being replaced by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) ,which means the Democrats will have two women heading up their appropriations work in both houses. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) has become the new Appropriations Chair in the Senate with the death of Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).  Sen. Mark Begich (Ala.) will be joining that Senate Committee as the lone addition for the Democrats.

Not all Republican assignments for the Appropriations Committee have been announced, but Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) will be taking over as the ranking member replacing Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) who remains on the committee but will trade committee chairmanships.

Finally, in regard to the Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, new Democrats include: Sen. Christopher Murphy (Conn.), Senator Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Senator Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.).  The Ranking Member for the full committee will switch from Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) to Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) due to the self-imposed term limits Republicans require of their members.

UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS

Presidential Inauguration, Monday, January 21, 2013 (private swearing-in Sunday, January 2

State of the Union Address, Tuesday, February 12, 2013, U.S. House of Representatives

John Sciamanna is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation

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