Capitol View on Kids: House Moves on Labor-HHS; TANF Memo Challenged

House Subcommittee Adopts Labor-HHS Appropriations

The House Appropriation Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) approved an appropriations bill for the three departments for the first time in two years.  The subcommittee approved the bill on a party line vote when they met on July 18.

The bill may go to a full committee vote on Wednesday of this week.  To this point, the specifics for the spending plan have not been made public but there are a few details that are a part of the main bill, which has been posted on the Committee website. Among the known figures:

-The bill provides $150 billion for discretionary spending which is down from nearly $157 billion for this year.

-The Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (Title IV-B, part 2) is cut by $3 million. The program is partly funded with mandatory funding not requiring annual appropriations, but also includes up to $200 million in discretionary (annually appropriated) funds.  Currently $63 million in discretionary funding is provided; the House would provide $60 million while the Senate maintained funding. Total funding for the four main PSSF programs would be reduced from $338 million to $335 million.

-The House bill increased child care funding by $25 million to $3.303 billion and increased Head Start by $45 million to $8.014 billion.  Both figures are lower than the Senate numbers, which increased funding by $160 million and $70 million respectively.

-The House also cut funding to the Race to the Top education fund and that cut, if enacted, would likely eliminate the increased funding to address the Early Learning Child Care Challenge Grant Initiative.

-The House also cut out funding to address the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), placed restrictions on family planning funding and included cuts to the Labor Department.

-The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is left intact at $1.7 billion, but since SSBG is a mandatory program and does not require appropriation, a cut would have been beyond the authority of the appropriations committee.  While the Subcommittee has not yet published the detailed tables contained in the subcommittee report, they will have to publish such details before the full Committee debates and votes on the same bill.

Talk of CR In July, Sequestration Debate Intensifies

Twenty members of the House and Senate Republican caucus circulated a letter last week that called on congressional leaders to adopt a continuing resolution before Congress starts its August break. The goal would be to pass a resolution that would provide partial fiscal year 2013 (FY ‘13) funding from the start of the fiscal year (October 1) through the end of the calendar year, presumably into the new Congress early next year.  Some Republicans want to avoid a government shutdown on October 1 if both sides can’t come to an agreement.

Neither side can be sure what the political fallout would be if the government shut down a month before the elections.  One roadblock: both sides have different proposed spending levels for FY ’13, with the Democrats supporting the $1.043 trillion which is the figure agreed to in last August’s debt deal, while House Republicans have adopted a budget that cuts funding by an additional $15 billion to $1.028 trillion.

Despite the support of 11 senators and 9 representatives, it is more likely that members will wait until closer to the October 1 deadline and pass a C.R. funding the government just beyond the November election.

While some were talking about the current fiscal year, there was a continued back and forth between both parties on how to delay or preempt the January across-the-board cuts totaling $110 billion.  The defense industry and its supporters were in full force outlining the impact of the more than $50 billion in defense cuts.  The Senate Republicans invited former Vice President Dick Cheney to make a presentation on the impact of the cuts on the defense department.  At the same time there were numerous business interests outlining projected job losses if the cuts take place.  At one point the Senate Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) criticized the focus on defense department cuts pointing out that there has been little attention to the domestic program cuts.  Against the backdrop of defense budget campaign, Democrats were maintaining their position that they would not budge on the President George W Bush tax cuts, which expire at the same time as the sequester.  Their position is that they will not extend the tax cuts unless there is an agreement to cap the tax cuts at $250,000.  The threat is that they will let all the tax cuts expire rather than agree to a continuation of all.  A capping of the tax cuts would yield significant revenue and could help offset the sequestration cuts.

Legislation Introduced to Stop TANF Waiver

The Health and Human Services (HHS) information memorandum (IM) for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (IM TANF-ACF-IM-2012-03) issued on July 12, has now resulted in legislation by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Congressman David Camp (R-Mich) (S.3397/H.R. 6140) that would stop the guidance and any waivers issued by the HHS through the memorandum.

The July 12 memorandum advises states that the authority for the waivers is based on section 1115 of the Social Security Act which applies to several programs of the Social Security Act and that it is limited to section 402 of the TANF law which covers the state plan.  The guidance limits the extent of waivers and does not affect the time limits but does suggest some modification to the general work requirements and offers states some flexibility in how work is structured.

The Senate bill has 11 cosponsors and the House bill has 70. All sponsors are Republican members. The narrowly written legislation has language prohibiting the IM by name.

There was also some intense back and forth between the Administration and their congressional critics as to whether HHS has the authority to issue the IM, and whether or not any such waivers will weaken the 1996 law.

In leveling his criticism of the Administration Senator Hatch spoke on the floor arguing that “in the 16 years since the creation of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, no administration has concluded that they have the authority to waive the TANF work requirements.” He argued that the administration was granting itself authority to waive the work requirements.

The White House has defended the move arguing that they have been pressed by some states for increased flexibility including requests from some states that include congressional critics.  White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday, “If I could address some of the hypocritical criticism — I have been surprised by it — by the hypocrisy of our critics since many of them have in the past supported and even proposed such waivers,” Carney said.

The House version of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill adopted by the subcommittee does not include language on the TANF waiver, but many observers believe it will be a subject of that negotiation when it takes place later this year.  Congress will also need to extend TANF at least temporarily if a reauthorization is not adopted by October 1.  Possible negotiations on any full reauthorization are likely to be effected. To read the IM go online:  http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ofa/policy/im-ofa/2012/im201203/im201203.html

HELP Committee Schedules Reauthorization Hearing on Child Care Block Grant

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s Subcommittee on Children and Families has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, July 26 on the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The CCDBG has not been reauthorized since TANF was created in 1996.

Child Care funding comes from two sources. Mandatory funding is provided through the TANF law and is funded at $2.9 billion. Those funds not requiring annual appropriations are allocated to states partly based on each states historic AFDC welfare spending and partially as a match to state funding.  States also receive a portion of the discretionary funding, now at $2.2 billion.

This approved purposes for the annually appropriated funding is under the jurisdiction of the HELP committee and provided to each state by a formula based on the child population. The HELP Committee (and its counterpart, the House Education and Workforce Committee) set the actual standards and rules on how all the child care funding is used, including how much is invested in quality improvements, how child care rates are established, the health, safety and any other standards.

There have been discussions within the Senate on the reauthorization.  A future TANF reauthorization could be paired with a child care reauthorization, although TANF has traveled on its own reauthorization path since the original 1996 law was adopted.

UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS

  • Senate Caucus on Foster Youth— a roundtable on the challenges of adoption and the all too frequent occurrence of     disrupted adoptions and polices which can improve and promote successful adoptions. The routable will highlight the stories of a number of youth with a variety of experiences relative to adoption. The roundtable will take place on Tuesday, July 24th from 2:00 to 4 pm at the Senate Dirksen Building, Room 562.
  • Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families hearing on the reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Thursday, July 26, 10:00 AM, 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
  • 2012 CCAI Foster Youth Internship Briefing & Reception, Tuesday, Ju1y 31, Capitol Visitor Center – Room SVC 201-00, Briefing: 3:00-4:30pm // Reception: 4:30-5:30pm, Fourteen former foster youth have spent their summer interning on Capitol Hill and will use their legislative knowledge combined with their personal experience to educate policymakers on areas for reform.  The briefing will cover pertinent policy issues such as the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), psychotropic medication, post-secondary education financing, human trafficking, quality foster parent recruitment, mentorship, in addition to various other foster care related topics. Each intern has focused on a specific policy area of interest and will present recommendations on these issues.
  • National Foster Care Coalition quarterly meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 19, 1:00 PM, location, to-be-announced.

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

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