Budget Fight Not Over
From the National Women's Law Center:
The bill was changed on the Senate floor due to a successful procedural challenge, a “Point of Order,” raised by Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Kent Conrad (D-ND) to strip a few particular provisions from the bill that violated budget rules. The changes are minor--all of the devastating cuts to Medicaid, child support enforcement, and foster care, and harmful changes to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and child care remain in the bill--but the House and Senate bills are sufficiently different to force a second vote in the House.
When will the House take up reconciliation again?
Republican leaders are scrambling to decide what to do: whether to call the House back into session this week or next, wait until their scheduled return on January 31, or call them back in early January.
Is there a chance to change the outcome from the first House vote?
YES. The vote in the House on December 19th was close, 212-206, and sixteen members of Congress missed the vote. In addition, members had only a few hours in the middle of the night to find out what was in the 774-page bill. As legislators, staff, and advocates have had time to look at the bill, more problems have become apparent. For example:
*Child Care/TANF: In renewing the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs, the bill imposes harmful new mandates that states meet a 50 percent work participation rate in their TANF program in order to avoid federal penalties, while providing woefully inadequate child care funds to help states meet these new mandates or maintain existing services. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the cost to the states of meeting the work requirements is even higher than under the original House-passed bill! As a result, states will be under pressure to cut child care for low-income working families, impose tighter eligibility requirements for TANF and adopt stricter sanctioning policies--denying help to families who need it most. The final bill also imposes limits on the flexibility of states to develop their own policies for helping needy families using state funds--restrictions that were not in the original House bill.
*Medicaid: Low-income families will face increases in co-payments and premiums to access health care services and medications, leading many to forego needed care. In addition, states would be allowed to cut back on health care services for poor women, including family planning.
*Child Support: Federal funding for child support enforcement will be cut about $1.5 billion over the next five years. This is less than the $4.9 billion cut in the original House bill--but it still means that about $2.9 billion in child support owed to children will go uncollected over five years; about $8.4 billion in child support will be lost over ten years.