Child Advocates Oppose Devastating Budget Measures by House
The House of Representatives in the near future will consider a budget “reconciliation” bill that puts teeth in the House-passed fiscal year 2013 budget resolution, House Concurrent Resolution 112 (proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, opposed by Voices). That measure—passed on a party-line vote earlier this year—included a non-military/war discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2013 of $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the level set by the Budget Control Act (which you may recall caps most discretionary spending for the next ten years).
Overall, nearly two-thirds of all the cuts now mandated by the House budget resolution will come from Medicaid, SNAP, and other programs that serve children and low-income families.
In recent years, the only meaningful impact of the budget resolution each year is to set the discretionary spending (appropriations) level; the process reserves to the appropriations committees in each chamber the decision to apportion the spending among subcommittees (Labor-HHS-Education, being one of the subcommittees, for example.)
The other potential function of a budget resolution is to order reconciliation that sets a deficit reduction target and instructs policy committees to make cuts to their programs accordingly. The House budget committee compiles the recommendations of the policy committees into an omnibus measure called a “reconciliation” bill that is considered under special rules in the House and Senate, debated, and if passed and signed, becomes law like any other measure. Reconciliation has been used as the process for major deficit reduction packages. Reconciliation was the process ultimately used to move the Affordable Care Act (health care reform) because it cannot be filibustered in the Senate and passed with a majority vote, rather than the 60 votes that most bills need today to move forward in the U.S. Senate.
Budget reconciliation starts in the U.S. House
This week, several House committees began compiling a package of spending cuts that Republican leaders aim to bring to the floor this spring. The effort is part of the budget resolution’s approach to replacing the $98 billion in automatic cuts to discretionary programs set to take effect in January under the Budget Control Act.
The House budget resolution asks six committees — Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform, and Ways and Means — to find a total of $261 billion in cuts to mandatory programs over 10 years, with each committee given a specific target.
Impact on Children and Families
- The House Ways and Means Committee Thursday passed a package of budget cuts to meet the House budget resolution’s reconciliation instruction to cut at least $53 billion from programs under its jurisdiction over ten years. The committee package permanently repeals the Social Services Block Grant (now funded at $1.7 billion a year); cuts the Child Tax Credit by excluding poor children whose working immigrant parents use a Taxpayer Identification Number rather than a Social Security Number; and make cuts to insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care. Here is the link to the committee’s materials about these proposals: http://waysandmeans.house.gov/Calendar/EventSingle.aspx?EventID=290359.
- To meet its reconciliation instruction, the Agriculture Committee this week reported a measure that cuts programs under its jurisdiction by $33 billion over the next decade. The committee agreed Wednesday to cuts that according to the Congressional Budget Office cuts programs by nearly $36 billion. A report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that Agriculture Committee measure will cut 2 million recipients from the SNAP program and reduce benefits for another 44 million.
- Importantly, because children in families that receive SNAP benefits are automatically eligible for free and reduced school meals (lunch and breakfast), some 280,000 children whose families will lose their SNAP benefits under this bill will ALSO lose access to school programs, a double whammy for low-income families with children.
The committees are to submit their recommendations for the cuts to the budget committee by April 27. The House Budget Committee will then compile the recommendations into a reconciliation bill, which the House will probably consider in the next few weeks.
A big complication for the House efforts is that under the current budget process, the reconciliation process can proceed only if both the U.S. House and Senate both adopt a budget resolution containing reconciliation instructions. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) has said he won’t bring a budget resolution to the floor this year. Senator Reid and many senators believe a budget resolution is not necessary this year because the Budget Control Act has set already set a discretionary spending level of $1.047 trillion for fiscal year 2013. If the Senate does not pass a budget resolution, then whatever the House does will not go any further this year.
Senate budget committee: Earlier this week, Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), the chair of the Senate budget committee held a press conference and released documents about his fiscal year 2013 budget plan. It turns out that there really isn’t a Conrad Budget plan and that indeed there will not be a Senate budget committee markup. Conrad instead offered the Bowles-Simpson plan as the Fiscal Commission Budget Plan. On Wednesday, the committee will meet for statements, but then recess, likely until after the election. Check out the statement from Conrad, The Fiscal Commission Budget Plan and The Fiscal Commission Budget Plan's Tables.
U.S. House “Deeming” Resolution: Monday, the U.S. House deemed that the “the provisions of House Concurrent Resolution 112, as adopted by the House, shall have force and effect in the House as though Congress has adopted such concurrent resolution." This deeming resolution was passed by a party line vote of 228 - 184 (Roll no. 156). This officially sets the House discretionary spending cap at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the Budget Control Act cap and $27 billion below its level for non-defense discretionary.
Fiscal year 2013 Appropriations Subcommittee markups begin: Also earlier this week, the House Appropriations Committee today released the draft of its first fiscal year 2013 bill for Energy & Water programs. Interestingly, its total is actually $88 million above current year spending levels in the programs it funds, which lead the Ranking Democratic member Representative Norm Dicks (D-WA) to say in a statement, “Thus, it appears that the $27 billion in nondefense cuts will be back loaded on bills that have less of a chance of passing, including Labor-HHS-Education.”
Translation: Potentially more of the cuts mandated will fall on human service programs for children and education than is even contemplated now (even though passing a bill through the House with massive cuts in these programs may be very difficult). As for the official spending allocation by each appropriations subcommittee, the so-called “302b” allocations will be announced next week, when the full House Appropriations Committee is expected to begin marking up next year’s spending measures.
The Senate Appropriations Committee has officially announced that it will adopt its 302b allocation at a full committee markup on Thursday, but the Senate levels are expected to track with the Budget Control Act and the statements from Senator Reid.
This was originally published by Voices for America's Children. It is reprinted here with permission.