Congress Just Put a Price on the Health of Our Children

ACAdiabetesblog_pic1Good news—Congress was finally able to reach an agreement on the Farm Bill, showing that, although it may be rare, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can still work in a bipartisan fashion to pass legislation.

But hold your applause.

The bad news—the compromise that was reached cut another $8.6 billion in funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps.  And with the bill now passed through Congress and on its way to the president’s desk, it looks as though this cut is here to stay.

While we were happy to see lawmakers agree to a number substantially lower than the $40 billion in cuts initially proposed by the House of Representatives, more than $8 billion in lost funds is still a damaging hit to this program.  In real terms, almost 850,000 households throughout the country will lose about $90 per month in food assistance.  And more than one-third of those households are in California, a state with an especially large Latino population.

This is also the second major cut to the program that we’ve seen just in the past few months.  Last November, families who rely on SNAP saw a substantial reduction in benefits as an automatic $5 billion cut took effect.

Using a program that more than 47 million Americans rely on to put food on the table as a political bargaining chip is simply unconscionable.  While this money may not seem like much, for struggling families it can mean the difference between a child eating dinner or going to bed with an empty belly.  In fact, SNAP has proven to be one of the most effective tools in this nation to keep children from going hungry and to keep low-income families out of poverty.  With unemployment still high, especially among Latinos, and the economy still recovering, programs like SNAP are essential buffers that millions of Americans need.

Billions of dollars in cuts quickly add up.  And while some in Congress see these cuts as essential savings, we see them as a senseless approach to reducing government spending.  SNAP is a program that works.  We cannot continue to allow Congress to put a price on the health of our children.

Weekly Washington Outlook – February 3, 2014

Congress Instagram

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

On Monday, the House will take up two measures under suspension of the rules, the Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act (H.R. 1791) and the GI Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 357).  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will consider the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3590) and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act (H.R. 3964).  Finally, on Thursday, the House will vote on the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act (H.R. 2954).  No votes are expected Friday.

The Senate:

The Senate on Monday evening will vote to invoke cloture on the Farm Bill conference report.  A vote on final passage is expected on Tuesday.  Following passage, it is possible that the Senate will return to its consideration of unemployment insurance.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and will attend other unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver remarks on education.  In the evening, the president will host the House Democratic Caucus for a roundtable and reception at the White House. The Vice President will also attend.  On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will deliver remarks at the Senate Democratic Issues Conference.  On Thursday, he will deliver remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. The vice president and the First Lady will also attend.  Later, the president will meet with President Martelly of Haiti at the White House.  Details about Friday’s schedule have not yet been released.  Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – January 13, 2014

STOCK PHOTO capitol building

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

On Monday and Tuesday, the House will consider several non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules.  Also on Tuesday, the House will take-up a three-day spending bill to fund the government while appropriators finalize their work on an omnibus appropriations bill.  The hope is that an omnibus will be ready for floor consideration on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.  The House in this period will also take-up the Exchange Information Disclosure Act (H.R. 3362), sponsored by Congressman Terry (R-Neb.).  This measure would require HHS to issue weekly reports on the healthcare website’s enrollment numbers, site visits, and errors.

The Senate:

On Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the unemployment insurance extension measure currently under consideration.  The amendment offered by Sen. Reed (D-R.I.), the base bill’s sponsor, would extend UI through mid-November and offers various means to offset the cost.  The Senate will also vote to confirm Judge Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  The balance of the week is somewhat contingent on the progress made in negotiating a path forward for the UI extension.  It is likely, however, that Senators will vote on a three-day continuing resolution to continue to fund the government while appropriators complete work on a longer-term measure that will be voted on at the end of the week.

White House:

Today, the president will welcome the President of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain Mariano Rajoy Brey to the White House.  The president and President Rajoy will discuss promoting economic growth and new jobs, support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, cooperation within NATO, Latin America, shared challenges in North Africa and the Middle East, and other topics of mutual interest.  On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will hold a Cabinet Meeting. The Vice President will attend. In the afternoon, President Obama will welcome the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat to the White House to honor the team on winning their second-straight Championship title.  On Wednesday, the president will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for an event on the economy.  On Thursday, the president and First Lady will host an event at the White House with a number of university presidents on expanding college opportunity.  On Friday, the president will give a speech presenting the outcomes of the Administration’s review of our signals intelligence programs, and how, in light of new technologies, we can use them in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. Further details on the speech will be released as they become available.

Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – January 6, 2014

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House returns for the Second Session of the 113th Congress on Tuesday.  After considering three bills under suspension of the rules, the House will take up H.R. 2279, sponsored by Rep. Gardner (R-Colo.) which would eliminate an EPA requirement to review and revise financial responsibility rules for hazardous material storage and waste sites every three years.  On Friday, the House will consider two ACA-related provisions.  The Exchange Information Disclosure Act (H.R. 3362), sponsored by Rep. Terry (R-Neb.) would require HHS to issue weekly reports on the healthcare website’s enrollment numbers, site visits, and errors.  The Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act of 2014 (un-numbered), sponsored by Rep. Pitts (R-PA), would require HHS to notify individuals if their personal data has been compromised through the health exchanges.

The Senate:

The Senate returns for the Second Session of the 113th Congress on Monday to vote to confirm Janet Yellen to Chair the Federal Reserve.  Following her confirmation, the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed to the consideration of S. 1845, the Unemployment Extension Act; this bill would extend emergency unemployment compensation for three months.

Later in the week, the Senate may consider Judge Robert Wilkins for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judge Wilkins’ nomination was blocked before the change in the Senate rules. It is also possible that they will take up S. 1864, a measure which would delay increases in flood insurance premiums for residents in flood zones based on revised maps.

White House:

The White House has not released a public schedule for the week.  On Tuesday, however, the President is expected to hold an event at the White House on unemployment insurance, featuring individuals from across the country who have lost benefits.     Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – December 16, 2013

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House is in recess, returning January 7th.

The Senate:

The Senate wraps up its work for the year this week with consideration of several executive nominations, including Jeh Johnson as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security on Monday and Janet Yellen to Chair the Federal Reserve later in the week.

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on cloture on a motion to concur with the House-passed changes to the budget vehicle, H.J. Res. 59 and passage later in the week.  The House amended H.J. Res. 59 with the language of the Murray-Ryan bipartisan budget agreement as a means to expedite its consideration.

On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on cloture on a compromise defense authorization, H.R. 3304 which passed in the House last week.  The scaled back measure provides the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other agencies $625.1 billion in base and war funding for FY2014.  The bill would also require the Defense Department to address sexual assault cases and limits the transferring of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States.  A vote on passage is expected later in the week.

White House:

The White House this week did not release a detailed schedule.  President Obama is expected to give a press conference at some point this week and is otherwise attending unspecified meetings.  On Friday, the President and the First Family will leave for Hawaii for the holidays.  Continue reading