Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 2: 1/8/2007   
Headlines

House Begins Work on 100 Hour Agenda

Senate Democrats Start New Year With 50-49 Majority

President Proposes Balanced Budget by 2012

CWLA Annual Hill Day and First-Ever Preconference Institute on Advocacy

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House Begins Work on 100 Hour Agenda

The 110th Congress opened January 4 with a formal swearing in of all House and new Senate members. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has set a 100-hour agenda that began with House approval of new ethics rules to ban gifts and meals from lobbyists, and impose new restrictions on travel, and new budget rules requiring disclosure of earmarks and prohibiting deficit spending.

These measures were expected to be followed by a move to take up H.R. 1, a measure to enact recommendations from the September 11 Commission, and votes to increase the minimum wage, expand embryonic stem cell research, and eliminate the prohibition on federal officials negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for lower prices for those enrolled in the Medicare drug program.

The final action in the 100 hours will be legislation to make sure oil companies pay adequate royalties and roll back their subsidies.

The minimum wage legislation is expected to pass the House without much challenge, but it could run into some resistance in the Senate, where the business community it seeking to attach business tax breaks as part of the package. As has been the case in the last several sessions, Senate passage nearly always requires a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

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Senate Democrats Start New Year With 50-49 Majority

The Democrats take over control of the Senate with an even thinner margin than they had after the election. With Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) continuing his recovery from brain surgery, the Democrats convened with a 50-49 majority instead of the official 51 majority.

Johnson will have to undergo several weeks of therapy and recovery, but it has not been unusual for senators to be absent for prolonged health reasons.

In one of its first acts, the Senate held a closed-door session of all members in an attempt to break down some of the hostilities that built up over the past several sessions. Majority Leader Tim Reid (D-NV) was hopeful the session would build some comity between members. The Senate worked on little else besides adopting organizing rules for the new Senate.

Senate assignments have been made; key positions include:

Finance Committee
Max Baucus (D-MT), Chair
Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member

Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee
Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chair
Michael Enzi (R-WY), Ranking Member

Appropriations Committee
Robert Byrd (D-WV), Chair
Thad Cochrane (R-MS), Ranking Member

Judiciary Committee
Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair
Arlen Specter (R-PA), Ranking Member

Budget Committee
Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chair
Judd Gregg (R-NH), Ranking Member

The House will finalize its committee assignments this week.

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President Proposes Balanced Budget by 2012

The President has indicated he would issue an FY 2008 budget in February that would seek to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012. At the same time, House Democrats have begun the new session of Congress by imposing new "PAYGO," or "pay as you go," rules that require any tax cuts or increases in mandatory or entitlement spending be offset either with tax changes and increases or spending cuts. That could make the goal of a balanced budget easier, but the President's call for Congress to extend his tax cuts of the previous six years, and additional funding requests for the war, may make it more difficult.

Until now, tax cuts have not been offset. Congress has kept down the price tag on any tax cuts by enacting tax packages that expire after a few years. The Congressional Budget Office always projects the cost of a proposal over five years. That means that a three-year tax cut will cost less under the rules because it's due to expire. If a PAYGO rule is enacted, such a short-term limit on a tax cut won't matter because its costs will have to be offset.

A second challenge to a balanced budget is that the war has been financed as "emergency" spending. Even though emergency spending adds to the federal deficit, it is not counted against any budget cap. The Administration is expected to request well over $400 billion for the Pentagon in 2008. That total would be included in any budget cap or limitation. The Administration is also expected, however, to request approximately $100 billion for the war. This may be emergency spending and would be apart from any Defense Department budget. So, although it adds to the deficit, it is not counted under any budget cap or restrictions.

In addition to future budgets, the 110th Congress must still deal with 2007 spending. The federal fiscal year began October 1, but the 109th Congress was able to pass only two appropriations bills for FY 2007, the Homeland Security and Defense Departments. Before adjourning, Congress passed its last continuing resolution (CR), which extends federal funding for all nondefense and homeland security programs until February 15. The funding level in the CR is set at the lower of the House- or Senate-passed version of each department's appropriation, except for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education. These funding levels are set at last year's levels, since neither house adopted a bill for those departments.

House Appropriations Chair David Obey (D-WI) and Senate Appropriations Chair Robert Byrd (D-WV), have indicated they will add some funding to key areas, such as HHS and Veterans Affairs, while removing earmarks. Eliminating earmarks may allow for the possibility of using some of that revenue to shore up shortfalls in other parts of the budget. The earmarks are unlikely to disappear altogether in FY 2008, but new rules govern how earmarks are inserted into legislation and require revealing who is responsible for the legislative directives. Outside critics of Congress argue earmarks contribute to corruption, as there have been record increases in the number of earmarks over the past 10 years.

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CWLA Annual Hill Day and First-Ever Preconference Institute on Advocacy

CWLA's National Conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, February 25-28, will features the release of CWLA's 2007 Legislative Agenda, an institute on advocacy, and an entire day dedicated to constituent lobbying and advocacy at the U.S. Capitol.

Hill Day gives constituents the opportunity to actively promote CWLA's Legislative Agenda by meeting with Members of Congress and their staff concerning the issues affecting children, youth, and families.

Hill Day begins with presentations by leaders in Congress on their priorities for 2007, and briefings by the CWLA Government Affairs staff. At lunchtime, participants go to specific state and regional caucuses to discuss the issues, talking points, lobbying tips, and more general information. In the afternoon, Hill Day participants take a bus to the Capitol to meet with their Representatives and Senators.

We encourage everyone attending the conference to schedule meetings with your Members of Congress for Hill Day, beginning in January, after the new 110th Congress convenes. Stay tuned for contact information and tips on arranging visits.

This will be an energizing conference and one of the most important advocacy events for child welfare in 2007! Register online.

As part of the annual conference, CWLA is conducting a special institute on local advocacy, "Create Change: New Strategies and Lessons Learned Around Local Level Advocacy," to be held Sunday February 25, 1:00-5:00 pm. This institute will be dedicated to developing effective messages and creating and testing different approaches to advocacy. Guest presenters will discuss how to craft successful local messages and initiatives based on recent analysis. Create Change will be a great opportunity for child welfare advocates to develop local level strategy and messaging.

For more information about Create Change or Hill Day, contact Cristina Fahrenthold, at cfahrenthold@cwla.org or 202/942-0257.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

January 3: First session of 110th Congress begins
January 30: Possible date for State of the Union Address
February 5: Release of the President's FY 2008 budget request
February 15: Continuing resolution expires
February 25-28: CWLA National Conference, Children 2007: Raising Our Voices for Children, in Washington DC


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