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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 32: 11/15/2010   
Headlines

Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress Needs to Finish Appropriations Process

Fiscal Commission Releases Preliminary Recommendations

CWLA Conducts Election Review Webinar

Today Is Child Care Call-In Day

New American Human Development Index Released

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress returns to Washington today to begin a lame duck session. There are many issues to resolve including the federal budget, which is detailed below. In addition to the fiscal issues there is child welfare-specific legislation to consider.

Top of the list is the Title IV-E waiver bill, H.R. 6156. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced the bill, which passed the House in September. It renews the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to approve demonstration projects designed to test innovative strategies in state child welfare programs. The legislation would allow up to 10 states to conduct five-year demonstration projects, subject to HHS approval. Concerns have been raised on the Senate side that an extension of waiver authority would lessen the urgency to enact more comprehensive child welfare finance reform. It's unclear at this time whether the waiver bill will proceed.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA/S. 3817), child nutrition, and child care are also up for consideration in the lame duck. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee is scheduled to conduct a markup of S. 3817 on Wednesday. CAPTA has been the subject of negotiations and progress has been made toward agreement on many issues. It's possible the lame duck session could pass a CAPTA reauthorization bill. With child nutrition and child care, much progress has been made moving legislation forward but it remains to be seen whether either will be carried through to completion.

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Congress Needs to Finish Appropriations Process

The current continuing resolution (CR) will keep government agencies funded through December 3, 2010, when it is set to expire. Before Congress adjourns for the year, they will have to finish the appropriations process in order to ensure that government operations continue to be funded. At this point, it is unclear if Congress will be able to muster the votes to pass an omnibus appropriations bill since bipartisan support would be needed to clear the Senate. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) have taken a step toward a bipartisan solution and proposed cutting $20 billion from the budget baseline suggested by the President, resulting in a 0.7% increase in non-defense discretionary spending and a 1.5% increase in defense spending. However, if their proposal, or some other version that might emerge, cannot generate 60 supporters in the Senate, Congress may be forced to pass another continuing resolution either through January of next year or possibly even through the end of the 2011 fiscal year that would keep government spending at current levels.

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Fiscal Commission Releases Preliminary Recommendations

The co-chairs of the President's Fiscal Commission released preliminary recommendations to reduce the budget deficit on last Wednesday. Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WI) issued a plan that calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending, a gradual 15 cents per gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax, lower tax rates in return for limiting or eliminating popular tax breaks, and benefit cuts and an increased retirement age for Social Security.

In a statement Wednesday, the White House said the proposal is merely "a step in the process" and that President Obama intends to wait until the commission finishes its work before commenting. "He respects the challenging task that the co-chairs and the commissioners are undertaking and wants to give them space to work on it," White House spokesperson Bill Burton said in the statement.

Republican budget policy leaders Reps. Paul Ryan (WI), Jeb Hensarling (TX), and Dave Camp (MI) issued a statement as well. "We appreciate Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles for their leadership on the fiscal commission and their shared commitment to help address our pressing fiscal challenges. This is a provocative proposal, and while we have concerns with some of their specifics, we commend the co-chairs for advancing the debate. We will continue to work toward solutions that help spur economic growth and restrain the explosive growth of government spending."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the recommendations "simply unacceptable" due to the Social Security and Medicare changes and the scope of the spending cuts.
Depending on the outcome of the commission's deliberations, a roadmap could be presented that could bridge some of the differences between the two parties when it comes to fiscal issues. President Obama has committed to pushing the commission's final recommendations if they generate the support of 14 of the 18 commission members.

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CWLA Conducts Election Review Webinar

Soon after the recent election CWLA conducted a members-only webinar to review the election results and discuss possible implications for child welfare policy in the next Congress. The webinar included an update on new incoming chairs of committees important to child welfare and an analysis of the fiscal issues which are likely to be in the forefront in the coming months. A summary of the discussion, an audio recording, and the Power Point presentation are available on the CWLA members-only website, and access requires your member number and password.

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Today Is Child Care Call-In Day

As many as 300,000 children will lose Head Start and Child Care services if funding included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is not made permanent. Join advocates across the country and call your member of Congress today. Use the toll free number, 1-888-460-0813, and tell Congress not to reduce funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant and Head Start.

Before leaving for the elections, Congress passed a continuing resolution, temporarily setting the entire budget at last year's levels. Upon their return, they will need to finish the budget; possibilities are outlined above. As child care and Head Start are designated to receive permanent increases in funding, called for by the administration and included in both the House and Senate Committee appropriations bills, another overarching budget action would be a major setback. In reality, this setback is a reduction, because the long-overdue increase in funds provided by ARRA grew capacity for working families and their children. Encourage Congress to move forward with funding by taking action today.

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New American Human Development Index Released

Last week, the American Human Development Project of the Social Sciences Research Council released their second set of biennial calculations and rankings on the 50 states, 435 Congressional districts, and population subgroups including gender and major racial/ethnic groups. The report is titled The Measure of America 2010-2011: Mapping Risk and Resilience.

Human development measures are commonly associated with international development work, providing fact-based assessments of well-being and opportunity as a way to guide resources and evaluate impact. The American Human Development Index is the first of its kind in any affluent country and intends to provide a clearer picture of opportunity than results from the more commonly relied on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measure. Because economic vitality is not synonymous with human well-being, the American Human Development Index is an important tool that better reveals opportunity disparities; for example, startling differences between neighboring Congressional districts that are part of the same metropolitan economy. The American Human Development Index is a composite measure of health, knowledge, and standard of living, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau. It is a straightforward, transparent measure modeled on the widely respected global Human Development Index annually produced by the United Nations.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- November 15: Congress convenes for lame duck session.
- December 3: Continuing resolution on the federal budget expires.
- January 5: First day of the 112th Congress.

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