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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 39: 10/10/2005   
Headlines

Reconciliation and Appropriations Update: Additional Cuts Proposed

Medicaid Relief Bill Stalls

Senate Passes TANF Extension through March

House Passes Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization

Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Advances

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Reconciliation and Appropriations Update: Additional Cuts Proposed

On October 5, House Budget Chair Jim Nussle (R-IA) called on Congress to reopen or amend the budget resolution for FY 2006 to require Congress to produce legislation saving at least $38.5 billion from mandatory programs. These cuts would come from Medicaid and other important federal supports for abused and neglected children and families.

Congress had passed a budget resolution earlier this year requiring Congress to produce legislation saving at least $35 billion over five years, $70 billion in tax cuts, and $23 billion in discretionary spending reductions. Nussle is now recommending an additional $20 billion in cuts, with $16.8 billion coming from an across-the-board cut to programs from other programs subject to Congress's annual appropriations bills.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), headed by Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), a caucus of conservative House Republicans, submitted a proposed list on September 21 of more than half a trillion dollars in cuts that could be implemented over five years. In releasing these recommendations, Pence indicated that attitudes are changing in Washington toward more spending cuts, stating, "I just think we are in a completely different environment now."

Pence's comments followed a press conference by President Bush on October 4, in which the President called on Congress to increase the level of cuts it is now considering. The President called on the Congress to enact all the cuts he had included in his FY 2006 budget proposal, submitted to Congress in February. The Congressional Budget Office estimated those cuts to total approximately $50 billion over five years in mandatory spending, and an additional $20 billion in discretionary or appropriated funds. The Senate leadership is also looking at more budget cuts.

The reductions in discretionary funding will result in significant cuts in many areas. Although the call for across-the-board cuts includes the defense budget, cuts in that area are highly unlikely. The defense budget and homeland security are generally exempt from such reductions. As a result, funding for programs that support children and families, such as Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), child care, and Head Start, will be either frozen or cut. More information about congressional action on funding is available online at www.cwla.org/advocacy/budgetdetails06.htm.

Under the continuing resolution Congress passed September 30, funding for programs through November 18 is set at the lower of the House approved appropriation bill, the Senate approved appropriation level, or the FY 2005 funding level.

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Medicaid Relief Bill Stalls

Senate Finance Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) continues to negotiate with conservative members of the Senate to get an agreement on a Medicaid relief package for people affected by Hurricane Katrina. The original proposal was to cost approximately $8 billion, but Grassley and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) have come up with a proposal that costs $6 billion. The White House continues its opposition to the bill.

Medicaid, a vital source of funding for more than 900,000 children in the foster care system, is expected to face a $10 billion cut in federal funding due to budget reconciliation instructions. To learn more about the role of Medicaid for foster children, and to join CWLA in efforts to prevent Medicaid cuts, go to www.cwla.org/advocacy/nocapsonkids.htm

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Senate Passes TANF Extension through March

On September 28, the Senate adopted by voice vote a bill introduced by Senate Finance Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) to extend the TANF and child care programs until the end of March 2006. The bill had been introduced the day before.

Earlier in September, TANF and child care were extended until December 31 as part of an emergency relief bill. The Grassley bill would extend the programs an additional quarter. Grassley said he hoped that would provide enough time for Congress to pass reauthorization legislation.

Before the hurricane disasters, the House was moving forward on plans to include the reauthorizations in the budget reconciliation bill. If the TANF and childcare reauthorizations are included in the upcoming budget reconciliation bill, a significant increase in child care funding would be unlikely. The special rules limiting time for consideration of budget reconciliation legislation would also mean there would be little or no debate on TANF or child care funding.

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House Passes Juvenile Accountability Block Grant Reauthorization

The House passed legislation (H.R. 3402) on September 28 to reauthorize U.S. Department of Justice spending through 2009. The bill includes reauthorization of the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant (JABG), which helps ensure the smooth administration of the juvenile justice system by hiring juvenile judges, prosecutors, probation officers, and court-appointed defenders, and by funding pretrial services for juveniles.

JABG includes developing and administering accountability-based sanctions for juvenile offenders that consist of counseling, restitution, community service, and supervised probation; establishing or expanding substance abuse programs; and promoting mental health screening and treatment. Under the legislation, JABG is expanded to allow resources to be used for programs for youths as they leave detention facilities and return to their families and communities. The Senate is expected to take up this legislation in the coming weeks.

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Reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act Advances

The legislation (H.R 3402) passed in the House to reauthorize U.S. Department of Justice spending also reauthorizes and makes improvements to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the major federal law to assist victims of domestic and other types of violence. The bill provides $15 million each year in grants to provide specialized services to teens and young adults who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; and provides demonstration grants to courts to work with law enforcement, service providers, schools and others to develop policies and procedures to ensure justice for young victims and perpetrators of violence.

The Senate passed its version of VAWA reauthorization (S. 1197) on October 4. Although the two bills are similar, some differences exist, and a conference committee will be named soon to craft a single bill. The conference committee is expected to agree on a compromise measure to be voted on by both the Senate and House in the coming weeks.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

October 1: Start of 2006 federal fiscal year

October 10-16 (Senate only): Columbus Day Break

October 19 (Approximate): Deadline for assigned committees to adopt $35 billion in cuts to mandatory programs for budget reconciliation bill

October 26 (Approximate): Deadline for tax-writing committees to adopt tax cuts of $70 billion

November 18: Continuing Resolution Ends


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