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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 45: 11/21/2005   
Headlines

House Passes Budget Bill Cutting Foster Care by $600 Million

Senate Adopts $60 Billion in Tax Cuts

House Defeats Funding Bill for HHS in Surprise Vote

Congress Approves A Continuing Funding Resolution

CWLA Supported Senator Kennedy's Amendment to Reduce Child Poverty

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



House Passes Budget Bill Cutting Foster Care by $600 Million

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget reconciliation bill by a vote of 217 to 215 on November 17 that reduces federal spending by $50 billion. The budget bill includes $600 million in cuts to foster care and supports for grandparents and other relatives caring for abused and neglected children.

The House vote was delayed for a week due to a group of moderate Republicans calling for changes to the bill. They were responding to a flood of phone calls from CWLA members and other advocates urging them to reject the final bill. Negotiations for needed Republican support continued up until the vote. Since all Democrats in the House opposed the bill, the Republicans needed nearly all their party’s support for the bill to pass. In the end, 14 Republican members broke ranks from the 217 Republicans who voted for the bill. To secure its final passage, some changes were made to reduce food stamp cuts and modify the new co-payment requirements for Medicaid recipients. The final House-passed bill retained the $600 million foster care cuts, however, and the package still remained a $50 billion cut. To see the final vote tally, look for Roll Call Number 601 at: http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2005/roll601.xml.

The Senate-approved budget reconciliation bill does not contain these foster care cuts. Members of a Senate-House conference committee will consider this difference as they reach a final compromise bill that will be voted on by both the Senate and House.

Proponents of the House cuts to federal funding for foster care claim the reductions will not affect beneficiaries. The cuts, however, will impact abused and neglected children and the grandparents and other relatives caring for them.

For a more detailed description of the House child welfare provisions, go to our website

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Senate Adopts $60 Billion in Tax Cuts

The Senate approved $60 billion in tax cuts by a vote of 64 to 33 on November 17. Ongoing negotiations to garner Republican support for the bill, delayed the vote. After several meetings, the Senate Finance Committee approved the bill (S. 2020) November 15 after eliminating capitol gains and dividend tax cuts from the original bill due to protests from Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).

The tax bill includes a temporary fix of a provision called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is increasingly affecting middle-income families, and also includes a number of other popular tax cuts, such as a short term extension of work and research tax credits. The bill also includes some of the provisions of the CARE Act (S 1780), a bill that allows individuals filing the non-itemized short IRS tax form to deduct a small amount of charitable contributions. While the original CARE Act included increased funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) funding, the tax bill does not include that provision. The tax bill also contains a number of new accountability requirements for charitable organizations. The House is expected to adopt their tax cut bill that will include the controversial tax cuts not in the Senate bill and the two houses will have to reconcile their differences. To see the Senate Roll Call Vote Number 347, click here.

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House Defeats Funding Bill for HHS in Surprise Vote

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected, by a surprise vote of 209 to 224 on November 17, a Senate-House conference report (H.R. 3010) that sets the FY 2006 funding level for all programs administered by the U.S. departments of Health and Human Service (HHS), Education, and Labor. The conference agreement provides $1.5 billion less than the FY 2005 funding level for these agencies. The conference agreement cuts funding for HHS by nearly a billion dollars; funding for the Department of Education by $59 million below last years level; and funding for the Department of Labor by $430 million.

The conference agreement reduces funding for child care, Head Start, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Youth Training grants, the Drug Free Schools Act, and Promoting Safe and Stable Families. Funding for many other important child-serving programs would be frozen at the FY 2005 level. Congress is also considering imposing a 1%, across the board cut in addition to these cuts.

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Congress Approves A Continuing Funding Resolution

Well beyond beginning of the new federal fiscal year on October 1, Congress is still struggling to complete all decisions on the annual appropriations bills. To give them additional time to complete this work, Congress approved a second stop-gap spending bill on November 17 that continues all federal funding until December 17.

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CWLA Supported Senator Kennedy's Amendment to Reduce Child Poverty

CWLA endorsed Senator Edward Kennedy's (D-MA) efforts to amend the Senate tax bill. The "End Child Poverty Act" amendment set a national goal of reducing child poverty by half within a decade, eliminating it entirely as soon as possible after that. The amendment would have established a Child Poverty Elimination Board to make recommendations to the President on how best to meet this commitment to children. A 1% surtax on income over $1 million to be invested in a Child Poverty Elimination Fund would have offset the costs. In a letter to Senator Kennedy, Shay Bilchik, CWLA's President and CEO, stated that, "It has been only a matter of weeks since both the country and the world looked through the window into the poverty that still exists in many parts of the nation. Unfortunately, the attention brought to this subject by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina has passed from the memories of many. We support your amendment and your effort to bring greater focus to the child poverty that still exists in this country." The Senate did not ultimately accept the Kennedy amendment.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

December 12: Senate Reconvenes
December 5: House Reconvenes
December 17: FY 2006 Continuing Resolution ends
Before Christmas: Target adjournment for the First Session of the 109th Congress

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