In an effort to garner enough conservative Republican votes, House leadership is pushing a strategy this week that would enact cuts to mandatory and entitlement programs including the elimination of SSBG through legislation by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The House was not in session last week but Senate leaders indicated that they may not pass a Budget Resolution either. There were suggestions that the Senate would not act on a resolution unless the House acts. With many Senate Republicans up for re-election the leadership is not eager to expose members to unpopular budget amendment votes if the House will not take up a resolution of their own. Such a wait and see approach to deferring to House action before the Senate moves may be playing out in other areas this year. Action on the Families First draft legislation may also be contingent on House action.
In an attempt to get a Budget Resolution through, the House Budget leaders have told members that if they go along with the discretionary spending caps enacted last December, in return there would be cuts in entitlements including SSBG. Such a package of cuts would have to be agreed to by the Senate to become effective. Because of that it is not clear if the strategy will work but Budget Committee leadership will attempt to proceed this week.
The elimination of SSBG has been on Speaker Paul Ryan’s list of reforms that would function as an anti-poverty program. In the past the reforms would turn some key entitlements (SNAP, Medicaid) into block grants to give states more flexibility. At the same time SSBG would be cut out under the criticism that as a block grant it lacks specificity and accountability.
If the House fails to move a budget resolution, they would have to pass a ‘deeming” resolution which would set spending allocations between the 12 appropriations subcommittees. That may not be easy unless there are bipartisan votes. The Senate status does not require such a deeming resolution.
A second potential compromise being floated to House conservatives would be a House rules change that would block or create roadblocks to appropriating funding for federal agencies and programs that lack a current reauthorization. Such a prohibition on appropriations would hit a number of key children’s programs including: CAPTA, Head Start, the Adoption Opportunities Act, the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) grants, the JJDPA, the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, the Higher Education Act and many other programs that have continued a for a few years to more than a decade without a current reauthorization.