In organizing the House last Tuesday, the House of Representatives agreed to a rule that could threaten the existence of programs that have not been reauthorized (e.g. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, CAPTA, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, JJDPA) and programs that receive mandatory funding (e.g. Promoting Safe and Stable Families, SSBG, CHIP, Home visiting).

The House rule directs committees to come up with reports by February 15 that describes programs that have not been reauthorized and those that are funded through mandatory dollars.  The new House rules requires reports to the Oversight, Government Reform, House Administration and Appropriations committees no later than February 15, 2017.  A summary of the rules states:

“…the plan [each House Committee] must include a list of unauthorized programs and agencies within their jurisdiction that have received funding in the prior fiscal year, or in the case of a permanent authorization, has not received a comprehensive review by the committee in the prior three Congresses. The subsection requires committees to describe each program or agency that is intended to be authorized in the current Congress or next Congress, and a description of oversight to support reauthorization in the current Congress.  The subsection also requires recommendations for moving such programs or agencies from mandatory to discretionary funding.

The rules include another controversial part that reinstates a power that was suspended by Congress in the early 1980s that now gives House members the ability to offer amendments that can effectively eliminate federal jobs by reducing salaries.

The rules and directives are significant because congressional leadership could seek a strategy to eliminate some of the programs that have not been reauthorized.  That list has grown in recent years across various sectors of the government.  Regarding the issue of “mandatory” funding, these are programs including entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP as well as fixed funding programs such as SSBG, the home visiting program, CHIP, TANF and part of child care that have their funding levels written into law and do not require an annual appropriation (even when they are listed in appropriations bills).

The HHS-Secretary designee, Congressman Tom Price (R-GA) has been a supporter of moving some of these programs into the discretionary category and forcing them to compete for funding with other human services programs. In this century child welfare programs including CAPTA, Child Welfare Services and Promoting Safe and Stable Families have all suffered from significant erosion in funding since approximately 2005.