Despite being sent a “clean” (without amendments) continuing resolution by the Senate at a compromise funding level of $986 billion down some $72 billion from the Senate’s budget agreement, and NWA opposition, the House of Representatives Friday passed the “Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women, Infants, and Children Act,” H.J. Res. 75, by a strict party line vote with 223 Republicans voting in the affirmative and 185 Democrats voting to oppose. The Act is a short-term fix and only temporarily funds WIC through December 15 at Fiscal Year 2013 levels (including sequestration and rescission cuts i.e. net, net).
This against a back drop of a Senate that has advised House Leadership that it will only take up a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government and a White House that has advised that the President will only sign a “clean” CR. In other words, H.J. Res. 75 has no chance of Congressional passage or becoming law.
Not to be forgotten is the House Majority’s insistence that sequestration remain in place for WIC in FY 2014 and other discretionary programs cutting WIC by 7.3% and removing 600,000 mothers and young children and the House Majority’s Budget Resolution that cuts domestic discretionary programs 20%, cutting 1,700,000 mothers and young children off from WIC benefits.
This backdrop was what prompted NWA to speak out against H.J. Res. 75 advising NWA members, the public, and a bi-partisan list of House members that the measure was – “a cynical ploy to use low-income nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children as political pawns for political ends. Funding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in this piecemeal, short-term, stop-gap manner is not an acceptable solution.”
NWA urged Congress to “pass a ‘clean’ continuing resolution followed by the already marked-up full year FY-2014 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills to fund WIC and the other critical child nutrition programs through the end of the 2014 fiscal year, ...to end the uncertainty that exists in our fiscal environment and the already challenged lives of vulnerable mothers and young children by responsibly discharging and fulfilling its moral obligations to the nation.”
There is no end in sight to the stalemate that has overtaken Congress and passage of legislation lifting the shutdown seems far off at best. Worse still is the looming battle over lifting the debt-ceiling which both House Speaker John Boehner, R-OH, and Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-TX, advised that neither the House nor the Senate will pass “clean” debt limit legislation without spending cuts or changes to entitlement programs. The U.S. Treasury reports that “a default would be unprecedented and has the potential to be catastrophic. Credit markets could freeze, the value of the dollar could plummet, US interest rates could skyrocket, the negative spillovers could reverberate around the world, and there might be a financial crisis and recession that could echo the events of 2008 or worse."
Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has urged "in the midst of this fiscal challenge, the ongoing political uncertainty over the budget and the debt ceiling does not help. The government shutdown is bad enough, but failure to raise the debt ceiling would be far worse, and could very seriously damage not only the US economy, but the entire global economy. So it is 'mission-critical' that this be resolved as soon as possible."