Last night, President Trump and Democratic leaders - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) - gave remarks to the American public via televised addresses. Both speeches addressed the situation at the US southern border but did not provide any new perspectives or information with regards to resolving the current funding impasse. Today, congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle are scheduled to meet at the White House at 3 PM ET to continue budget negotiations.
The House continues passing individual appropriations bills and is scheduled to vote on its Agriculture-FDA appropriations bill to fund WIC tomorrow. Speaker Pelosi, in her first address to the new Congress, called upon her colleagues to reopen the government, quoting President Ronald Reagan: “If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership in the world will soon be lost.” Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have successfully halted floor action on S.1, a bill related to the situation in Syria, until Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) brings the House-passed appropriations bills to the floor for a vote. The shutdown is on track to become the longest in history if it continues to the end of this week.
Just hours before the televised addresses, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced to the press that it had found adequate funding to keep SNAP, WIC, and child nutrition programs operational through February. USDA indicated that a total of $600 million has been identified to keep WIC running during this time. Specifically, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) plans to allocate at least $248 million to state agencies this week, and it reports having identified an additional $350 million in unspent FY 2018 funds to allocate at a later date. Though USDA has indicated it will bring key employees off furlough to help push funds out to states, the National WIC Association remains concerned about the department’s ability to keep all 90 state WIC agencies afloat through February. Sources have advised NWA that, until yesterday’s media announcement, USDA had not been in touch with states nor taken promised actions to make additional funding available on January 3 as USDA had communicated in an email sent on December 28 to state agencies.