National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

March 12, 2018

Public Comment Period Continues for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) jointly issued a call for public comments as the two agencies develop the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). USDA and HHS published the proposed topics and scientific questions to be reviewed in the DGA development process. For the first time, the DGA will include nutrition guidelines for pregnant women and young children. NWA will share model comments in advance of the comment deadline and strongly encourages state and local agencies to participate in the comment process, especially to share valuable expertise and perspective on the nutrition needs of pregnant women and young children. The public may comment here until March 30, 2018. Watch for NWA’s model comments to assist in drafting your agency comments.

NOTE: Public commenting during the regulatory process is not considered lobbying activity under federal law, and the federal government is actively seeking input from stakeholders and the public as it forms policy. Please reach out to NWA with any concerns.

Two Weeks Left for Congress to Reach Spending Deal

Congress must pass a spending deal by March 23 to continue government funding, and Congressional leaders are optimistic that they will reach an omnibus agreement to complete the appropriations process for the 2018 fiscal year. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on an omnibus bill this week. The Senate is likely to proceed after passage in the House, but it must begin consideration of the bill this week to avoid procedural delays that could bring about a last-minute shutdown, as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) was able to do in February. If Congress fails to reach an agreement by March 23, the government will shut down for the third time this year.

There are several outstanding issues that Congressional negotiators must navigate before ultimate passage of a spending deal is secured. The Bipartisan Budget Act passed on February 9 raised the budget caps for defense (by $80 billion) and non-defense domestic discretionary spending (by $63 billion). As Congress allocates spending totals to the appropriations subcommittees, Republican negotiators are attempting to give a disproportionately smaller total to the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee. Democratic negotiators—already displeased that there wasn’t parity between defense and domestic programs in the Bipartisan Budget Act—insist that the proposed allocations shortchange important programs, and the Democrats are seeking additional funding for Labor-HHS-Education priorities.

Congress is also attempting to reconcile differences on a wide host of issues–including immigration and border control, funding for the Gateway rail tunnel between New York and New Jersey, and funding for Title X family planning and teen pregnancy services. As the Freedom Caucus and other Republicans are likely to oppose the omnibus because of the raised budget caps, Democratic votes will be needed to secure passage in both houses and Congressional leaders will have to reach a compromise that responds in part to the Democrats' priorities.

FY2019 Appropriations Process Begins

As Congress irons out the details for funding the remainder of FY2018, appropriators have requested that members of Congress submit their requests for FY2019 appropriations by the end of March. NWA is working closely with members of Congress on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to communicate our FY2019 funding priorities for WIC. NWA will continue to update members as the appropriations process unfolds over the next several months.

NWA is grateful to Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Congressman Roger Marshall (R-KS) for their leadership in drafting and circulating a bipartisan “dear colleague” letter in support of full funding for WIC in FY2019. Congressman Marshall recently addressed NWA’s 2018 Washington Leadership Conference.

Appropriations Leadership to Change Amid Retirements

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and a long time supporter of WIC, announced his retirement effective April 1 due to health issues. Senator Cochran will oversee the final negotiations for the FY2018 omnibus spending deal, but will hand stewardship of FY2019 appropriations negotiations to his successor. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) is the third-most senior Republican on the panel, after Cochran and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Senator Shelby is unlikely to be challenged for leadership of the panel.

In the House, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced in January that he will retire at the end of this term amid a difficult reelection atmosphere. Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) is the most senior representative seeking leadership of the committee, but he is being challenged by three others: Congresswoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID), and Congressman Tom Cole (R-OK). Congressman Aderholt is currently chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for WIC. House Republicans must retain the majority after November’s elections for one of these four candidates to become chair of the Appropriations Committee; if Democrats prevail, Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) will assume the gavel.