President George H.W. Bush to Lie in State, Likely Putting Off Spending Deadline
President George H.W. Bush, a solid WIC supporter whose leadership team hosted NWA's first White House briefing, died over the weekend at the age of 94. As part of the state funeral, his body will lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda. The White House also announced a National Day of Mourning on Wednesday in honor of the president's contributions to the United States. The late president's casket is scheduled to arrive in the Capitol building this evening, changing this week's congressional calendar. The House will no longer hold previously scheduled votes tomorrow, and the Senate will no longer hold any votes until Wednesday.
These changes in the congressional schedule come as the deadline for a spending deal - December 7 at midnight - is rapidly approaching. As a result, lawmakers have indicated that they will likely pass a one-week continuing resolution (CR) to allow them additional time to work on the spending package. President Trump has indicated that he would likely sign such a CR. This means that the possibility of a partial government shutdown will likely come up at the end of next week (December 14), rather than this week. NWA will continue to provide updates about the likelihood of a funding shortfall and will coordinate with state agencies should spending negotiations fail to produce an agreement.
Last Week to Weigh in on Public Charge
The comment period on public charge is coming to a close at the beginning of next week – on December 10. Over 115,000 individuals have already commented, and this is one of your last opportunities to weigh in on rules that could impact the WIC families that we serve.
The proposed rule would penalize immigrants if they access Medicaid, SNAP, or housing assistance programs. The heightened risk to an individual’s immigration status would continue to disincentivize eligible families from accessing any public benefit program, including WIC. Furthermore, there remains a risk that WIC participation could be included in the final rule. It is up to the WIC community to speak out now and protect the families that we serve!
NWA has prepared a number of resources to assist you, including template comments, guidelines for participants who may wish to comment, and FAQs about public charge. Please direct any questions about the comment process to Brian Dittmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farm Bill Agreement Reached, Action Expected Soon
Last week, farm bill negotiators announced a tentative agreement on the content of the package. They have indicated that the bill will not contain additional work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that were included in the partisan House bill. Reports now indicate that the conference report will be released next week, which could mean floor action on the bill before the holidays. Anti-hunger advocates continue to wait to review text of the bill before indicating a position on the final compromise. NWA will continue to monitor the progress of the farm bill and provide updates.
Dangerous Tax Bill May Be Voted on in the House
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) has indicated that he will work with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to bring a vote on a "Tax 2.0" bill. The proposal would extend some of the tax breaks provided in the previously passed Republican tax bill, which have disproportionately benefited high-income individuals. It also includes a concerning provision allowing families to draw from retirement savings accounts for the birth or adoption of a child. Child and family advocates are concerned about this proposal, which pits the needs of families when they have new babies against their needs in retirement. Proposals to assist families at the time of the birth of a child should not come at the expense of families' needs later in life. Given the changed House schedule this week, it is unclear whether or not this proposal will be given a vote in this Congress. If voted on, it is unclear whether the bill would pass the House, and it is unlikely to be taken up in the Senate.
USDA Chief Scientist Nominee Clears Confirmation Hearing
President Trump's nominee for the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics, Dr. Scott Hutchins, cleared his Senate confirmation hearing last week. If ultimately confirmed, Dr. Hutchins would oversee the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS), which shares responsibility for research and evaluation of WIC, along with the Food and Nutrition Service. Dr. Hutchins is an entomologist currently serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska, as well as an executive at Dow AgroSciences, a major pesticide production company. Some in the nutrition and food research community have called into question his ability to serve in an unbiased manner, given his links to agribusiness.