Window Closing for Budget Deal Before August Recess
Over the weekend, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued negotiations on a broad budget deal that would include both an increase in discretionary spending and a long-term extension of the debt ceiling, the legal limit of federal borrowing. The Treasury Department has forecasted that federal borrowing will exceed the current ceiling in September, placing increased pressure on the negotiators to reach a deal.
Last week, the Administration insisted that any of the proposed $150 billion in spending increases be matched with offsets, either through spending cuts or program reforms. Speaker Pelosi is unlikely to agree to spending cuts, as she has repeatedly insisted on the need to invest in non-defense discretionary programs, many of which have not seen a funding increase in years.
With the House adjourning for the August recess on Friday, Speaker Pelosi is pushing for a budget deal this week. A budget deal must be reached in order to determine the overall spending levels for fiscal year 2020. While the House has advanced FY 2020 appropriations bills – including robust WIC funding – using estimated total numbers, the Senate has not begun drafting bills without a final budget deal. Congress cannot fully pass appropriations bills for the upcoming fiscal year without a budget deal, heightening the likelihood of a continuing resolution or government shutdown on October 1.
August Recess a Prime Opportunity to Advocate for WIC!
This August, members of Congress will be back in their home districts for an entire month. As legislators meet with constituents in their local communities, staffers are considering key WIC priorities – including FY 2020 appropriations that determine the funding levels for WIC and the pending Senate Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill, which will contemplate broader investments and the overall structure of WIC. Members of the House are expected to return to their districts on July 27, whereas senators return to their home states on August 3.
This is an opportune time to connect with your members and set up WIC clinic visits. Setting up visits to your clinics allows your member of Congress to both see the excellent work that you’re doing and deepen their understanding of how the program changes lives in your community. If you’re unsure of how to set up a WIC clinic visit, please refer to NWA’s advocacy toolkit section on contacting your elected official or reach out to Kirsten Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers Fleeing USDA Amid Relocation to Kansas City
Last Tuesday, USDA stated that the majority of employees directed to relocate to the Kansas City area have refused to move, signaling mass departures from the USDA research agencies. The departing employees include a majority of those directed to move from the Economic Research Service (ERS) and more than two-thirds of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
While some ERS and NIFA positions will remain in the Washington area, the relocation has targeted the researchers and analysts who form the backbone of USDA’s independent research activities. ERS, in particular, conducts research into nutrition, food insecurity, and program evaluation for WIC and other nutrition assistance programs. NWA has led the nutrition community in raising awareness about the effects of the proposed relocation and subsequent exodus of researchers from USDA on the agency’s capacity to conduct nutrition research.
The relocation has faced substantial criticism from both employees and Congress. In response to the relocation plan, both ERS and NIFA have unionized to challenge the relocation. Congress has also cautioned USDA against proceeding with this plan, and the House FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill prohibits the move. USDA intends to complete the relocation by September 30, in part to avoid any prohibitions on the relocation that would pass through the complete appropriations process.
New Bill Would Interfere with Science-Based Infant Food Packages
Last Wednesday, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced the INFANT Act. The INFANT Act would alter the guidelines for infant food packages, allowing for increased purchase of infant meats and produce. The current guidelines are the result of an intensive independent review by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), which ensures that available WIC foods meet the nutritional needs of each participant category. Indeed, the latest NASEM review in January 2017 recommended a reduction in jarred infant meats available in infant food packages.
In response to Rep. Young’s proposal, NWA President & CEO, the Rev. Douglas A. Greenaway said, “WIC foods are science-based, healthy foods chosen to meet the specific nutrition and health needs of low-income babies, toddlers, young children, and their mothers to promote healthy growth and development. The food package should not be legislated to meet the needs of policymakers and food industry lobbyists.”