Congressional Schedule: Many lawmakers have already left Capitol Hill for the holiday recess. The 114th congressional session officially ends this Friday, December 16th. The 115th Congress is scheduled to convene its first session on 3 January 2017.
FY 2017 Funding: The Senate passed a FY 2017 continuing resolution (CR) last Friday evening by a vote of 63 to 36, narrowly averting a government shutdown. The Senate also passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation bill (WIIN, formerly known as WRDA) on Friday by a vote of 78 to 21. WIIN authorizes $170 million in aid for Flint, Michigan to address its water pollution crisis.
Passage of the CR, set to expire on April 28th, will most likely lead to a partisan battle over spending in the spring. Outgoing House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) warns that appropriators need to begin negotiating the spending bills in early January because meeting the April deadline will be "extremely difficult." Some conservative members of Congress are already demanding that the next round of spending bills immediately cut $30 billion in domestic spending.
For the duration of the current CR, government programs will be funded at the same levels of FY 2016, $1.07 trillion. This means WIC will continue to operate at an annual funding level of $6.32 billion until the end of the CR.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization: Last Tuesday, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced that efforts to complete the bill to reauthorize child nutrition programs have come to an end.
This means that NWA successes included in the Senate bill to provide WIC to six, two year certifications for infants, a reasonable, common sense review of Medicaid Adjunctive Eligibility, among other priorities have, for the time being, been dashed. Senate Agriculture Committee leaders have said that they will renew efforts in the 115th Congress to move child nutrition through the Committee and the Senate floor, although with a new presidential administration and with the Farm Bill reauthorization process beginning in 2017, it is anything but assured that a child nutrition bill will be passed next year. In the meantime, WIC and other child nutrition programs will continue to operate under the policies set by the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010.
Chairman Roberts released a statement last Tuesday that read in part: “Today is a day I hoped would not come,” Roberts said. “I’m very disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral child nutrition reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress. . . We have not been able to overcome minority objections and additionally those in the House. Though our committee passed a good, bipartisan bill — something no one said we could do — it wasn’t enough for some. I’m proud to say the Agriculture Committee conducted this reauthorization process in an open and transparent manner that listened to all stakeholders, including schoolchildren. We wrote a well-balanced bill that increased program integrity, flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness. . . It is [also] unfortunate that certain parochial interests and the desire for issues rather than solutions were put ahead of the wellbeing of vulnerable and at-risk populations and the need for reform. This is a lost opportunity to help hungry children and struggling schools. In addition, these programs will be vulnerable to attack without a reduction in the current error rates.”
Trump Administration Updates: President-Elect Donald Trump has made several additional cabinet level nominations in the last week for key government agencies: Retired General James Mattis was nominated to lead the Department of Defense, retired General John Kelly was nominated to lead the Department of Homeland Security, fast-food restaurant CEO Andrew Puzder – a critic of worker protections and a national rise in the minimum wage – was nominated to lead the Labor Department, retired Pediatric Neurosurgeon Ben Carson – who as a child once lived in public housing – was nominated to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Oklahoma state attorney general Scott Pruitt – a close ally of the fossil fuel industry who disputes human activity as impacting climate change – was nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Linda McMahon was nominated to serve as administrator of the Small Business Administration.