Senators and Representatives are currently on a two-week spring recess and will return to Capitol Hill on Monday, April 24th. Most policymakers are in their home states and districts during this recess, so now is a great time to connect with your representative and senators. For more information on how to connect, please see section below: Lift Up Your WIC Voice by Attending a Town Hall!
FY 2017 Budget:
Policymakers have yet to arrive at an agreement on how to fund the government for the remaining 5 months of FY 2017. The deadline of the current Continuing Resolution (CR) is April 28, meaning that Congress will have only five days after returning from recess to reach an agreement in order to avoid a government shutdown. This will be a daunting task, as there are still 115 outstanding issues on which House and Senate appropriators have not reached agreement.
If policymakers decide that extra time is needed for negotiation, they may opt for a short-term extension of the current CR. If Congress is able to put together an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of FY 2017, the bill will need bipartisan support in the Senate to pass (i.e. at least 8 Democrats will have to vote for the bill to reach the 60-vote threshold for appropriations bills).
In addition, the White House has urged Congress to attach a supplemental spending package, calling for an increase of $30 billion for defense and $3 billion for border security, namely to begin construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
Appropriators have said that the President’s supplemental request will most likely have to be negotiated separately from the omnibus spending bill. Democrats have objected to the supplemental request over its call for border wall construction funding and for its request for $18 billion in domestic cuts to help to offset the extra defense and homeland security spending. One of these domestic offsets would come from WIC: The supplemental request calls for the rescission of $200 million from WIC.
A large amount of carryover balances from previous years, due to declining enrollments in WIC, encouraged this rescission. While the National WIC Association is concerned about funding rescissions, if appropriators adopt this rescission, it should have no impact on participation or WIC’s ability to meet caseload needs, nor should it affect overall budget authority.
House Republicans spent last week trying to revive their Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement legislation, H.R. 1628. The House Rules Committee, chaired by Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), adopted an amendment to the bill last week that would pay back insurers who cover sick, high-cost patients (an update that is essentially a less-generous version of a program under the ACA). This proposal, called the Federal Invisible Risk Sharing Program, would give health insurers $15 billion over a decade to subsidize the care of high-cost patients, helping lower premiums for everyone. This amendment is intended to win votes from conservatives who argued the original legislation would not do enough to lower costs for people who buy individual policies on the exchanges set up by the ACA.
Lawmakers say they plan to continue discussions after the recess on how to garner support for the bill, which is still opposed by many moderate and conservative Republicans. House Democrats are unified in their opposition.
Agriculture Secretary Vote
The Senate is scheduled to vote on Monday, April 24th on President Trump’s nomination of former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue to be agriculture secretary.
New Supreme Court Justice
The Senate confirmed Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch last Friday after Republicans overcame Democratic opposition to the nominee with a unilateral rule change, the so-called “nuclear option”, which lowered the 60-vote threshold to a simple majority for Supreme Court nominees. With Vice President Mike Pence in the presiding officer’s chair, the Senate voted 54-45 to confirm Gorsuch. Three Democrats, Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined all Republicans in voting Friday to confirm Gorsuch.
Gorsuch was subsequently sworn in today with a private ceremony at the Supreme Court, followed by a public oath-taking at the White House. Gorsuch, who is only 49-years-old, is likely to help shape the court for decades to come. Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch on January 31, 2017 to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016.
All but four of the Senate’s 48 Democrats refused to advance Gorsuch’s nomination Thursday. Senate Democrats opposed Gorsuch, saying he favored corporations over working Americans when he worked as a federal appellate judge. Other Democrats said Gorsuch’s nomination was tainted by Republicans’ refusal last year to consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) accused Republicans of the "theft" of the court seat.