FY 2018 Appropriations Update
A draft of the FY 2018 Agriculure Appropriations bill, which sets funding for WIC, was passed last Thursday by a unanimous vote (31-0) in the Senate Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS).
The bill calls for a funding level of $6.35 billion for WIC including $80 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and $13.6 million for infrastructure. The appropriations bill requests a rescission of $800 million of unspent funds from WIC. This would leave WIC with a net funding level of $5.55 billion in FY 2018. While the House Agriculture Appropriations bill called for a lower topline funding number ($6.15 billion), because it included a lower rescission number ($600 million), the net funding levels for WIC in both the Senate and House bills are the same. We expect that this funding level will be sufficient to meet projected caseload needs in FY 2018.
A significant advocacy success for NWA is the Senate Committee’s decision to fund WIC breastfeeding peer counseling at $80 million compared to $60 million in the House Bill. The breastfeeding peer counseling program has been funded at a level of $60 million for the last several years, so the $20 million increase is a notable improvement and victory for NWA. The full authorized amount for breastfeeding peer counselors is $90 million.
Both the Senate and House appropriations bills call for level funding of the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), which was targeted for elimination in the President's budget.
Both bills will now need to pass their respective full chambers and/or be reconciled as stand-alone legislation or for inclusion in a possible Omnibus spending bill.
House Budget Resolution Update
House Republicans released their FY 2018 budget resolution last Tuesday. This plan, introduced by House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-TN), would pave the way for ambitious tax reform legislation alongside a package of drastic spending cuts.
Like the Trump Administration’s FY 2018 Budget, the House budget sets the stage for significant cuts to programs such as affordable housing and environmental protection. Unlike the President’s budget, the House plan would cut into Medicare—a program that President Trump has pledged to preserve.
Under the House plan, defense spending would steadily increase over 10 years while non-defense discretionary spending—the spending category that includes WIC—would decline to $424 billion (a drastic cut from the $554 billion the federal government is spending in that category this year, and below sequestration levels). The budget plan requires a number of committees to come up with these cuts, including committees with jurisdiction over programs important to low-income families, such as the Agriculture Committee (with jurisdiction over SNAP) and the Energy and Commerce Committee (with jurisdiction over Medicaid and part of Medicare).
The House Budget Committee’s resolution is still awaiting action on the House floor, and no votes are currently scheduled for this week.
Affordable Care Act Replacement Update
Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) said he expects the Senate will hold a vote tomorrow on the motion to proceed to vote on the Senate’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement legislation. The vehicle for the legislation is the House-passed ACA replacement, the American Health Care Act, but it remains unclear what version of the Senate’s amendment will be included.
After the Senate’s revised version of their ACA replacement legislation failed to garner enough support among the 52 Republican senators to move to a vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced last week that the Senate instead would vote on a simple repeal of the ACA with a two-year delay. Hopes for a simple repeal, however, were almost immediately dashed when several Republican Senators announced that they could not vote for such an approach.
The replacement legislation continues to face major hurdles this week. As Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is at home in Arizona preparing for brain cancer treatments, McConnell has one fewer Republican vote to count on. In addition, several Republican senators remain undecided about voting to start debate on the bill. Democrats remain united against the Republican effort to replace the ACA.
A further impediment to the Senate’s attempts at ACA replacement was the preliminary finding from the Senate parliamentarian last week that key parts of the healthcare proposal will not qualify for reconciliation, a procedure being used by Republican policymakers which only requires 51 votes to pass a bill.
Two anti-abortion provisions are among the twelve the parliamentarian concluded would require 60 votes rather than the simple majority. One prohibits Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements for one year, and the other would prevent tax credits for insurance premiums from being used to buy policies that cover abortion.
Another provision that may require 60 votes would bar people who go without insurance for about two months from buying coverage for six months. That provision, which is key to the Republicans’ overall replacement effort, is intended to encourage people to maintain continuous coverage and would act as a replacement for the ACA’s individual mandate.
The parliamentarian has not yet made findings on several key provisions in the legislation. These include providing states with more flexibility to run their own insurance markets, allowing state Medicaid funds to be provided as a block grant, and a change in setting insurance premiums that would make them cheaper for young people and more expensive for older people.