National WIC Association

October 17, 2013

Congress Temporarily Re-opens Government and Raises Debt Limit

After 16 days of shutdown, the government is finally open today.

Last night President Obama signed H.R. 2775 into law to keep the government funded at an annual appropriation rate of $986 billion until January 15th and raise the debt limit until February 7th. Finally, we are in a safe zone after sixteen days of a needless manufactured crisis and a cost to the American economy of roughly $24 billion and a 0.6% decline in third quarter GDP.

While this is positive news, it is only a temporary solution. Remember that we will all be back on the same stage with the same actors reading from the same script in January and February. We can only hope that the tenor of future debate will be more responsible and that this will be an end to brinksmanship and crisis governance.

The agreement temporarily sets WIC’s funding at last fiscal year’s post-sequester and rescission level of $6.522 billion retroactive to October 1st , but fails to remove the uncertainty that still lingers over program managers’ heads given the lack of a full year funding solution for WIC and other domestic discretionary programs.

Where do we go from here?

WIC is not out of the woods yet. Congress still must act to craft a budget agreement by December 13th intended to provide an allocation spending template for the remainder of fiscal year 2014. This will be set in a conference report prior to the onset of a new round of sequestration spending cuts set for early January. Moreover, Congress must act to find an end-game solution by January 15th or face yet another federal government shutdown.

While Congress came to an agreement, there have been real life consequences for the brinksmanship that saw the shutdown add significant uncertainty to the lives of WIC mothers and their families and WIC will work hard to regain any shaken confidence those families may have in WIC as the essential source of quality nutrition and breastfeeding support, health, and social service referrals.

Next Steps?

NWA will be busy advocating for a balanced solution to the nation’s budget dilemma, adequate funding for WIC going forward, and an end to the negative consequences of sequestration. Stay connected to as your way to learn of advocacy actions that you can take to help assure a protected, well-funded WIC for our nation’s mothers and young children.

Here’s a recap of last night’s events:

By 8:20 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, announced on the Senate Floor that they have reached a deal to open the federal government until January 15th and raise the debt-ceiling until February 7th. Perhaps bowing to tremendous political pressure, despite a somewhat vitriolic press conference, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, announced that he would not move to block the legislation.

The Senate deal passed by a bipartisan vote of 81-18.

The agreement requires negotiations to reduce the federal deficit to be completed by December 13th and gives federal agencies greater flexibility to manage their budgets to comply with the long-term cuts required under sequestration. This greater flexibility will not affect the lower spending levels set by sequestration. They will remain in place.  Also, Senate leaders seem to have dropped most if not all proposals affecting the Affordable Care Act, including proposals to delay the tax on medical devices.

By 9:35 p.m.
The House begins floor debate of the Senate deal. A House floor vote will require both Democrats and Republicans to gain the 217 votes required to pass the bill and will likely have no problem gaining a blended support for the legislation. The blended support is expected to include most if not all Democrats which will avoid scuttling of the legislation by the Republican Caucus’ conservative members.

The debate is being led by House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers, R-KY, for the Majority and Ranking Member Rep. Nita Lowey, D-NY, for the Minority. The Speaker, Rep. John Boehner, R-OH, has urged passage. The House debate is scheduled to occur for one hour to be followed by a vote later in the night.

By 10:30 p.m.
The House has passed H.R. 2775 by a bipartisan vote of 285-144. It will be sent to the President for signature.

By 12:40 a.m.
President Obama signed H.R. 2775, re-opening the Federal Government.

Photo credit: jonrawlinson