Capitol to Capitol Newsletter: Volume 20, Issue 21

Jeff Hurley 10/16/2013

16 DAYS AND COUNTING (9:13 a.m.)

It’s been more than two weeks since funding for FY 2014 expired, causing the federal government to shut down. Now the biggest concern may not be how to find agreement on a continuing resolution (CR), but rather what will happen if the debt limit is breached, most likely Thursday. Several legislative proposals have been floated in recent days, none of which currently have the support to pass both chambers of Congress. The policy landscape changes minute to minute. Currently Senate Leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are hammering out a bipartisan deal to reopen the federal government by passing a continuing resolution through January 15 and by raising the debt ceiling through February 7.  House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) attempted to put together a similar proposal with several amendments to the Affordable Care Act. Those efforts fell apart on Tuesday evening. Possible next options? Look to the Senate to pass the Reid-McConnell “deal.”  What the House does next is unclear. Earlier, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) introduced a six-week debt limit increase of $118 billion achieved through spending cuts, including tax and entitlement reforms. Another widely discussed plan comes from Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). It would end the shutdown through a six-month CR and extend the debt limit until January. The proposal includes a two-year delay of the medical device tax and offers sequestration flexibility to federal agencies. A growing bipartisan group of senators, including Collins, Manchin (D-W.Va.), Landrieu (D-La.),  Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Pryor (D-Ark.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), King (I-Maine), Murkowski (R-Alaska), Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Donnelly (D-Ind.), Johanns (R-Neb.) and Kirk (R-Ill.) have been working together to find a compromise. 

 At this point, there are countless moving parts in a possible agreement, including policy provisions and time frames on the debt limit and a stopgap spending plan. The impact on states from these plans would come from modifying the reductions from sequestration, changing the discretionary caps in the Budget Control Act, adjusting several elements in the Affordable Care Act and making changes to the federal tax code. The effect on states from the closure of the federal government will worsen as programs run out money that states can no longer afford to make up.   NCSL will be posting the latest information.  NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Jeff Hurley

SENATE REQUESTS STATE BLOCK GRANT SPENDING.  Staff from the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance asked NCSL to provide them with information how states have used their Social Services Block Grants. The grant program gives states flexibility in how they use the funding to deliver a range of services to children and families, vulnerable older adults, people with disabilities, and at-risk adolescents and young adults. The block grant program is being eyed for potential cuts by several members of Congress to help pay for other priorities including a potential budget deal and a new child welfare reform proposal. In July 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the FY 2010 Social Services Block Grant  Annual Report that offers  data submitted by each state outlining expenditures by program.
Action: Please review your state’s information and provide NCSL with any updates, details or changes since FY 2010. This information may be vital to avoiding reductions when Congress considers future funding for the program. NCSL staff contacts: Rachel Morgan, Joy Wilson

FARM BILL MOVEMENT IN DEBT/SHUTDOWN DEALS? The need to find budget savings along with a terrible blizzard in South Dakota that killed 60,000 cattle, have led to a renewed effort to resolve the farm bill in either a budget deal, a debt deal or in conference committee. The savings from cuts in farm programs and SNAP is significant, and has raised concerns about how long SNAP can continue after November 1 if the government remains shut down. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named farm bill conferees on October 12 to meet with the Senate conferees that were named in early August. ACTION: Contact Conferees to oppose Section 11312 of H.R. 2642 (King amendment) that would preempt vital state agriculture policies and to support the SNAP proposal in the Senate Farm bill (S. 954) that retains states’ flexibility and reduces SNAP funding by $4 billion instead of $40 billion in H.R. 2642.  NCSL staff contacts: Ben Husch (farm bill); Joy Wilson, Rachel Morgan (SNAP)

NCSL CALLS FOR STRONG INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY STANDARDS. On October 8, NCSL issued a statement in support of  intellectual property rights and protections to raise living standards and help sustain jobs throughout the world. Last week, global leaders met at the Asia Pacific Economic Forum in Bali, Indonesia, to discuss sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region. During NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Atlanta, Ga., NCSL passed a resolution supporting “robust intellectual property protection and enforcement provisions in trade agreements and their implementation.” NCSL staff contact: James Ward

NCSL COMMENTS ON DRUG STRATEGY. In an October 8 letter, NCSL commented on the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s proposed 2014 National Drug Control Strategy. It addresses the need for a state/federal partnership to combat illicit drugs and excessive distribution of legal drugs. NCSL urged more cooperation in certain areas that are difficult for states to address alone, such as at the border.  The comments highlight effective state programs that could be models for the federal government.  NCSL staff contacts:  Susan Parnas Frederick or Jennifer Arguinzoni.

ON THE HORIZON. The NCSL 2013 Fall Forum will be held Dec. 4-6 in Washington, D.C.  The Fall Forum gives you the chance to advance the States' Agenda and tackle the difficult policy issues of our time. The deadline for making hotel reservations is Nov. 13, 2013. For more information visit the Forum webpage.;