CHN: Farm Bill Conferees Face Funding Setback
Articles from March 15, 2002
- Scaled-Down Stimulus Package Becomes Law
After months of contentious debate, the House and Senate passed and the President signed into law a watered-down economic stimulus bill last week. Congress was finally motivated to act by the impending expiration of unemployment insurance benefits for those who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. While the “Job Creation and Worker Assistance Act” has been portrayed as a significant boost for laid-off workers, critics argue that the bill’s costly business tax cuts outweigh its limited benefits to the unemployed.
- House Budget Committee Approves Budget Resolution
Despite sinking federal revenues and prior commitments to use Congressional Budget Office (CBO) budget estimates, the Republican-controlled House Budget Committee approved a fiscal 2003 budget resolution last Wednesday. In order to produce a $2.1 trillion “balanced” budget, the committee opted to work from the more generous Bush Administration budget numbers, count over $200 billion in Social Security money, and omit the $43 billion economic stimulus package enacted last week.
- Congress Holds Hearings On Welfare Reauthorization
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson was called to testify before the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees this week, as Congress gears-up to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Secretary Thompson presented President Bush’s TANF reauthorization plan to the committees, which have jurisdiction over the program. Democratic members raised concerns about the plan’s call for sharp increases in work participation rates among recipients without providing additional money for child care or other support services.
- Farm Bill Conferees Face Funding Setback
House and Senate conferees met for the first time on Wednesday, March 13, to iron out the significant differences in their Farm Bill proposals. Negotiations on the policy changes included in both bills have been stalled until major funding issues are resolved. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) revealed last week that it had originally underestimated the total cost of the Senate-passed legislation by $6.1 billion. Instead of maintaining the funding level set by the fiscal year 2002 budget resolution, $73.5 billion over ten years, the Senate bill is now estimated to cost $79.6 billion. House conferees have expressed their reluctance to exceed the $73.5 billion funding level included in the House bill, while most Senate conferees are concerned that the funding difference will result in cuts to the Senate bill’s nutrition title. The House bill reauthorizes the Food Stamp Program but authorizes only $3.6 billion in new funding for the nutrition title, compared to $8.9 billion provided by the Senate bill. The Senate bill also takes important steps toward restoring nutrition benefits for legal immigrants and contains new provisions to better serve working families seeking food assistance. Conferees are aiming to complete their work on the Farm Bill this month before breaking for Spring recess.