CHN: House May Include Anti-Recession Measures in Supplemental Appropriations Bill
Congressional leaders want to send the President supplemental appropriations legislation covering both war and domestic spending before their Memorial Day recess. The domestic provisions are expected to include additional weeks of unemployment insurance and other measures that would respond to the recession. The House may take up supplemental appropriations starting the week of May 5.
The House leadership is likely to schedule a separate vote on the domestic appropriations, probably in the form of an amendment to a larger supplemental bill including war funding. Among the measures currently being discussed for inclusion are 13-26 more weeks of unemployment insurance for those who have exhausted their state benefits, funds to prevent the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program from running out of money, and moratoria on several Bush Administration Medicaid and SCHIP regulations. In addition, there have been reports that increased education benefits for veterans will be included.
Advocates have been pushing for a more comprehensive set of measures to combat the effects of the recession, adding to the measures listed above a temporary increase in Food Stamp benefits as well as more emergency food supplies, more federal aid to cash-strapped states, an increase in home energy assistance, a summer jobs program for youth, school repair projects, and funding restorations to prevent cuts in Head Start and child support enforcement. Labor, service provider, religious and other groups working through the Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities (ECAP) have been meeting with Congressional offices to make the case for quick action to combat the combined ill effects of rising costs of food, energy, and housing, and loss of earnings. Advocates are making progress, since even a few weeks ago there was far more uncertainty about the prospects for extending unemployment benefits, and now there is bipartisan support for an extension. (The House Committee on Ways and Means approved H.R. 5749, legislation to extend UI benefits by at least 13 weeks on April 16. The bill has at least 7 Republican co-sponsors.)
Bipartisan support will be needed to get any domestic supplemental spending to final enactment. The President has threatened to veto any supplemental bill that exceeds his recommended total for Iraq and Afghanistan war spending. He may abandon his objections if strong bipartisan support is evident; or if he does veto, bipartisan support will be needed for an override. The domestic provisions now being talked about for the supplemental spending bill all have support from both sides of the aisle. That has also been true of most of the other provisions sought by advocates.
House leaders apparently do not expect the full range of stimulus measures to be included in the upcoming supplemental appropriations. They have been talking about subsequent economic stimulus legislation, a bill that would include elements so far left out, perhaps with greater attention to infrastructure rebuilding and state aid. Advocates would much prefer to see as much as possible within the supplemental appropriations bill, because that is considered must-pass legislation. A separate stimulus bill later on would face far more uncertain prospects. Congress also is continuing to work on separate housing foreclosure legislation, in hopes of providing relief to some of the millions caught up in the burst housing bubble. (See Human Needs Report, April 14)
For more information about measures to provide effective economic stimulus while alleviating hardships, see Towards Shared Recovery, at http://www.chn.org/pdf/2008/stimulus4142008.pdf