CHN: Senators Agree to Include Health Provisions in Trade Bill
Articles from May 10, 2002
- Congress Acts on Welfare Reauthorization
On May 2, both the House Ways and Means and the Education and Workforce Committees approved companion bills to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. Both bills, which closely resemble President Bush’s reauthorization proposal, would impose strict work mandates on welfare recipients but provide no additional funds for childcare, transportation, or other needed work supports. In addition, the bills would continue to deny welfare benefits to legal immigrants, require states to terminate a family’s benefits after just two months of failing to meet program requirements, and devote significant TANF resources to marriage promotion activities.
- Senate, House Pass Farm Bill Conference Report
On Wednesday, May 8, the Senate passed the Farm Bill conference report by a vote of 64-35. The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (HR 2646), adopted by the House on May 1, includes a six-year reauthorization of agricultural, commodity, conservation and nutrition programs in addition to providing federal farm subsidies. The bill includes $248.6 billion in mandatory funding through 2007, $51.7 billion of which is new funding. The conference report set funding for the Farm Bill’s nutrition title at $6.4 billion over ten years, almost twice as much as the House originally proposed but less than the $8.9 billion supported by Senate conferees.
- Senators Agree to Include Health Provisions in Trade Bill
Senate consideration of omnibus trade legislation will proceed next week, after lawmakers agreed on May 9 to include health insurance provisions for workers displaced as a result of federal trade policies. Republican negotiators appear to have agreed to a proposal offered by John Breaux (D-LA) to provide workers with a refundable tax credit to cover 70 percent of their health insurance premiums. Under the agreement, some “secondary workers” who provide supplies to factories that go out of business would also be eligible for benefits. To reach a deal, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) agreed to drop a provision Republicans opposed that would have extended health insurance coverage to recently retired steel workers and truckers. Daschle threatened to withdraw all trade legislation from the floor and move on to other issues if senators did not reach an agreement.
- Democrats, Advocates Criticize Social Security Privatization Proposals
GOP proposals to create individual Social Security investment accounts have been met with a new round of criticism. At a May 7 press conference, the Older Women’s League (OWL), joined by Senator Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and Representative Robert Matsui (D-CA), outlined the negative effects Social Security privatization would have on women. According to the OWL report “Social Security Privatization: A False Promise for Women,” women on average work fewer years, earn less money, and live longer than men, factors that would lead to a lower return on the proposed investment accounts. Critics also assert that President Bush’s Social Security Commission recommendations would result in deep cuts in guaranteed benefits and raise the retirement age for millions of Americans. Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-FL) asserted that he would not allow Social Security to be privatized, defining privatization as a shift of financing and management to the private sector. House Democrats are urging the Republican majority to bring their proposals to the floor to fully air the Social Security debate before the November congressional elections. To date, Republicans have ignored those pleas. Shaw and Matsui have sponsored legislation to improve Social Security benefits for widows, a measure that could come before the House for a vote next week.