Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Lame Duck Session is About to End...Without Consideration of Important Human Needs Priorities

They call it the "Lame Duck" session. This is the time of year when the current Congress (in this case the 114th Congress) is scrambling to get out of town and take care of unfinished legislative business during the period between mid-November and mid-December.

So what are the pending issues, from Bread for the World's standpoint? As Bread for the World managing editor Jennifer Gonzalez wrote in the Bread blog, the unfinished legislative business   includes:
  1. Global Maternal and Child Nutrition Funding-Bread’s initial request of $230 million for maternal and child nutrition in global health program has not been met yet.
  2. Criminal Justice Reform-We want Congress to pass sentencing reform bills that will take the first step toward comprehensive criminal justice reform)
  3.  Fiscal Year 2017 Federal Budget-Congress needs to pass a fiscal year 2017 federal budget that strengthens and protects international and domestic anti-hunger programs before the budget expires on Dec. 9.
  4. Child Nutrition Reauthorization Bill-Congress has yet to reauthorize a child nutrition bill, even though we worked hard in 2015 to make it happen. It was the focus of that year’s Offering of Letters. Unless child nutrition reauthorization is passed by a lame duck session of Congress before the end of this year, and signed into law by President Obama, the legislation will have to start afresh after the new Congress and president take office in January.
'No Energy'
So, how is the process going regarding those issues? Apparently not so good.  Aside from a short-term resolution needed to keep the government open after Dec. 9, Congress is also expected to pass a medical research bill, a water resources bill, a defense authorization package and an energy bill, according to U.S. News and World Report.  "Those four things take up all the energy we have now" after a bitter, exhausting campaign year," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, was quoted as saying.

Well, there is another issue that is coming up during the Lame Duck session.  "Congressional Republicans are already working on a budget reconciliation bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), The Trump administration has signaled that they would like to sign it on Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2017," said Bread for the World president David Beckmann. " Bread has taken the stance that a well thought-out replacement for the ACA must be agreed upon before the healthcare legislation is repealed. This is the most responsible thing to do."

Back to Square One
Some legislators like Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas have expressed frustration that important issues like the Child Nutrition Reauthorization have been put on the shelf yet again.  And the latest delay means that legislators will have to start from scratch on a new CNR reauthorization bill in the 115th Congress.  “Today is a day I hoped would not come,” Roberts said. “I’m very disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral Child Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations have come to an end for the 114th Congress."

“I’m proud of the commonsense reforms and the bipartisan strides we have made in the majority of the programs," added the Kansas senator.  "However, we are nearing the end of this legislative calendar, and we have not been able to overcome minority objections and additionally those in the House.  Read Sen. Roberts full statement

'Steadfast in Our Commitment'
As we focus on the actions (or lack of actions) during this brief legislative session, we are also looking ahead to the challenging legislative environment in 2017. "We are steadfast in our commitment to challenging any proposed cuts to domestic and international anti-poverty programs," said Beckmann.  "These programs are a lifeline to millions of people here and abroad. Deep program cuts would only drive more people into poverty. That would be a tragedy given the fact that our country and the world have made substantial progress against hunger and poverty over the last several decades."

"Let’s not despair about the tough road ahead. Remember, God is always active in history on the side of the widows, the orphans, and the immigrants, and people who are hungry," added Beckmann.  Read his full comments in Legislative Update for Dec. 5  in the Bread Blog.

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