Washington Update: Week of January 18

January 20, 2016
Washington Update

Child Nutrition Reauthorization

This was the topic of Bread's 2015 Offering of Letters. While it's now 2016, there is still unfinished but important business for Congress to attend to in this area.

  • The Senate Agriculture Committee's chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) released the text of a bipartisan child nutrition bill on Monday. The committee marked up the bill this morning.
  • Bread's initial look at the bill shows that overall, it meets the Offering of Letters’ hopes to 1) continue investments in child nutrition programs; 2) improve children's access to feeding programs; and 3) ensure improvements to child nutrition programs are not paid for by cuts to other vital safety-net programs. Expect an in-depth analysis later.
  • The bill includes a number of provisions to help increase access to child nutrition programs. Many of these provisions mirror policies Bread supported throughout last year when advocating for the Summer Meals Act and the Stop Child Summer Hunger Act. For example, the bill includes provisions to: 1) streamline summer and after-school meal programs 2) allow some states to provide summer EBT (debit-like cards) for a limited number of children 3) allow some states to provide alternative summer meal delivery under particular circumstances
  • The bill increases the age of WIC eligibility through age 5 for children who are 5 but not yet enrolled in kindergarten and makes some positive changes to the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • The bill aims to improve the integrity of the program by changing the verification process for school meals. While Bread supports efforts to maintain program integrity, we must ensure eligible low-income children do not lose access to the meals they need.

Global Food Security Act/Feed the Future

  • There are currently 115 co-sponsors in the House. Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.-5) was added on Jan. 11.
  • The bill may be filed in the House next week. From there, we will see if it gets a referral to the House Agriculture Committee. If it doesn't, we hope to see the bill on the floor of the House at the end of the month. From there, we would look to the Senate and a path forward with the Foreign Relations Committee there.

Budget & Appropriations

  • The president is expected to release his fiscal year 2017 budget on Feb. 9.
  • The Bipartisan Budget Act passed last year sets the top-line budget numbers for FY 2017. So Budget Committee chairmen in the House and Senate could choose to forego releasing annual budget blueprints and instead head straight into the appropriations process.

Quick background: An annual budget sets the topline number (the size of the pie) and articulates a longer-term vision for spending and revenues. The appropriations process divides up that topline number among all the different federal programs (slices up the pie).

Mass Incarceration

  • Momentum for passing strong criminal-justice reform legislation in the first quarter of the year continues. In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama endorsed criminal justice reform as an item Congress should act on now.
  •  Despite strong bipartisan support, the window of opportunity is shrinking fast. Advocates are pushing Senate leadership to bring the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (SRCA), S. 2123, to the floor for a vote. Bread continues to focus on getting Republicans, particularly moderates up for reelection in swing states, to cosponsor the SRCA and to get all senators to support voting on and passing the SRCA. 

ACT NOW!: With the Senate acting on child nutrition legislation, call (800/826-3688) or email your senators and ask them to pass a strong child nutrition bill.

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Infographic by Doug Puller

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