Policy Priorities

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Congress Ends Impasse But Risk for Children Remains

October 17, 2013

Late last night, the government shutdown that lasted more than two weeks finally came to a end. With just hours to go before the federal government would have defaulted on its debt, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached an agreement that allowed the federal government to reopen its doors and avoid the immediate risk of a federal default.  Both the House and Senate approved the legislation last night and it was swiftly signed by President Obama.  For now, infants, pregnant women and children are no longer at risk of losing food benefits, Head Start programs can keep their doors open to thousands of at-risk young children, public servants can go back to work and stop worrying about whether they’ll be paid in time to cover their bills, and the nation avoids a massive financial meltdown. However, because the agreement punts important decisions to a series of later deadlines, the risk to children and vulnerable families in future negotiations remains high .   

The agreement requires the creation of a negotiating committee, the members of which already have been named, which is charged with reporting plans for longer-term deficit reduction and fiscal policy by December 13. It funds agencies at current (sequestration) spending levels through January 15, 2014, while raising the debt ceiling by extending the nation’s borrowing authority through February 7, 2014. Funding for services to children and vulnerable families will be at risk at each of these three decision points. Finally, despite the fact that the shutdown was precipitated by a small faction of conservative Tea Party Republicans in the House of Representatives over their desire to slow or halt implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the approved agreement includes only one minor change to the ACA requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to certify that steps are being taken to verify the incomes of those applying for subsidies to help them purchase health insurance through the state marketplaces.

CDF will continue to monitor negotiations for their impacts on children and families. We encourage you to tell your Members of Congress to “Be Careful What You Cut” and check back here often. CDF continues to seek a balanced approach to budget negotiations that allow our nation to make the best investment money can buy – the health, education, and well being of our children, and the protection of vulnerable children and families. 

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