The major party conventions are behind us and Congress is in recess until after Labor Day. However, when they return, much work still needs to be done, and there will be a push to do so before the lame duck (following the election). Of course members of Congress will need even more time back in the district to campaign closer to the election, thus making the time frame to pass a budget and reauthorize major legislation even shorter – a total of eight weeks to be exact. Below is an overview of some of the issues that are important to Goodwill® and still on the table.
While leaders have made passing spending bills a priority this summer, none of the 12 individual appropriations bills have made it to President Obama’s desk. With the next fiscal year beginning on October 1, the government will likely remain running under a continuing resolution. The question that remains is, how long it will last, and whether it will be followed by an omnibus or a couple mini-buses.
Criminal Justice Reform
Despite signs of being close to reaching an agreement specifically on criminal sentencing, there has been no indication that a bill will go to the floor for a vote anytime soon. That said, Goodwill Industries International (GII) is still supportive of the Second Chance Act and you can take action and urge your lawmakers to sponsor the bill.
Budget Resolution/Budget Process
Due to party lines, the Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution will likely not move unless a Republican wins the White House and/or Republicans take a stronger hold of the Senate. In the meantime, the chairmen of the House and Senate budget committees are working on principles to overhaul the entire budget process. Senator Enzi plans to release a white paper on this issue in the fall.
Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will expire at the end of the fiscal year and will likely continue to be funded at the same level within the continuing resolution mentioned earlier. The base block grant, which is given to states, has not been increased since the program’s inception in 1996.
The House passed a bill to extend the program through FY 2017. The bill would allow the Treasury Department to partner with states and local governments to fund projects to improve graduation rates and reduce teen pregnancy. It also contains provisions requiring a study on the effectiveness of TANF. The Senate Finance Committee is reviewing the bill and it could pass quickly following recess.
While Congress is in recess it is an opportune time for lawmakers to visit local Goodwill organizations to see the mission in action. In the meantime, back in DC, GII’s government affairs team will continue to meet with staff to help educate offices about our positions on the issues above.