All Quiet on Capitol Hill

The House and Senate have begun their summer recess. Upon their return to Washington on September 9, they will have fewer than ten legislative days to agree upon a plan to continue funding all federal programs and operations before the new federal fiscal year begins on October 1. And, the House is likely to continue to grapple on whether and/or how to advance major bills the Senate adopted over the summer, including immigration reform and the farm bill.

As has been the case for many years, Congress will not take final action on the FY 2014 Health and Human Services appropriations bill before the October 1, 2013 deadline. In fact, there is little likelihood that any of the 12 funding bills will be adopted in time. The Senate Appropriations Committee did act on its Labor-HHS bill (S. 1284) in July, but there has been no movement on the House counterpart. The House bill’s spending level is nearly 26 percent lower than the Senate measure, making it difficult if not impossible for the two bills to be reconciled. As an entitlement, state and local administration of the child support program is not affected by the gridlock, but funding for discretionary programs, such as fatherhood initiatives, could be affected by funding level changes. At this point, it is very likely Congress will bundle all twelve FY 2014 appropriations bills in late September into a temporary continuing resolution to extend funding for all programs for some period of time later into the fall.

As for child support legislation, the Senate has not yet acted on its bill which contains provisions adopted by the House to implement the Hague Treaty. The Senate’s Strengthen and Vitalize Enforcement of Child Support (SAVE Child Support) Act (S. 508) was introduced early in the session by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Grassley (R-IA). NCSEA is preparing for visits this fall to Senate offices representing members of the Senate Finance Committee to provide them with state-specific child support data and program innovations. Those visits will also be used to urge the Committee to pass a bill to implement the Hague Treaty.

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