Last week House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget resolution for this year and the future. Although a budget resolution is not necessary to enacting appropriations this year (due to the budget deal from earlier this year, P.L. 113-67), Ryan unveiled the proposal to outline just how he would cut programs to balance the budget in the future. The proposal block grants the Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP/food stamp) programs, changes Medicare to a ”premium support” program (what some refer to as turning Medicare into a voucher program), eliminates the Affordable Care Act, and once again totally eliminates the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).
On Wednesday the Budget Committee adopted the plan in a party-line vote and the House leadership hopes to adopt the resolution by the full House. There are some Republicans balking at a vote since it cannot become law this year with the Senate certain to not even consider it. Some are concerned that it puts members on record regarding such changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. If it is to pass the House, leadership will not be able to lose too many Republicans. The budget is significant, because it is a road map for the House leadership next year. Next year Congressman Ryan may shift his role from Budget Committee chair to become chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which holds direct oversight of many of the programs subject to cuts.
SSBG continues to be a target for elimination and its future is in doubt if control of the Senate changes after next year’s election. A proposal by Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT), the potential chair of the Senate Finance Committee, would funnel all of SSBG into child welfare while his House counterparts would use all of it for deficit reduction. It is increasingly likely that this significant source of human service funding could be drastically changed or even eliminated. Such an outcome would cut human services and harm vulnerable children, families, seniors and people with disabilities. At this point silence or the status quo will not help. SSBG needs the attention of advocates NOW before it goes!