Days of Congressional Action Before November Dwindles

With Congress returning after the July 4th holiday break, the number of days left to legislate is dwindling to less than 30 actual days. The House is scheduled to be in session for 28 more days before the November election while the Senate (being less specific) is likely to be in for a similar number of days. Both houses will return on Monday and Tuesday and both will break for the August summer recess by at least August 1, and return the week after Labor Day on September 8.

The House is likely to take up the “PREVENT SEX TRAFFICKING AND STRENGTHENING FAMILIES ACT” a bipartisan/bicameral bill that would reauthorize the Adoption Incentive fund, (and extend it to subsidized guardianships), allow for current year funding of Family Connections Grants (they expired last October 1), directs state child welfare agencies to implement screening and other actions on victims of sex trafficking, and requires several additional reviews and actions in regard to youth in foster care 14 and older. Assuming that legislation is not delayed by interests wanting to add additional provisions and requirements and is adopted this week, the outlook for action on a number of human service needs and programs is limited.

The Senate has been unable to move any of the twelve appropriations bills while the House has passed four: Commerce-Justice-State, Legislative Branch, Military Construction, Transportation-HUD. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) Chair of the Senate Appropriations committee summed up her frustration recently when she was quoted as saying, “What I’m turning over is that right here in this body is that underneath every rock is another rock and then we take those rocks and throw them at each other.” The lack of progress means there will have to be another continuing resolution for October 1, for at least parts of the government and most certainly for the Department of Health and Human Services, in addition the list of hoped-for reauthorizations include the annual stand-bys of; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Transportation Act (highway fund) joined by the hoped-for: the Higher Education Act, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and several others. In some cases (TANF, Transportation) Congress will have to provide some temporary extension on October 1, for the others an omnibus appropriations bill will fund the programs under an expired law.

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