Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Good news on midnight budget machinations

Southwest Washington's Rep. Brian Baird was understating it with "a shame, a disgrace, and an embarrassment that these critically important bills were brought up in the dead of the night, laden with unrelated provisions, and passed by sheep-like members who had but the slightest idea what was in them.”

The subject was the "martial law" gambit by which Congressional leaders evaded normal House rules for the budget reconciliation and defense appropriations bill and rushed through a 774 page report between midnight and 6:00 a.m. December 19, exactly one month ago. (The affair was lost a bit in the furor over ANWR drilling, foiled nicely, thank you, by our state's junior senator.)

“The people’s elected representatives deserve time to read and debate legislation that will have such an enormous impact on our national defense and domestic programs,” said Congressman Baird.

They didn't get it. The final vote on the reconciliation spending bill was taken after all of 40 minutes of debate. Never mind a monopoly on power, some things still need to be done in the middle of the night.

That is the bad news. We told you about it at the time. There is good news.

The Senate deleted some minor provisions and the bill has to go back to the House for another vote. This time there will be no confusion about what the legislation would do, and maybe some public accountability. The next vote may be as early as February 1.

The bill as it sits now:
  • Increases in Medicaid co-payments and premiums, and reductions in Medicaid benefits (many affecting children), that total $16 billion over the next ten years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
  • Institutes substantial and controversial changes in welfare policy.
  • Reduces in child support enforcement funding which would, according to CBO, mean $8.4 billion of child support over the next ten years will go uncollected.
  • Delays certain SSI payments for up to a year for many poor individuals with disabilities who are found eligible for SSI.
  • Changes federal foster care rules that will hamper states from supporting certain relatives who are raising children because the children’s parents are unable or unfit to do so.
  • For the first time since Medicaid began, the conference agreement allows states to deny contraception to poor women. Family planning services are a mandatory under current Medicaid law.
A kinder face to the big drug companies and managed care corporations.
  • It drops key elements of the Senate bill that would have garnered substantial savings in the corporate exploitation Medicare and Medicaid programs.
  • Abandons the Senate's preference to eliminate a $10 billion fund to encourage preferred provider organizations to participate in Medicare.
Details of this are at CBPP. Thanks also to the National Women's Law Center and ActNow.

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