Progress in the sausage factory?

I’m writing about welfare today.  Since I do work on this issue, I feel compelled to state  — just in case it’s not blindingly obvious — that this is my personal opinion, and not that of the Administration or any portion of the federal government.  I’m writing it on my own free time, on my personal computer.  OK?

The Senate Finance committee reported out a welfare bill today.  Or, rather, the Finance committee having rules and procedures unlike anyplace else, they reported out a description of a bill which staff will later fill in with actual legislative language.

The welfare law actually expired in September 2002, but Congress has been too deadlocked to pass a new law.  So they’ve been passing 3 and 6 month extensions to keep it running ever since.  This is not necessarily a terrible thing, as Bush and the House Republicans are the only people in the world who think welfare reform didn’t push recipients to work hard enough, so they’re trying to make it tougher.

But it’s hard for states to run a program never knowing what the rules are going to be next year, and the proposed bills also include some important child support reforms that would encourage states to pass through more of the money they collect from non-custodial parents to the custodial parents and kids, instead of keeping it to offset their welfare costs.  And, in the current budget climate, locking in the block grant at current levels for another 5 years is looking like a smarter and smarter idea.

The bill the Finance committee reported out has bipartisan support, which is a rarety these days.  It makes the work requirements somewhat tougher, and includes money for marriage promotion, which is one of the Administration’s big priorities.  But it also includes an increase of $6 billion over 5 years for subsidized child care, which has been a huge priority for Democrats.  It’s not perfect, but it’s probably about as good a bill as I could hope for in the current Congress. 

So, the big question is whether the Republican leadership is willing to bring this bill to the floor for a vote by the full Senate?  And if so, will the Democrats vote to refer it to conference committee, without some sort of agreement that they won’t get screwed over in conference?  My best guess is no.  So don’t expect this bill to become sausage,  I mean law, any time soon.

Sidenote:  I googled the quote about "Those who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either being made."  Different sites attribute it to Mark Twain and Otto van Bismarck.  Anyone have an authoritative citation?

2 Responses to “Progress in the sausage factory?”

  1. chip Says:

    call me partisan but I cannot see anything positive coming out of this Congress or administration for families, parents or kids. Just look at the bankruptcy bill that just passed, or any of the other scary stuff floating around on the Hill. Despite their rhetoric of family values, their priority is handing over all the goodies to their corporate supporters while sticking it to those in most need in our society.
    On the quote, it seems much more Twain-ian that Bismarck-ian.

  2. Jen Says:

    I’m with Chip — nothing would surprise me coming out of this administration. What slays me is, at the same time they talk about personal responsibility and your ability to pay your own way, they run up the national debt to outrageous levels. I just don’t understand it.

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