April 08,2005

Grassley on House Views on Welfare Bill, General Mischaracterizations of Senate Bill


To: Reporters and Editors
Re: Welfare bill comments, mischaracterizations
Da: Friday, April 8, 2005

Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today made the following comments in response to remarks from House members on the Senate welfare bill in an article in yesterday’s Bureau of National Affairs and addressed mischaracterizations of the bill’s cost.

“I hope House members will decide to move a welfare bill so we can let the legislativeprocess move forward. I hope we still share the goal of enacting meaningful improvements to thewelfare program.

“I was disappointed that Senate progress on consideration of a reauthorization of the welfarebill was not more enthusiastically greeted by the House. House members have been criticizing thelack of Senate movement for several years. So now that the full Senate is close to being able to movebipartisan legislation, it seems ironic that Senate progress has ‘dampened’ House committeemembers’ enthusiasm for marking up the welfare bill.

“I understand that some may be confused by some characterizations of the cost of the Senatebill. It’s inaccurate to characterize the Personal Responsibility and Individual Development forEveryone (PRIDE) Act of 2003, which is the welfare bill reported out of the Senate FinanceCommittee in 2003, as costing much less than the current bill. Those who would do so neglect tomention that the 2003 score was based on 2003 assumptions and the 2003 baseline.

“The PRIDE Act of 2003 as reported by the Finance Committee was introduced with a minormodification in S.6 as part of the Republican leadership agenda by Senator Rick Santorum this year.This bill includes a full five-year extension of Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA), $1 billionin funding for child care, and a bipartisan agreement for child support improvements.

“Also inaccurate are various characterizations of the child care increase. The child careincrease approved during the Finance Committee’s consideration of the PRIDE Act of 2005 is scoredby CBO as increasing outlays by approximately $4.5 billion over five years and $4.9 billion over 10years. The PRIDE Act of 2005 also includes three revenue provisions that CBO estimates willproduce a net change to the baseline of $2.8 billion over five years and $5.6 billion over 10 years.Therefore the additional child care funding proposal results in net outlay reductions to the CBObaseline over 10 years.

“During Senate consideration of the welfare bill during March 2004, an amendment offeredby Senators Snowe, Dodd, and Hatch would have increased child care funding by an additional $6billion over five years, ‘paid for’ by extending Custom users’ fees during the ‘out years.’ Thatamendment passed with 78 votes. As a result of last year’s overwhelming approval of additionalchild care funding, the 2004 version of the PRIDE bill had a CBO score of $11.0 billion over 5 yearsand $22.2 billion over 10 years. (CBO revised score, February, 2004). The PRIDE Act of 2005, asreported by the Finance Committee, has a ten-year CBO score that is half of last year’s bill.Unfortunately, the Senate hasn’t been able to act on a welfare bill for nearly four years. Part of thereason is we haven’t been able to come together in a bipartisan way to make progress on this issueuntil now. Senator Baucus and I were able to come to a bipartisan agreement on the PRIDE bill sothat the Senate can finally pass a bill this session. This took compromise.

“Child care is critical for families making the transition from welfare to work. It’s verysimple – if we want young, single moms with little kids at home to go out into the workplace andearn a living, we have to provide adequate and affordable child care for their children. I don’tunderstand why some are so opposed to this common-sense work support for single moms.“If the Senate Finance Committee had not included additional child care funding, it’sextremely likely that an amendment to increase child care funding by at least $5 billion, and probablymore, would have passed overwhelmingly in the Senate.

“Also overlooked is that other than child care, the most costly provision in the PRIDE Actof 2005 is the $4.06 billion to extend Transitional Medical Assistance for five years. The Senatepassedbudget resolution and the House welfare reauthorization bill (H.R. 240) assume only one yearof TMA, yet TMA has been extended, without an offset, in each of the past nine short-termextensions of the welfare law.

“Prior to the 1996 welfare reform bill, the costs of providing health care coverage forstruggling families was one of the main reasons why these vulnerable families couldn’t make thetransition from welfare to work. Providing transitional Medicaid to these families trying to get andstay off welfare is an integral feature of welfare reform. Most would agree that eliminating fundingfor Medicaid for families, with children, struggling to make the transition from dependence to selfsufficiencywouldn’t generate much support in Congress.”