House Committees Explore Possible Welfare Changes

Despite a weekend retreat between President Trump and GOP congressional leaders that seemingly put partisan welfare changes on the backburner, several House leaders are looking at ways to push forward anyway.

According to Reuters:

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, a Texas Republican, said the 2018 farm bill will including tighter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as food stamps. He gave no details.

House tax committee Chairman Kevin Brady, also a Texas Republican, said his panel is exploring ways to get workers who are “trapped in the welfare system … off the sidelines.”

Representative Bradley Byrne, an Alabama Republican, said safety net programs are under review by a bipartisan group he co-chairs called the Opportunity Action Caucus. He said he hoped the group this month would propose ways for “able-bodied people who are presently on one or more of our welfare programs, to go out and get the skills and training they need to get a job.”

The Reuters article also cites yesterday’s decision by the Trump administration to approve work-focused waivers in the Medicaid program as evidence that Republicans are pushing forward on the issue. It also cites positive polling:

[P]olling in mid-2017 by the Kaiser Family Foundation found 70 percent of respondents favored work requirements for Medicaid for non-disabled adults. At the same time, 74 percent said they had a favorable view of Medicaid as it is now.

In Wisconsin, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he does not see his chamber taking on more ambitious entitlement changes. He emphasized the need for a “bipartisan consensus.”

The Reuters article does not cite any similar activity in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been less enthusiastic than Ryan about entitlement changes.

Nevertheless, if the House does something bipartisan, it may provide the basis for inclusion of some of the provisions in a broader deal later in the year. This is a relatively common occurrence in Congress, particularly if the changes do not prompt major push-back from the narrowly-divided Senate.

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