Evidence Commission Will Wait Until Next Year

A bipartisan proposal for a new Commission on Evidenced-based Policymaking, sponsored by Rep. Paul  Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), now appears unlikely to be enacted in the remaining days of this Congress, according to congressional staff who are familiar with the legislation. Instead it may move early next year.

Some consideration had been given to moving the legislation (H.R.5754 / S.2952) this month, possibly attaching it to a large omnibus spending bill, but staff say there is not enough time left this year to get it done.  The bill now appears likely to be taken up “on the early side” of the next session of Congress, when Republicans will control both the House and the Senate.

Ryan, who will become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in January, has said he also intends to pursue what he calls “Welfare Reform 2.0” next session. The committee has jurisdiction over most welfare-related programs.

Ryan released a proposed outline for welfare reform in July. The outline, which Ryan called a “discussion draft,” included an earlier version of the proposed evidence commission.

It also included a proposal to consolidate several existing federal anti-poverty programs into a flexible Opportunity Grant.  According to the plan, “[t]he largest contributions would come from SNAP, TANF, child-care, and housing-assistance programs, and the funding would be deficit-neutral relative to current law.”  It would also include expanded work requirements, performance metrics, and evaluation requirements based on randomized controlled trials.

Asked during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast shortly after his anti-poverty plan was announced, Ryan said “The reason we are putting these out now is to have a good conversation, get feedback, and get people engaged to put pen to paper together to start creating legislation, which in my mind will be next session.”

The proposal has been criticized by some, including the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who say it would reduce funding for anti-poverty programs over time.

Ryan countered those criticisms in July, saying his proposals were about reforming existing programs, not funding levels. “This isn’t the first time that CBPP and I have had differences of opinions on issues. As far as the budget is concerned, you could fund these reforms at any level. I didn’t want to get into a funding debate over the proper levels of funding for the status quo. That’s really beside the point. The point is the status quo isn’t working.”


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