Representative Tom Cotton, a freshman Republicna from Arkansas, introduced legislation in the House yesterday to authorize spending specifically the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides vouchers for specific healthy foods to low(ish)-income pregnant women and those with newborns (which has meant quite succesful, cost-effective public-health improvements). But it turns out the trade group, er, “non-profit education arm and advocacy voice” for WIC, strongly opposes the measure:
Call your U.S. Representative immediately and urge them to: oppose H J Res 75, the “Nutrition Assistance for Low-Income Women and Children Act” – a cynical ploy to use low-income nutritionally at-risk mothers and young children as political pawns for political ends.
Funding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in this piecemeal, short-term, stop-gap manner is not an acceptable solution. WIC has sufficient funds to operate through the month of October giving Congress more than sufficient time to pass a “clean” continuing resolution followed by the already marked-up full year FY-2014 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills to fund WIC and the other critical child nutrition programs through the end of the 2014 fiscal year.
The National WIC Association’s description of the situation — that the program has funds to run just fine through the month of October — belies the story you’d have gotten about the program from The Nation and Think Progress, which claimed WIC will stop distributing benefits in some states “within a few days” or a week. They both brazenly cite a USDA memo on shutdown policies that says specifically that the department’s Food and Nutrition Service “will be allocating both contingency and carryover funds to State agencies for use in operating their FY 2014 WIC Program, in addition to other available funds. Should a lapse extend through late October, federal WIC funding may not be sufficient to cover benefits” (as the AP accurately reported). The White House had gotten into the game too, referring often to “services for women” that would immediately be interrupted by the shutdown.
There were minor operational disruptions, but the funding hasn’t run out and doesn’t look like it will before even pessimistic projections suggest the shutdown will be over. Good news for the WIC Association, bad news for President Obama’s narrative.
UPDATE: Cotton’s bill passed the House, 264–144, this evening.