Freedom First Society

Issue: H.R. 2824, Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act. Question: On Passage.

Result: Passed in House, 214 to 209, 10 not voting. GOP scored.

Freedom First Society: H.R. 2824 would amend and reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, one of the programs authorized in Title V of the Social Security Act. The program is administered by the Maternal and Child Bureau (currently part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services).

Unfortunately, this blatantly unconstitutional federal intervention has a long history and strong bipartisan support. However, the program needs to be curtailed as part of responsible efforts to enforce constitutional limits and bring the federal monster under control.

We do not score the Democrats on this one as the Democratic majority overwhelmingly objected to this particular GOP-supported reauthorization, in large part for its attempt to be more fiscally responsible (right vote, wrong reason).

We have assigned (good vote) to the Noes and (bad vote) to the Ayes. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)

Congressional Research Service Summary:

Increasing Opportunity through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act

This bill amends title V (Maternal and Child Health Services) of the Social Security Act (SSAct) to reauthorize through FY2022, and otherwise revise, the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

Under current law, grantees were required, after three years of program implementation, to demonstrate improvement in specified benchmark areas. The bill requires grantees to continue, in subsequent years, to track and demonstrate improvement in applicable benchmark areas. A grantee that fails to do so must develop and implement a corrective action plan, subject to approval by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS shall terminate a program grant made to a grantee that implements such a plan but continues to fail to demonstrate improvement.

As a condition for receiving grant funds under the program, a state must conduct a statewide needs assessment by October 1, 2019, and at least once every five years thereafter.

A grantee may use program grant funds to support a “pay-for-outcomes initiative” (a performance-based grant, contract, or cooperative agreement, awarded by a public entity, in which a commitment is made to pay for improved outcomes that result in social benefit and public-sector cost savings).

Grantees must provide matching funds under the program beginning in FY2020.

HHS must designate data-exchange standards applicable to the program.

The bill also amends title XVI (Supplemental Security Income) (SSI) under the SSAct to prohibit the payment of SSI benefits to an individual who is subject to an arrest warrant for: (1) committing, or attempting to commit, a felony; or (2) violating a condition of parole or probation.  [Emphasis added.]

Constitutional Authority Statement:

As required by House rules, the bill sponsor, Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE-03), provided a statement of constitutional authority to support H.R. 2824.   He chose the following convenient copout:

“Congress has the power to enact this legislation pursuant to the following: Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, to ‘provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.’” [See page H4819 in the Congressional Record]

Unfortunately, the “general welfare” clause in Article I, Section 8, is commonly used to create the appearance that unconstitutional congressional acts are constitutional. As Notre Dame Law School Professor Charles Rice wrote in 1987: “The Constitution created a government of limited, delegated powers. The term ‘general welfare’ in Article I, Section 8, does not confer on Congress a general power to legislate and regulate for purposes beyond those enumerated in the remaining clauses of Section 8.”

At America’s founding, James Madison had also corrected this misinterpretation in Federalist No. 41:

“For what purpose could the enumeration of particular powers be inserted, if these and all others were meant to be included in the preceding general power? Nothing is more natural nor common than first to use a general phrase, and then to explain and qualify it by a recital of particulars.”

But politicians today still get away with claiming that the general welfare clause gives them a grant of power to do almost anything if they can project some benefit for the general welfare. (Example: How about forbidding families from having more than one child to promote population control or to stop climate change?)

Analysis: The Founders must be turning over in their graves at the thought that the federal government they created would claim any power in the Constitution to concern itself with matters such as parent training. This program is an excellent example of creating the poison and the antidote in the same laboratory. The poison is the federal support for the culture war and the erosion of the religious foundations essential to a free society and strong families.

The following excerpts from the “debate” as recorded in the Congressional Record (9-26-17) are indicative of the Washington mindset:

Mr. Adrian Smith (R) NE-03:

“This bill would reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program, known as MIECHV, for 5 years and make sure the program continues to focus on results….

“The MIECHV Program helps support State and local efforts to provide voluntary, evidence-based home visiting services to parents and children living in communities that put them at risk of poor social and health outcomes, including in rural areas like those I represent.   Unlike many other programs that focus on money spent or people served, this program focuses on achieving real results for families. Specifically, this program promotes school readiness of young children, increases economic self-sufficiency of families, improves prenatal health and birth outcomes, and prevents childhood abuse and neglect.”

Mr. Danny K. Davis (D) IL-07:

“H.R. 2824 presents substantial cuts to home visiting and threatens the effectiveness of services for vulnerable children and families. Equally bad, the rule under which we are considering this bill conditions home visiting help to vulnerable families on harming seniors and persons with disabilities. Although we are not voting on that provision today, the rule we are considering this bill under makes it an inescapable part of it.   I join with over 110 civil rights, disability, and aging agencies to strongly oppose the Republican effort to pay for home visiting services that strengthen vulnerable children by stripping certain low-income seniors and those with severe disabilities of basic income they need to survive….

“826 organizations urged the House and Senate leaders to ‘reauthorize this important program for 5 years, with a doubling of funding from $400 million, annually, to $800 million, annually, to allow States, territories, and Tribes to expand these services to more children and families.’”

Mr. Sander Levin (D) MI-09:

“Madam Chair, I am disappointed that this bill, H.R. 2824, injects needless controversy into reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.   Home visiting is an evidence-based approach that connects pregnant women and families with young children to nurses, social workers, and other professionals. Through these programs, parents learn skills that help reduce abuse and neglect and improve child development during the crucial early years of life….

“Research shows that home visiting programs are working well, yet only 6 percent of eligible individuals currently participate. We should be looking at expanding, not undermining, access to home visiting.”

Mr. Mike Bishop (R) MI-08:

“This is about skilled professionals working with young parents to help them be the parents they want to be. It is about family values. It is about strengthening and protecting families, particularly disadvantaged families.”


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