The Debt Ceiling Debate Is Over, But America Still Needs REINS and Work Requirements
- BY FGA
In case you missed it, the latest debate over raising the debt ceiling has ended. Unfortunately, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act and strengthened work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps were not included in the final bill.
As FGA has discussed in the past, including these policies in a must-pass bill—no matter the outcome of the negotiations—was a sign that this new House majority is serious about solving America’s biggest problems.
The debt ceiling talks may be over, but the need for REINS and work requirements is not. With an administration recklessly expanding welfare over work, Congress and the states should do everything in their power to get workers off the sidelines and out of dependency.
So, what now?
REINS lives to see another day
The REINS Act was just passed out of the U.S. House as a standalone bill. While unlikely to pass a Democrat-led Senate or be signed by President Biden, momentum is growing—and with good timing.
Our current regulatory state is the “silent killer” of the American Dream. Since entering office just two years ago, the Biden administration has pushed through more economically significant, job-killing regulations than any other modern president—and the price tag keeps rising. Policies like the REINS Act would curtail out-of-control spending and reclaim legislative authority for the people’s representatives in Congress.
Universal work requirements
A recent paper by FGA found that universal work requirements for federal welfare programs would prevent able-bodied adults from siphoning away resources meant to help the truly needy and would protect the safety net. The paper noted that implementing work requirements in Medicaid could result in as much as $282 billion in savings. The estimate for food stamps is up to $20-65 billion in savings over a 10-year period.
Close and eliminate the loopholes
With the end of the federal public health emergency declaration, the pause on federal work requirements for food stamps will end this July. Unfortunately, less than 30 percent of ABAWDs will be subject to work requirements thanks to waivers and exemptions.
During President Clinton’s administration, loopholes were created that allow states to waive work requirements for millions of able-bodied adults without children, even during periods of economic growth. States can choose to stop overusing and abusing these waivers, and Congress can vote to eliminate the use of waivers entirely.
Another reform opportunity is the end of Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility, or BBCE, which allows states to completely bypass federal income limits and asset limits. Food stamp applicants with assets like vacation homes, boats, and RVs can be deemed eligible for enrollment. There are at least five million able-bodied adults on food stamps right now who should not be, including millionaires. Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) recently introduced legislation to eliminate the BBCE loophole.
Including the REINS Act and work requirements in the debt ceiling bill was an important milestone for the U.S. House. But it’s not the only opportunity to strengthen and protect the safety net or rein in out-of-control bureaucrats. Standalone bills, the Farm Bill, and other legislative opportunities will present themselves. One thing is for certain: These policies are long-overdue and desperately needed.