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June 14, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As I mentioned last time, there’s now a movement afoot in Congress to hamstring reformation of draconian shared parenting rules. The Office of Child Support Enforcement issued proposed changes to the regulations on how child support is established and enforced. As I wrote back then, most of those are much needed. It also seems that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a rule change “that would require states to relieve non-custodial parents from their child support obligations if they go to prison.” On its face, that too is nothing but a nod to the obvious — that parents in prison aren’t employed and can’t pay. It doesn’t make sense for their debt to go up and up during their incarceration time. That just makes the likelihood of payment all the more remote.

But, sensible as all these proposed rule changes are, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee and others are up in arms about them. To be blunt, their objections are bunk. These people are playing politics, pure and simple. They’re looking for any excuse to excoriate President Obama, which often enough is warranted. Not this time.

Here’s the press release:

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI), Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Senate Finance Committee member Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced legislation to prevent the Obama administration from bypassing the Congress on welfare reform policy. Late last year, the administration released a far-reaching proposed rule that would overturn a number of bedrock principles of child support enforcement and welfare reform, among them that parents should be financially responsible for their children. The measure would stop the administration from finalizing or implementing any feature of the proposed rule, which would make unprecedented changes to current child support policies and laws.

That’s just nutty on so many levels. Let’s start with the concept of passing legislation to stop the proposed new regulations. From time to time, Congress passes statutes that create administrative agencies. That’s what the various federal agencies, like the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and countless others are. When Congress does that, it delegates its authority to those agencies allowing them to make rules and regulations governing that narrow delegation of power.

So, for example, the Office of Child Support Enforcement is empowered to make rules on what states may or may not do in establishing guidelines for child support and what they must do or can do to enforce child support orders. Those rules go into astonishingly minute detail about a bewildering array of issues. Just a quick glance at the Code of Federal Regulations lets the reader know why Congress delegates its authority to those agencies — there’s no way under the sun Congress could deal with all the countless issues all those countless agencies deal with.

So when Congressmen Ryan, Boustany, et al introduce legislation that would second-guess single regulations passed by individual sub-sub-agencies, the first thig to realize is that what they’re doing is almost certainly inappropriate. They gave the power to the OCSE and the CMMS. Now that those bodies are using it in legal ways those Congressmen and Senators don’t like, they want it back.

My guess is that they know that perfectly well. After all, how seriously are we to take a press release that informs us that the Obama Administration intends to “overturn” the obligation of parents to be “financially responsible for their children?” Sorry guys, but that’s just too silly to comment on.

Given that level of discourse, we shouldn’t be surprised to read the usual no-nothing rhetoric on child support. The press release quotes Senator Orrin Hatch:

Last year the administration issued a proposed rule that, if made final in its current form, would make it easier for non-custodial parents to evade paying child support — a move that could potentially force some American families to go on welfare. Deadbeat parents, not hardworking taxpayers, should be held accountable for their financial responsibilities.

No, actually it does nothing of the kind. What it seeks to do is admit the obvious — that many, many of these child support orders were set at levels obligors could never pay, that the vast majority of those behind on their payments can’t pay and have no job, that much of what they owe reflects nothing but usurious interest rates, etc. All of that and more is well-known, but to Senator Hatch, they’re just “deadbeats.” Does Hatch really believe that parents go to prison to “evade paying child support?”

I doubt it. Again, this looks more like politics as usual than a serious approach to a serious issue. Remember that all the proposed changes to the child support regulations were published last year. So why is it only now that Ryan, et al are getting around to speaking up? If they seriously wanted to do something about the issue, they’d have started months ago.

I suppose that’s why neither the Republican-co ntrolled Senate nor the Republican-controlled House committees has blocked out any time to debate the bill, as this article reveals (Washington Examiner, 6/11/15).

The legislation from Hatch and Ryan has a good chance of moving through both the House and Senate, since both members chair the committees with jurisdiction over the bill. However, as of this week, neither committee has scheduled any time to consider the measure.

Let’s hope I’m right. Let’s hope this is all sideshow buffoonery aimed at taking down President Obama yet another peg in public perception. Let’s hope this bill is in reality nothing more than a press release.

There’s important work to do, work that affects millions of Americans. Child support reform is too vital to be derailed by grandstanding like this.

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#childsupport, #Congress, #reform, #PaulRyan, #OrrinHatch

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