Colorful Commentary

Federal Budget Watch, June 12

Posted June 12, 2017 by Samantha Curran
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binoculars-954021_1280With six weeks scheduled before the August recess in Congress, we are entering an intense summer facing serious threats to programs that provide basic assistance to struggling families across all areas of our work, including:

  • The repeal of the Affordable Care Act with its Medicaid expansion
  • Harmful structural changes to key programs, such as Medicaid and SNAP
  • Deep budget cuts to discretionary and entitlements programs – the Trump Budget cut SNAP, TANF, Social Services Block Grant, SSI and SSDI as well as cutting Medicaid beyond the House repeal bill cuts
  • Massive tax cuts for the wealthy that could force deeper budget cuts either now or in the future

Here are the latest details from our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Health Timing Update

Senate Republican leaders continue to work on reaching agreement among their members on modifications to the House health care bill and to bring this legislation to the floor in the last week of June. There are growing indications that the Senate bill is likely to retain much of the House passed bill.

With respect to Medicaid, it is expected that like the House bill, the Senate bill will cut Medicaid deeply by ending the expansion and converting the program’s structure to a Per Capita Cap. We do expect some modification to the House Medicaid provisions. For example, some Republican Senators from Medicaid expansion states have suggested a slower phase out of the higher Medicaid match for the expansion than the House approach, but this will make little difference in either the short or long run as compared to the House version.

We are deeply alarmed at the very real possibility that the Senate Republican substitute will not be unveiled until the end of the debate in the Senate, providing little time for the public to understand the impact of the proposal for their states.

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Timing

While the Senate is focused on negotiating a health care repeal bill, House Republican leaders have begun working on their FY18 budget resolution. There had been reports of a possible mark-up in late June, though we believe this may well slip until later this summer. Even if markup is delayed, we understand that decisions about when and how to move forward are currently being discussed, so we must act quickly to ensure that the House budget resolution does not include harmful “reconciliation instructions” – a provision that would create a fast-track process for legislation that cuts entitlements or cuts taxes.

Right now, we are focused on the very serious risk that this budget resolution could include reconciliation instructions that would require Congress to make deep cuts to SNAP, Medicaid, and other poverty-reduction programs while at the same time allowing Congress to pass large tax cuts that could lead to additional funding cuts in the future.

Alarming new press reports emerged last week in which some House and Senate members indicated that they want tax cuts to be paid for, at least in part, with cuts in entitlement programs. Jim Jordan, leader of the House Freedom Caucus, called for tax cuts to be paid for by cuts in safety net entitlements, with support from Sen. Hatch, chair of the Finance Committee.

With these important Member-level discussions underway in the House, it’s very important for Members to be hearing from groups and constituents back home about the importance of rejecting any budget that:

  • Requires cuts in key programs that helps struggling families afford the basics, including food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care.
  • Paves the way for fast-track tax cuts that will lose revenue (causing deep spending cuts in the future) and that benefit mostly the wealthy and corporations.

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 Proposal

President Trump released his budget proposal on May 23rd. As a reminder, the budget proposal contained the largest dollar cuts to programs for low- and moderate-income people proposed by any President’s budget in the modern era, getting three-fifths (59 percent) of the budget’s cuts would come from these programs (food assistance, health care, housing, etc.) that help low- and moderate-income families afford the basics or improve their upward mobility.

The Trump budget called for more than $193 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next ten years ― a more than 25 percent cut – through a massive cost shift to states, cutting eligibility for millions of households, and reducing benefits for hundreds of thousands more. It would also cut “non-defense discretionary” programs by $57 billion next year (as compared to 2017 funding levels) and even more over the next decade, while giving massive tax cuts heavily skewed toward the wealthy. And contrary to the budget rhetoric, it would make it harder for many to climb economic ladder, with cuts in job training and a range of other proposals making it harder for people to succeed in the labor market while hurting the millions of program participants already working.

While the Trump budget proposal has been panned as “dead on arrival,” it’s important to note that it’s broadly consistent with House-passed Republican budgets in recent years.

Debt Ceiling

Last month, the Trump administration warned policymakers that the government will likely hit the debt ceiling sooner than expected and is requesting that Congress act on the debt ceiling it before the August recess.

Many conservative Republicans are insisting on tying any increase in the debt ceiling to new entitlement cuts and/or harmful budget process reforms.

House Speaker Ryan said he’s “reserving all options” and among those being proposed according to press accounts are: caps on mandatory spending, extending across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration, and matching any debt limit increase with an equivalent amount of spending reductions, a balanced budget amendment, adding work requirements to government assistance programs. All of these will make the debt ceiling much more controversial and run the risk of a government default of the parties can’t reach agreement.

CHN sign-on announcement

STAND TOGETHER

President Trump’s administration is planning to cut funding for policies and programs that our communities rely on. These are not small threats: the clean air we breathe and the clean water we drink, the healthcare for the neediest among us via Medicaid, the food for the hungry via SNAP, the shelter we provide through rental assistance. These and so many more services are on the chopping block.

We MUST oppose these cuts, We MUST make sure our voices are heard, and we are loudest and most effective when we Stand Together.

To do this, organizations, coalitions and campaigns are coming together from many different parts of our community on a national sign-on letter asking that Congress safeguard the policies and programs we and our neighbors rely on in the FY 2018 Budget.

If your organization has not yet signed, please do so here. Deadline to sign is June 19th

You can read the letter and find a current list of signers here.

Our ability to protect the programs and services that provide basic living standards for millions of Americans depends on all of us Standing Together.

 

Contact info for Colorado congressional delegation:

Sen. Cory Gardner – 303-391-5777  Email here.

Sen. Michael Bennet – 303-455-7600 / 866-455-9866 Email here.

Rep. Diana DeGette (CO District 1) –  303-844-4988 Email here.

Rep. Jared Polis (CO District 2) – 303-484-9596  Email here.

Rep. Scott Tipton (CO District 3) – 970-241-2499 Email here.

Rep. Ken Buck (CO District 4) – 970-702-2136   Email here.

Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO District 5) – 719-520-0055   Email here.

Rep. Mike Coffman (CO District 6) – 720-748-7514  Email here.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter  (CO District 7) – 303-274-7944 Email here.

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