Bread: Congressional Update – 4/13/2011

April 13, 2011 at 7:02 am Leave a comment

Inside Washington

  • Congress will be on its Easter recess the weeks of April 18, 2011, and April 25, 2011, returning to work in Washington on May 2.

Bread’s Issues

Protecting Hungry and Poor People in Budget Decisions

  • Bread for the World is a leader in a new coalition of organizations urging Congress to form a “circle of protection” around programs for hungry and poor people. As they make decisions about the budget for 2012 and beyond, legislators should avoid creating additional hardship for vulnerable people.
  • To draw attention to the importance of protecting safety-net and emergency programs, Bread President David Beckmann was on a water-only fast from March 28 through April 3. From April 4 through Easter (April 24), he is fasting each day from sunrise to sunset. Several thousand Bread members are also participating in this call to realign our country’s priorities.
  • About 40 organizations and more than 30,000 individuals are participating in the coalition effort, including 28 members of Congress who each pledged to fast for 24 hours.
  • Among the congressional participants is Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who said, “The budget that was unveiled [April 6] in Congress falls significantly short of ensuring that low and middle-income families have access to healthy, nutritious meals. In fact, it makes it harder for vulnerable populations to combat hunger. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to join me and take part in this hunger fast.”
  • Media coverage of Bread’s call for a “circle of protection” and Beckmann’s and Bread members’ fast includes CNN, USA Today, The New York Times, and National Public Radio’s “The Kojo Nnamdi Show.”
  • To learn more about why and how to participate in Bread’s continuing efforts on the budget, visit www.bread.org/lent2011.

FY2011 Budget

  • On April 8, at literally the eleventh hour (after 11 p.m.), congressional leaders agreed on a spending bill for the remainder of FY2011, which ends September 30, 2011.The agreement averted a shutdown of the U.S. government set to begin at midnight.
  • The deal cuts $38 billion from FY2011 spending. This figure includes $12 billion included in the previous short-term continuing resolutions that funded the government for the first half of the fiscal year. The package is said to include an across-the-board $1 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary funding as well as cuts to mandatory spending. Bread staff is analyzing details of the package as they become available.
  • The agreement does not contain many of the policy “riders” attached to the House bill, including several that were contentious during negotiations.  

FY2012 Budget

  • The first vote of the FY2012 budget process took place April 6, when the House Budget Committee passed the budget resolution proposed by committee chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).
  • The budget approved by the committee pays for $4.2 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years by cutting $4.3 billion in spending over 10 years. Two-thirds of the spending cuts would be to low-income programs.
  • The proposal makes the Bush-era tax cuts permanent and reduces top individual and corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 25 percent.
  • Under the Ryan bill, both SNAP (formerly food stamps) and Medicaid would become block grants. A block grant for SNAP means there would be a fixed amount of money for the program–thus preventing it from responding to economic downturns and increased need by serving additional eligible people.
  • Perhaps of most concern in the long run, Ryan’s plan would cap federal spending at levels far below what will be needed to meet the government’s future obligations.
  • An administration statement said that the Ryan bill “cuts taxes for millionaires and special interests while placing a greater burden on seniors who depend on Medicare or live in nursing homes, families struggling with a child who has serious disabilities, workers who have lost their health care coverage, and students and their families who rely on Pell grants.”
  • The House is expected to pass Ryan’s budget bill before leaving for Easter recess, but the Senate will not take up an equivalent bill.

Debt Ceiling

  • The Treasury Department expects the United States to reach its debt ceiling (the country’s credit limit) by May 16, 2011. There is a possibility of stretching this deadline to early July with last-ditch tactics.
  • Once the debt ceiling is reached, the Treasury Department would not be able to borrow money to pay its current obligations—such as interest on the national debt—until Congress raises the debt limit. This has never happened in U.S. history.
  • Many members of Congress have said, however, that they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless it is accompanied by significant spending cuts or controls.

Deficit Reduction

  • On April 13, President Obama will deliver an address with details of his administration’s deficit reduction plan.
  • A bipartisan group of six senators is working intensively to develop a comprehensive deficit reduction package based on the December 2010 recommendations from the President’s Fiscal Commission.
  • Reportedly, the group will issue its recommendations within two to three weeks.

Act Now

Call your senators and tell them that as they make decisions about reducing the deficit and the nation’s debt ceiling, they must stand firm against budget cuts to programs for hungry and poor people.

Points to make:

  • The U.S. population is just beginning to recover from the recession. More than 43 million low-income people—one in every eight Americans—currently receive SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits to help make ends meet.
  • Capping all federal spending prevents important safety-net programs, like SNAP, from responding to economic downturns. Instead, Congress must make smart and responsible choices about where to make cuts.
  • Safety-net programs such as WIC, SNAP, and Head Start make up only a fraction of the nation’s budget, so cutting them will not fix the budget deficit. It will only create further hardship for millions of families.
  • U.S. global hunger and poverty programs account for less than 1 percent of our total budget. These programs literally save lives. They also contribute to a safer world for all by offering some hope to people so deeply poor that they become desperate.

Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Save the Date!

Please hold the dates for Bread for the World’s National Gathering 2011: June 11-14, 2011, in Washington, DC. We have something new for the National Gathering: an international meeting with experts on reducing malnutrition among women and children. Lobby Day on June 14 will also be part of the National Gathering.

Please put June 11-14 on your calendar now. For updated information, visit www.bread.org/gather.

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Entry filed under: Legislative Updates.

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