Policy Priorities

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House and Senate Spar Over Health Law As Deadline Looms

September 24, 2013

With Congress back to work on Capitol Hill after its August recess, the threat of a government shutdown is once again upon us.  The continuing resolution (CR) that is currently funding all government spending expires at the end of this month (the end of the fiscal year), and Congress has not agreed on a budget for fiscal year (FY) 2014. If agreement is not reached to extend funding by midnight on September 30, the government must shut down, disrupting all but “essential” government services and potentially stalling the ongoing economic recovery.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and other House leaders plan to bring a CR to the floor for a vote this Friday that would fund the federal government through December 15.  The funding level in this CR would enact spending at the sequester level for non-defense programs while attempting to lessen the sequester impact on defense spending.  This means children and vulnerable families would be disproportionately impacted.  The House CR would also include a provision to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in an effort to stall implementation just before the open enrollment period begins on October 1.  Defunding the ACA would also cut funding for the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by 70% on October 1.  President Obama has promised to veto the House CR in its current form.

Making this tough budget climate even more complicated is the fact that Congress must also raise the debt ceiling in October or see the nation default on its financial obligations.  Despite a clear message from Senate Democrats and the White House that the debt ceiling should not be used as a negotiating tactic, House leaders have indicated that they intend to introduce a second measure next week that would couple a one-year raise in the debt limit with a one-year delay of the health care law, in addition to several other Republican legislative priorities, including overhauling the tax code and approving the Keystone Pipeline.

While it is unclear what the resolution to these two issues will be, it is clear that throughout the process, threats to children remain very real.  At a time when child poverty remains at a record high, we must invest in children and low-income families, and protect them from budget cuts.  Additionally, any solution must balance investments in children to promote long-term economic growth for the nation, while ensuring that the most advantaged Americans and corporations pay their fair share.  Budget caps and the sequester, coupled with cuts at the state and local levels, have already taken a heavy toll on some of America’s neediest families, for instance, cutting 57,000 children from Head Start during the most critical years of early learning. Tell your Representatives that enough is enough and that you want them to “Be Careful What You Cut!”

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