Policy Priorities

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March 14, 2013

Sequester goes into effect, Congress moves to next budget battles

On March 1st, after Congress failed to pass a bill to replace the across-the-board spending cuts (“the sequester”), $85 billion in cuts began to go into effect.  Rather than making a real effort to address the debt, these blunt cuts affect critical life-altering services for many low income children and families: up to 775,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women, and infants and children will lose nutrition assistance, Head Start classrooms will shut their doors to up to 70,000 at-risk young children, treatment will end for 373,000 children and adults with mental illness. 750,000 Americans across the country will lose their jobs. 

However, Congress has moved on to the next budget battle: a funding bill for the remainder of the fiscal year to avert a government shutdown. With the March 27th deadline looming, last week the House approved (by a 267-151 vote), a six-month stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded past March 27. The bill is now being considered by the Senate, where Democrats and Republicans have reached a $984 billion deal that funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year while keeping in place the sequester. A vote is expected as early as Wednesday.  

Meanwhile, this week Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), heads of the Senate and House budget committees respectively, released their proposed budget resolutions that set tax and spending targets for the federal government beginning October 1, 2013. While budget resolutions  and proceedings may appear to be dry inside-the-beltway politics, they illuminate the values and priorities of the authors, and particularly in recent years, provide starkly contrasting visions of the future direction of the nation. 

Rep. Ryan’s budget, which passed the House Budget Committee late last night on a party-line vote, makes clear that it would provide a grim future for low income children and families. Over the next ten years, the Ryan budget would reduce the deficit by $4.6 trillion on the backs of children, low-income families and the middle class. It slashes health care spending by $2.7 trillion over the next ten years by block granting Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act. It includes another $1 trillion in cuts to other mandatory programs including food stamps and student loans, and includes significant cuts to other programs, including education. Ryan’s budget does all of this without asking the wealthiest Americans or corporations to pay their fair share. Rather he gives the wealthiest Americas a new tax cut while raising taxes on middle class families. 

Senator Murray’s budget, which was released yesterday, offers a drastically different vision. Her plan would replace the sequester and build on the $2.4 trillion already achieved through deficit reduction by reducing the deficit by $1.85 trillion over the next ten years. Murray’s budget is divided equally between $975 billion in spending cuts and $975 billion in revenue increases that would be achieved through closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending through revisions to the tax code. The Senate Budget Committee plans to mark up on Thursday in hopes of getting it to the Senate floor for a vote next week before the March recess. The Ryan budget is also expected to be up for a vote on the House floor next week.

President Obama’s budget is then expected to be released in on April 8th. Children and low-income families continue to have a lot at stake in these ongoing negotiations and we will be paying careful attention to the proposals and votes. Check back often and don’t forget to tell your Members of Congress to “Be Careful What You Cut!”

Click here to view past Budget Watch updates.