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Congress may be in recess, but Bread isn't!
Rebecca Walker (middle) speaks to a staffer in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's office talk during Bread's Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World.
With the House and Senate now in recess, no movement will be made on national hunger and poverty policies until mid-September at the earliest. But that does not mean that Bread for the World is in recess. Our members will be looking for opportunities to speak with their representatives at town meetings and other forums which often take place during these congressional breaks—especially with an impending election. Now is the time to influence your congressperson or senator to draw a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor Americans.
When Congress reconvenes, it will resume debate about the farm bill and the budget. Make sure that your congressperson and senators know your views on these key issues.
For background information, here is a legislative update by Bread analyst Amelia Kegan:
The Farm Bill
Key food programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) are funded through the farm bill, which comes up for renewal every four years. Continuation of current funding levels has been in jeopardy during debate over this year’s bill.
We expected a one-year extension of the current farm bill under House Speaker John Boehner’s drought relief proposal. That would have saved SNAP from deep cuts for the time being. However, late Tuesday night, it became apparent there was not enough support to pass a drought relief bill with a one-year farm bill extension attached.
Pressure continues to mount on the House side for open debate on a farm bill before the September 30 deadline. Despite reports that Congress may have some wiggle room on the deadline, farm groups in particular are pushing Congress to act. Senator Stabenow has indicated that the House and Senate Agriculture Committees would be working behind the scenes on a farm bill compromise during the August recess. Both chambers may attempt to do something in September and we could see a short term extension as they try to hammer out differences between the House and Senate bills.
Last Thursday, Representatives Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and George Miller (D-CA) introduced H. R. 760, a resolution rejecting cuts to SNAP in the proposed House Farm Bill (H.R. 6083). The resolution is non-binding but it is an opportunity for members of Congress to show strong support for SNAP by co-sponsoring the resolution. This also presents an easy question to ask House members who are home for the August recess: “Do you support H.R. 760?”
Congressional leaders have agreed to a six-month continuing resolution (CR) to avoid the possibility of a government shutdown at the end of September. The CR would keep the government funded at the levels agreed to last August for FY 2013 in the Budget Control Act, which are $4 billion above current discretionary funding levels. The House and Senate will take up the measure when it returns in September. Some have speculated that a drought relief bill could be attached to the CR.
Last week, the House passed a one-year extension of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts by a vote of 256-121. That vote on H.R. 8, the Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012, was mostly along party lines. Representative Johnson (R-IL) was the lone Republican to oppose the measure. Nineteen Democrats supported the bill.
H.R. 8 extended all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for income earned both under $250,000 and above $250,000. The bill continued the 2010 estate tax expansion, which exempts estates up to $5 million ($10 million per couple) from having to pay any estate tax and then reduces the tax on amounts over $5 million ($10 million per couple). At the same time, the bill discontinued the current EITC and CTC benefits, cutting back the 2009 improvements. If the 2009 provisions expire, here are some of the impacts:
- 8.9 million families, including 16.4 million children, would be harmed if earnings below $13,000 are no longer counted toward the tax credit.
- 3.7 million families, including 5.8 million children, would lose the Child Tax Credit entirely.
- 6.5 million families, including nearly 16 million children, would be hurt by the expiration of the EITC improvements.
Representative Levin, ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, offered an alternative, which was very similar to President Barack Obama's proposal and Senator Harry Reid’s bill. That proposal extends all the tax cuts for everyone’s first $250,000, but it discontinues the tax cuts for income earned over $250,000. Moreover, that proposal extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit benefit levels, including the 2009 improvements. That vote failed 170-257. No Republicans supported that proposal and 19 Democrats opposed it.
Neither of these two proposals will become law before the elections, but they act as dress rehearsals for the lame duck session and early 2013 when Congress will have to grapple with the expiring tax cuts in the context of other broad budget issues.
This is a crucial time to speak out against the growing issues of hunger and poverty in the United States. Give your congresspersons the support they need to stand for faithful policies.
- Learn more about these issues by reading about our mini campaigns featured on our Offerings of Letters web page.
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