Sen. Chris Coons Calls for Circle of Protection
By Robin Stephenson
Much of the Senate budget debate, which began yesterday, focused on the effects that the fiscal year 2014 budget proposal would have on wealthy and middle-class Americans. Yet one voice rang out loud and clear in calling for a circle of protection around programs for poor and hungry people: Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) spoke yesterday morning on the Senate floor, with Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), in support of a balanced budget approach rooted in our country's shared values. Bread for World has said that the Senate budget proposal embodies the principles of the circle of protection by replacing the series of cuts known as the sequester and protecting vital anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
Earlier in the day, the House chamber passed a budget that would keep sequestration in place, but shield defense cuts, exemplifying a very different set of national values. The House budget resolution includes provisions that would decimate critical programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), that have kept deep poverty at bay for millions. Cutting anti-poverty programs is the wrong approach, Sen. Coons said in his floor speech. He said that a good budget is one that "embrace[s] a circle of protection for the most vulnerable in our society."
Sen.Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) put a face on the indiscriminate cuts by reading excerpts from letters sent to her from constituents. One elderly woman wrote Sen. Hirono to say that sequestration, if not replaced, would likely mean she would lose her housing benefits. Her social security allotment was too small to make up the difference, so unless Congress replaces the sequester, she may become homeless.
In a press conference later in the day, Senator Coons further reiterated that a successful budget must be true to our core values. He recalled a letter that the leadership of the House, the Senate, and the president received from religious and faith community leaders across the U.S., together representing “a remarkably broad community” calling for a circle of protection. The idea, Coons said, led the Senate to propose a budget that “continues to protect programs on which the most vulnerable— the disabled, low-income seniors, children—rely for their sustenance, their support, and their advancement in this society.”
You can read that letter from faith leaders here and then call your member of Congress today. Demand they replace the sequester and pass a budget that is balanced, raises revenue, and includes a circle of protection or thank them for protecting programs for hungry and poor people.
Robin Stephenson is national social media lead and senior regional organizer, western hub, at Bread for the World.
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