Congressional Budget Negotiations Begin
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)
By Traci Carlson
Last week, the congressional budget conference committee met to kick off negotiations. The initial meeting of the committee was dominated by opening statements from some of the 29 members, rather than the serious talks that will occur over the next few weeks.
During the Oct. 30 hearing, the two committee chairs, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), set a collegial tone for negotiations, expressing interest in finding common ground. Although senators outnumber representatives nearly three to one, that will not give them an advantage during the votes.
Congressional leaders have indicated they don’t expect the conference to emerge with a big, trillion-dollar, deficit-reduction deal. However, Bread for the World is hopeful that legislators will reach a smaller compromise that addresses sequestration for a year, or possibly two, without balancing the budget on the backs of struggling families.
Many members of the committee highlighted issues that are important to the 46 million Americans living in poverty. Members from both parties touched on continued high unemployment and long-term unemployment and the need for quality jobs that allow people to lift themselves out of poverty, improving the economy in the process. Members also mentioned the need for a responsible budget with additional revenues, and the necessity of ending the sequester.
Sen. Christopher Coons (D-Del.) explicitly called for a “circle of protection” during his opening statement, promising to work toward a budget that prioritizes “the most vulnerable in our country and that honors our promises to our seniors, to our veterans, and to those about to retire, to protect them from harmful cuts.” Bread for the World appreciates his strong support and leadership in demanding that our nation’s budget decisions address hunger and poverty. Please support members of the conference who, like Sen. Coons, stand up for struggling families—call their offices and thank them.
Overall, this initial meeting signaled a positive start. The negotiators expressed eagerness to work together, prevent additional government shutdowns, and pass a budget through the end of fiscal year 2014. The next public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 13.
As negotiations continue, there are four major issues Bread will be following. We will be watching to ensure that Congress:
(1)Agrees on a budget that adequately funds programs serving struggling families in the U.S. and around the world,
(2) Replaces sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and responsible spending cuts,
(3) Protects vital anti-hunger programs, such as SNAP, in any plan to replace sequestration, and
(4) Avoids protecting defense spending at the expense of non-defense programs.Most of the negotiating and deal-making will occur over the next four weeks. It is imperative that your members of Congress hear from you, especially if they sit on the budget conference committee. Call or email your members of Congress and tell them to: replace sequestration with a balanced plan that includes revenues and protects critical anti-hunger programs such as food stamps (SNAP).
Traci Carlson is Bread for the World's government relations coordinator.
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