Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

8 posts categorized "Washington Update"

Advocates Prepare for a Busy Fall

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Bread for the World's Lobby Day, June 2013, Washington, DC. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)

The leaves are piling up as fast as the legislative priorities this month. October is going to be busy —we will be calling on you often and your voice will be absolutely critical in helping those struggling with hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

The annual appropriations to fund the U.S. government ran out at midnight on Sept. 30 and an ongoing congressional stalemate around the budget will have both short-term and long-term consequences for anti-hunger programs (see “What Does the Government Shutdown Mean for Hunger” for a comprehensive analysis). We expect another partisan fight around the debt ceiling, which Congress needs to raise by Oct. 17 in order to prevent the nation from defaulting on its financial obligations. It is possible that the two crises could merge into one larger battle.

What has become clear in the first few days of the government shutdown is that the programs that are already feeling the sting of sequestration are experiencing an even greater impact. WIC, international food aid, and poverty-focused development assistance are all facing funding interruptions. The longer the shutdown continues, the greater the harm both to anti-hunger programs and, more broadly, the economy.

Email Congress today and tell your senators and representative to pass a responsible budget that addresses sequestration, end the U.S. government shutdown, and raise the debt ceiling without political games or causing more harm to those in need.  Getting through on the telephone may be difficult during the government shutdown, so we encourage you to contact your members of Congress via email.

The nine-month extension of the farm bill expired on Oct.  1 and the path forward is still unclear. Until the House appoints conferees, negotiations toward a final bill with the Senate cannot begin. The House proposal cuts SNAP by nearly $40 billion and international food aid by $2.5 billion. As with the budget battles, the longer the expiration, the greater the long-term effects on vulnerable populations. It is also possible that the farm bill could become embroiled in both the budget and debt ceiling negotiations. Regardless, October and November will provide several opportunities for advocates to be heard.

Email your representative and tell him or her to protect and strengthen SNAP (formerly food stamps) and international food aid in the farm bill.

The House continues to signal that it will take up immigration legislation in late October or early November. There will be several events taking place in Washington, D.C., and across the nation, to urge Congress to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

Bread for the World, as a coalition partner with the Evangelical Immigration Table, is asking churches across the country to host prayer gatherings during the week of Oct. 12-20. Bread members are invited to join either by participating in a gathering that is already planned or by hosting and planning your own event. The Evangelical Immigration Table is hosting a series of regional Pray4Reform events—it has created a map that provides information on where gatherings are happening across the country and a step-by-step guide to creating your own groups to pray for comprehensive immigration reform.

Email Congress and tell your members to support comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the root causes of undocumented immigration and the high rates of hunger experienced by undocumented individuals living in the United States.

We will be following all of these issues closely and will keep you updated on Bread Blog. At critical moments we will send action alerts to you by email—please take action and help us amplify our messages by spreading the word to your friends and family. Finally, on Oct. 15, join Bread’s policy and organizing staff, and a guest from the White House Office of Public Engagement, for a special update on these issues.

Washington Update for the Week of April 15, 2013

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A regular legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.

Call to Action: Ask members of Congress to stop procrastinating and include taxes as part of a big budget deal. Urge your senators and representative to enact a deficit-reduction deal that replaces sequestration, raises sufficient revenues, and addresses entitlement spending. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use our toll free number: 1-800-826-3688.

Write Letters to Congress

Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters, “A Place at the Table,” is in full swing and the impact of your letters and phone calls is already being felt in Congress. Below is a list of current proposed legislation affecting programs for hungry and poor people.

Budget: As previously reported, the House and the Senate passed their respective fiscal year 2014 budget resolutions earlier this month. The White House released its FY2014 budget last week. Both the Senate’s and president’s budgets would replace the sequester. The president’s proposal includes his last offer to House Speaker John Boehner during the fiscal cliff negotiations for a grand bargain, which raises revenue and reforms entitlements. 

The president’s budget proposal also includes a proposal for food aid reform that could enable up to 4 million more people to be reached with comparable resources. Bread for the World welcomes the reforms, and has joined other organizations in issuing a statement of support.

The House and Senate are now negotiating the conference process whereby a single compromised version of the budget is agreed upon by both chambers. While it’s unclear if the chambers will actually conference a FY2014 budget resolution, this could provide a path for the grand bargain and a replacement of the sequester.

Sequestration: The sequester is still in place and poised to cut programs on which vulnerable populations rely. Sequestration will impose roughly a 5 percent across-the-board cut to federal programs, including WIC and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA), for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. This is in addition to a small (less than 1 percent[H1] ) rescission to some discretionary programs included in the final funding bill for 2013, a result of sequestration being delayed by two months. For more on sequestration basics, and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, download our fact sheet "The Consequences of Sequestration. "

Taxes: The idea that cutting effective programs is necessary in order to reduce deficits is false. Our government could bridge the gap with more revenue. Bread for the World advocates for slight increases in revenue balanced by responsible spending cuts.

The Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, the committees with jurisdiction over the tax code, are both moving on tax reform. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has issued a series of overhaul proposals over the past two years and has promised legislation for comprehensive rewrite by the end of the year. The Finance Committee is putting together options for tax reform. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), also eager to see tax reform, has been holding meetings with Camp and other Republicans. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) have been topics of discussion within both committees. Bread for the World sent a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, stressing the importance of these refundable tax credits. The letter urged Congress to protect these credits, make the 2009 improvements permanent, and strengthen the credits for low-wage workers.

Bread members who have senators and representatives on those committees will need to be especially persistent in messaging their members as we continue to urge Congress to include revenues so we can adequately fund programs that help people who are hungry or living in poverty.

Farm Bill/SNAP:  Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) recently reintroduced a resolution in support of SNAP, H. Res. 90. This resolution is very similar to H. Res. 760, which was introduced last year and had more than 100 cosponsors. Currently, H. Res. 90 has 102 cosponsors and we are urging more members to sign on to show their support for SNAP. To view the latest list of cosponsors, go here. If your representative is not on the list, please invite them to cosponsor.

Both the House and Senate agriculture committees are expected to begin markup of their bills within the next two weeks.  As dates are firmed up, we will let you know via Bread Blog when it is time to contact your members of Congress.

Immigration Reform:  Bread for the World will act as an ally on immigration reform, mobilizing people of faith and aligning with partners who seek reform that respects the dignity of immigrants in the United States while addressing poverty and hunger overseas. To learn more about Bread for the World’s priorities for immigration reform, please visit www.bread.org/immigration.

The Senate “Gang of 8” on immigration reform—Sens. Rubio (R-Fla.), McCain (R-Ariz.), Flake (R-Ariz.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Bennet (D-Colo.)—released its immigration reform proposal this week. The Senate Judiciary Committee begins hearings on immigration reform legislation today and will continue into next week. The House will go through an independent process.

Petition the President

We now have more than 10,000 signatures on the petition asking President Barack Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad. If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.

Washington Update for the Week of March 19, 2013

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A regular legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.

Call to Action:  Ask the administration and your members of Congress to replace the sequester (automatic across-the-board cuts) with a comprehensive, balanced, and bipartisan approach to deficit reduction. Any package that replaces sequestration must protect programs for hungry and poor people and include increased revenue. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use our toll free number: 1-800-826-3688.

Write Letters to Congress

Bread’s 2013 Offering of Letters, “A Place at the Table,” is in full swing. In Washington, D.C., however, several legislative proposals threaten programs that help address hunger and poverty. During the last two weeks, more proposals that would drastically cut anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs have come to light. Below is a list of current proposed legislation affecting programs for hungry and poor people:

Sequestration: The  sequester is still in place and poised to cut programs on which vulnerable populations rely. Sequestration will impose a 5 percent across-the-board cut to federal programs, including WIC and PFDA, for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. This is in addition to a small (less than 1 percent) rescission to some discretionary programs, a result of sequestration being delayed by two months. For more on sequestration basics, and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, download our fact sheet "The Consequences of Sequestration" or read this overview of a recent webinar conducted by Bread and our Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) coalition partners.

Continuing Resolution: The House and Senate have both approved bills to fund the government through September, the end of the fiscal year. This averted a government shutdown, but both measures will lead to reductions in spending on WIC and many PFDA programs. The Senate passed the bill 73-26, and the House approved it 318-109. It now goes to the president for his signature.

Budget Resolutions: [Update, 3/25/12: Both the House and Senate have passed budget resolutions.  See Bread for the World's press release for details.]

Last week, both House and Senate budget committees released their FY14 budget proposals. Both budgets passed on strict party-line votes. Bread for the World released a comparison chart of the two proposals, evaluating them in terms of how they would affect hungry and poor people. The House proposal would drastically cut programs that serve vulnerable populations—66 percent of the cuts would come from programs that serve low-income people— while the Senate version takes a more balanced approach. Read our press release here. The House has passed its budget and the Senate is expected to pass its budget before the end of the week, after about 50 hours of debate.

In the Senate, a budget resolution receives special fast-track procedures. Only 51 votes are needed for passage. Senators can offer unlimited amendments, which receive just a few minutes of discussion followed by a series of rapid roll-call votes on each amendment, known as “vote-a-rama.” Members often use these amendments to score political points, and we expect some particularly damaging amendments to appear—many that would cut SNAP or prevent Congress from raising revenues as a part of deficit reduction.

The White House will release its budget on April 8.

Farm Bill/SNAP:  Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) recently reintroduced a resolution in support of SNAP, H. Res. 90, along with Reps. Fudge (D-Ohio), DeLauro (D-Conn.), and George Miller (D-Calif.). This resolution is very similar to H. Res. 760, which was introduced last year and had more than 100 cosponsors. Currently, H. Res. 90 has 36 cosponsors and we are urging more members to sign on to show their support for SNAP. To view the latest list of cosponsors, go here. If your representative is not on the list, please invite them to cosponsor.

On the Senate side, we continue efforts to push back against Senator Roberts’ (R-Kan.) SNAP cut bill. The Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act (S. 458), would cut more than $36 billion from SNAP. This bill is similar to the budget reconciliation bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee and passed by the full House of Representatives in May 2012 by party-line votes. Senator Thune (R-S.D.) and Senator Johanns (R-Neb.) have both signed on to the bill. While we do not expect this bill to become law, it’s possible the full package or individual provisions could be offered as amendments in the Budget Committee markup or in other bills considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee or on the Senate floor.

Petition the President

We now have more than 8,000 signatures on the petition asking President Barack Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad.  If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.

Congress is on recess through April 8. Washington update will return when Congress does.

Washington Update for the Week of Feb. 25, 2013

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A regular legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.

    Call to Action:  Ask the administration and your members of Congress to replace the automatic cuts  known as sequestration with a comprehensive, balanced, and bipartisan approach to deficit reduction. The final package must protect programs for hungry and poor people and includes increased revenue. Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or use our toll free number: 1-800-826-3688.

Bread for the World's 2013 Offering of Letters, "A Place at the Table," launches today. The 2013 Offering of Letters asks you to sign a petition to the president as well as write letters to Congress. You can order a kit here, if you haven't already done so, and be sure to contact your regional organizer for more information about the campaign. The documentary A Place at the Table opens in theaters, iTunes and on demand today as well. 

Write Letters to Congress: ask your senators and representative to protect programs vital to hungry and poor people.

The most immediate threat to programs addressing hunger and poverty is sequestration, which goes into effect today. Sequestration imposes a 5.3 percent across the board cut to federal programs like WIC and poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. For more on sequestration basics and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, you can download our fact sheet, "The Consequences of Sequestration."

Congress is considering a number of proposals to eliminate the sequester for the remainder of the fiscal year. However, some of the proposals unfairly place the burden on programs such as WIC, PFDA, and other programs that help lift people out of poverty. We are urging Congress to replace the sequester with a bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction that includes smart spending cuts and new revenues.

Political leaders will be paying close attention to the nation’s reaction to the sequester as we lead up to the next fiscal showdown later in March, the expiration of the continuing resolution currently keeping the government funded. If there is significant outrage over the impact of the cuts, Congress will address the sequester when it takes up the rest of the budget for FY2013 by March 27.  If public opinion isn’t forceful enough, we are likely to see these cuts become the new normal and vital programs will be underfunded for years to come.

Stay tuned for an action alert next week as we learn more; encourage your friends and family to get involved. Building momentum and political will in the next few weeks is critical and will require a loud constituency. Phone calls, messages through social media, and emails to members of Congress will be essential to saving these programs.

Petition the President to set a goal and work with Congress on a plan to end hunger in the United States and abroad.

We now have more than 7000 signatures on the petition asking President Barak Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad.  If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.

This week, nearly 100 pastors and religious leaders from across a wide spectrum of the church addressed our nation’s leaders through a joint letter.  They counseled President Barak Obama, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be clear about the moral choices they are making, as the Bible tells us that the government has responsibilities concerning poor people.

Washington Update for the Week of Dec. 3, 2012

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A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team. 

The House and Senate have both returned for a short lame duck period of work before the end of this legislative session of Congress. The phrase “lame duck” refers to the period between the November regular election and January, when new members of Congress take office. This year, members of Congress will make several important decisions during the lame duck that can and will affect programs that help poor and hungry people. Right now is the most critical period in our 2012 Offering of Letters campaign.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Negotiations continue between the president and congressional leaders to avoid the fiscal cliff. The term "fiscal cliff" refers to the impending sequester ($1.2 billion in automatic cuts over 10 years), the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the unfinished 2013 appropriations bill, the expiration of emergency unemployment benefits, the upcoming debt ceiling, and various other expiring policies—all of which will occur at the beginning of 2013. Lawmakers are working toward a proposal that deals with these challenges and also reduces the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner shared a White House offer with congressional leaders. The proposal, which is very similar to President Obama’s earlier budget proposals, raises $1.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years by allowing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire on income over $250,000, in addition to curtailing some tax expenditures. Republican leaders countered that the proposal did not contain sufficient spending cuts, particularly in health care spending. Republicans have stated that they are open to additional revenue, but not to raising marginal tax rates.

House Speaker Boehner produced his own proposal, which raises $800 billion in new revenue by curbing deductions and exclusions while keeping the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in place. Offering a plan that incorporates new revenue is an important step. However, it would be extremely difficult, both politically and mathematically, for Congress to raise this amount of money through curbing tax expenditures without raising taxes on low-income households—thereby threatening important credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Speaker Boehner’s proposal also included cuts to SNAP, although he did not specify the amounts.

Continue reading "Washington Update for the Week of Dec. 3, 2012 " »

Washington Update for the Week of Nov. 19, 2012

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A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team. 

The House and Senate have both returned for a short lame duck period of work before the end of this legislative session of Congress. The phrase “lame duck” refers to the period between the November regular election and January, when new members of Congress take office. Traditionally, the lame duck session is a time when current lawmakers are deemed ineffective—whether or not this designation has merit—as they await the conclusion of their term. This year, however, that implication is being challenged as members of Congress will make several important decisions during the lame duck.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Negotiations to avert the “fiscal cliff” and achieve significant deficit reduction kicked off last Friday, as President Barack Obama met with congressional leadership to attempt to reach a deal. The term “fiscal cliff” refers to the impending sequester ($1.2 billion in automatic cuts over 10 years), the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the unfinished 2013 appropriations bill, the unemployment insurance sunset and the upcoming debt ceiling, and various other expiring policies—all of which will occur at the beginning of 2013.  Lawmakers are working toward a proposal that deals with these challenges and also reduces the deficit by as much as $4 trillion over 10 years.

The Gang of Eight continues to meet, although they appear to have stalled a bit, and negotiations have moved to congressional leadership and the president. We expect to see a comprehensive deficit reduction proposal come out of the current negotiations. Since members of Congress don't have time to draft a bill that outlines all of the specifics in a $4 trillion deficit reduction package, the deal would be more of a framework, which would set the ground rules for how Congress would move forward in achieving deficit reduction. The proposal would likely include a down payment to avoid the scheduled across-the-board cuts and also address the expiration of at least some of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.  This framework also would include some type of enforcement mechanism to ensure Congress actually implements the plan and meets deficit reduction targets.

The provisions in this framework agreement are extremely important, and we want to ensure it is balanced, responsible, and enables our country to continue its strong commitment to ending hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Rules matter, and if Congress isn't careful, a bad framework deal could put us on a course that would have dire consequences for poor families and low-income individuals. Failing to raise sufficient revenues and provide upfront protections for anti-poverty programs now could mean devastating cuts 10 years from now.

There is a small window of opportunity for influencing the deal. Every special interest group is trying to get in front of Congress now, and programs for hungry people are at risk. We want to see Congress pass a deal and avoid the fiscal cliff, but it absolutely must be responsible. It must include a circle of protection.

We are telling members of Congress to work with leadership to ensure that any deal truly incorporates a circle of protection, which means:

1)      Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people—including SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and the Child Tax Credit (CTC)—against cuts or harmful changes.

2)      Include additional tax revenue balanced with responsible spending cuts so that our country can reduce its deficits while continuing its commitment to addressing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.

3)      Prevent further cuts to the portion of the budget that funds yearly appropriated programs (also known as non-defense discretionary), including poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and WIC.

Bread for the World organizers are working with Bread members to secure local meetings with key members of Congress, attract local media attention, and increase pressure on these members from their constituencies, so that they know these programs must be protected.

Watch for our action alert next week. We will be calling members of Congress and telling them that we want to see a bipartisan plan to address our deficits—one that forms a circle of protection around programs (including SNAP, WIC, the EITC, poverty-focused development assistance and food aid) for hungry and poor people.  We encourage you to call, and to also ask at least three friends to do the same.

Currently, Congress has two weeks of work days scheduled through the end of the year, but we expect them to add more work days in December.  We will keep you posted and follow the Bread Blog for daily updates.

Continue reading "Washington Update for the Week of Nov. 19, 2012" »

Washington Update for the Week of Sept. 24, 2012

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A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.  

The House and Senate are both on recess until after the November 6 elections. They are expected to return to Washington as early as November 13. For information on communicating with your members of Congress during this campaign season, contact your regional organizer or use our online election resources.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Election season is in full swing. While members of Congress finalized a stop-gap spending bill that will fund federal programs through March of next year, they put off acting on other pieces of legislation, including the farm bill. After November, members of Congress will make difficult decisions about deficit reduction, particularly the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts scheduled to take effect in January and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Bread members must continue to push for a proposal that safeguards programs that help vulnerable people in the United States and abroad. 

This week, the Senate passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR, temporarily funding government operations until a budget is passed) to fund federal discretionary programs at roughly current levels, plus a 0.6 percent increase for the first part of the 2013 fiscal year. The CR also included a clean six-month extension of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The negotiated CR does not alter the path of scheduled across-the-board spending cuts, or sequestration, which is still scheduled to go into effect January 2.  The House passed the CR last week. 

The House and Senate left Washington without taking action on the farm bill—a bill governing federal farm and food policy. The current farm bill is set to expire on September 30, 2012. This legislation governs domestic nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), and international food aid programs that are vital to hungry and poor people. Leadership in both chambers have indicated that they will take action on the farm bill after the elections, during the lame duck session of Congress. The Senate continues to push for a full five-year reauthorization of the farm bill while the House is open to a temporary extension with the full bill being resolved next year. How leaders decide to move forward will be informed by the outcome of November elections.

While farm programs technically expire on September 30, harmful administrative changes (like federal farm commodity price supports reverting to 1949 law) will not go into effect right away. The 2008 farm bill covers all of 2012’s calendar year crops, allowing some wiggle room for Congress to decide how to move forward. Additionally, provisions included in the continuing resolution secure SNAP funding through next year. The last time the farm bill was allowed to expire was in 2007, when the bill expired on September and an extension was not passed until December 26.

The bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight continues its work to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan package that would replace the sequester and expiring tax cuts with a framework for deficit reduction, including additional tax revenues and further spending cuts. While producing a deal laying out the specifics of what programs to cut and what taxes to raise is unrealistic for the lame duck session, the proposal could establish a process for committees to find the specific savings. If successful in reaching a deal that Congress enacts, the Gang of Eight proposal could determine the available funding for programs for hungry and poor people for the next 10 years. Those involved in the Gang of Eight include Senators Warner (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL) , Conrad (D-ND), Bennet (D-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Coburn (R-OK), and Johanns (R-NE).  

Domestic Nutrition

More than 80 members have cosponsored House Resolution 760, which rejects the cuts to SNAP included 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 protecting SNAP by cosponsoring the resolution. We are encouraging Bread members to ask their representatives to cosponsor.  A full list of cosponsors can be found online.

On Friday afternoon,  Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), along with Reps. Paul Broun (R-GA), Steve Chabot (R-OH), and Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), introduced a proposal to block-grant farm bill nutrition programs. Under this plan, SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, Community Food Projects, Commodity Supplemental Food Program, Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program would be consolidated into a single block grant to the states, with funding returned to FY2008 levels. Members argue this proposal will streamline programs and give states more flexibility while cutting spending. Like other SNAP block grant proposals introduced this Congress, this proposal will not likely become law, despite possible attempts to attach it to a moving farm bill in the lame duck session. For more information on why block-granting SNAP would be harmful, please see our Block Grants 101 fact sheet.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is facing potentially devastating cuts. Although the continuing resolution extends funding through March at levels agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act , WIC is subject to approximately 8.2 percent in automatic cuts on January 2 if Congress fails to come up with a deficit-reduction plan to replace the sequester. These cuts could mean a loss of benefits for more than 700,000 low-income women and young children.

Poverty-Focused Foreign Assistance

Poverty-focused foreign aid makes up a small part of total discretionary funding, which must be approved by Congress each year in the appropriations process. The continuing resolution funds programs at the Senate levels for FY 2013. PFFA is subject to cuts in January when sequestration is enacted. The programs would take an 8.2 percent cut, according to the OMB report. These cuts could mean lives lost around the world. For example, as a result of the sequester:

  • 276,500 fewer people would receive HIV/AIDS treatment, potentially leading to 63,000 more AIDS-related deaths and 124,000 more children being orphaned.
  • 656,000 fewer children annually will have access to quality primary school education, making their road to overcoming poverty that much harder.  
   

Earlier in the week, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) submitted a proposal to cut off aid to several countries, including Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt. The Paul amendment failed by a vote of 10-81. 


The Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act (S. 3310), introduced by Senator Lugar, with support from Senator Rubio, was passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on September 19. The objective of this bill is to improve transparency and accountability within U.S. foreign aid by instituting a standard monitoring and evaluation requirement across all agencies that administer U.S. foreign assistance. Additionally, it calls for information garnered from the evaluations to be made public. The companion legislation is the Poe-Berman bill in the House. Our hope is that both bills will be taken up by the full House and Senate during the lame duck session.

Tax Credits

The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts expire at the end of this year, and Congress is in the midst of debating which parts to extend, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit. 

We expect the tax credits to be an important issue in the lame duck session, along with the rest of the tax cuts. The bipartisan Gang of Eight senators are also looking at the tax credits as part of the tax cuts and possibilities for tax reform. 

International Food Aid

Food aid is reauthorized in the farm bill process and funded in the appropriations process. Like other discretionary programs, funding is extended at Senate levels for the FY2013 budget as part of the continuing resolution. Food aid is still subject to sequester and may be cut by 8.2 percent, which would result in over 3 million people losing access to vital food assistance and 377,200 fewer children having access to quality primary school education.   

Washington Update for the Week of September 18, 2012

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A weekly legislative update from Bread for the World's government relations team.  

The House and Senate are both in session beginning Wednesday of this week due to the Jewish holidays. They won’t stay in session long, though. It’s an election year, and members of Congress are eager to get home to campaign.

The Circle of Protection: The Overall Campaign

Programs that help people who are hungry and poor have been consistently under threat of devastating cuts during budget negotiations—whether that be the annual budget for the next year or a comprehensive deficit reduction bill that budgets for the next 10 years. New developments affecting those negotiations include a continuing resolution passed in the House, a new report from the administration outlining the effects of across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin in January, and the bipartisan negations being conducted by the Gang of Eight in the Senate.

Last week, the House passed a six-month continuing resolution (CR, temporarily funding government operations until a budget is passed) to fund federal discretionary programs at roughly current levels, plus a 0.6 percent increase for the first part of the 2013 fiscal year. The Senate is expected to vote on (and pass) the CR this week.

The farm bill—a bill which governs federal farm and food policy—is set to expire on September 30, 2012, and programs for two of Bread for the World's mini-campaigns, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and International Food Aid, are authorized through the legislation. The Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill last June. However, with seemingly no chance of leadership allowing floor time for the House Committee on Agriculture farm bill, Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley filed what is called a discharge petition. If signed by a majority of the House (218 members), it would force the House to vote on the bill. The petition had 27 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

Congress could still pass a farm bill extension before September 30 or they could let the bill expire and deal with an extension or re-authorization in the lame duck session in November/December once the outcome of the elections is clear.

On Friday, the administration released its sequestration report ($1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to begin in January and last nine years), detailing how automatic cuts would be implemented. The report, well over 300 pages, provides an estimate of the percentages and dollar amounts that would be cut from every discretionary and mandatory spending account at the program, project, and activity levels, as well as a list of accounts that are exempt from cuts. The negotiated CR does not alter the path of sequestration.   

The bipartisan group of Senators called the Gang of Eight continues to meet, trying to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan deficit reduction agreement that would replace the sequester with a comprehensive plan for deficit reduction, including additional tax revenues and further spending cuts. If successful in reaching a deal that Congress enacts, their proposal could determine the available funding for programs for hungry and poor people for the next 10 years. Those involved in the Gang of Eight include Senators Warner (D-VA), Durbin (D-IL) , Conrad (D-ND), Bennet (D-CO), Chambliss (R-GA), Crapo (R-ID), Coburn (R-OK), and Johanns (R-NE). 

Continue reading "Washington Update for the Week of September 18, 2012 " »

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