The House is currently debating the Continuing Resolution (CR) that I wrote you about last week. We have 18 more hours of debate scheduled. The Majority Leader just came to the floor to announce that there are 103 amendments left to discuss. Ordinarily, votes on amendments are “15-minute votes” which means that Members have 15 minutes to cast their votes before the total is announced. Currently, we are voting on amendments every two minutes.
That is how “thoughtful” the majority is being right now. Three days of debate sounds like a lot, except that with hundreds of amendments there is not a great deal of time to discuss and make good decisions.
As I explained last week, this Continuing Resolution process has not been strong on good policy, but rather is focused on good politics. It is a fast and furious display of all the tried and true social conservative hot-button issues. An amendment to strip funding from all Planned Parenthood services was passed. This will hurt over 50,000 women in Missouri. In an effort to stop the federal proceedings against the immigration laws passed by Arizona, an amendment was offered to restrict the Department of Justice from pursuing ANY lawsuits against Arizona for ANY reason. That expansive amendment was rejected as out of order. An amendment to prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from using any funds to implement the Affordable Health Care Act just passed.
We will continue down the list of amendments, striking and forbidding, objecting and condemning, until we are through and no one will know what has or hasn’t been funded. And all of this energy, effort and enthusiasm will be for naught. None of this work will pass muster in the Senate. The President has issued a veto threat. In the end, we will either find a compromise with the other legislative partners as prescribed by the Constitution, or the federal government will shut down on March 4th.
Understand that everything that is happening today makes no progress towards actually funding the government.
Both sides play this game, but rarely is the potential to hurt so many as evident as it is in today’s discussion. I would like to say it was worse when I first arrived in Washington, but in my three terms, I have never seen anything like this. The disconnect between the affluent men and women with their government health care and comfortable lives who are casting their votes today, and the men, women and children who are struggling to make ends meet has never been larger.
The Continuing Resolution cuts key infrastructure investments, which will lead to the loss of more than 2,387 jobs in Missouri, primarily in the private sector.
The measure slashes the maximum Pell Grant by $845 -- from the current maximum of $5,550 to $4,705. The bill will lower the amount of aid that 179,451 college students in Missouri are projected to receive.
In the state of Missouri, 4,190 children will be immediately dropped from the Head Start program, as a result of a $1 billion cut in this bill. Nationwide, 55,000 teachers, teacher assistants and related staff would lose their jobs.
Under the measure we are “debating” today, federal support for K-12 education would be severely cut. The bill includes cuts of over $11 million in help in reading and math for disadvantaged children in Missouri.
Those cuts mean the reduction or elimination of extra academic support for 17,205 poor students in Missouri. Additionally, Missouri school districts would lose 175 teachers. All Fifth District schools would be impacted. Nationwide, about 9,000 teachers and aides would be laid off.
Additionally, federal support for special education through IDEA funding would be severely cut. The Continuing Resolution includes cuts of an additional $11 million in assistance to children with special needs in Missouri. Those cuts would shift the program funding responsibility to the school districts for 6,379 students in Missouri. Additionally, Missouri school districts would potentially lose 175 special education teachers. Again, all Fifth District schools would be impacted. Nationwide, about 7,155 special education teachers could be laid off.
We did not look at defense cuts, or wasteful war spending as part of this CR. Rather, the majority focused all $61 billion in cuts in 12% of the budget ($81 billion was cut from nonsecurity spending and security related programs were reduced by $19 billion – according to House Approps Committee).
Under the cut, the Department of Education would lose $6.2 billion, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would lose $5.7 billion, and the Department of Transportation would lose around $3 billion.
The single biggest program to lose funding would be the Department of Health and Human Services’ budget for the National Institutes of Health. Funding for health research and training would be slashed $4.1 billion under the cut. This is money that supports pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training opportunities across the country, and funds research on cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and a host of other important medical areas. Cuts of this magnitude would roll back grants for health research and training, and would undoubtedly result in a slowdown of medical knowledge and breakthroughs.
The next largest program to be hit would be funding under HUD’s Public and Indian Housing Program for tenant based rental assistance, which would be cut $2.4 billion. Tenant based rental assistance is a subsidy that helps households afford various housing costs including rent, utility costs, and security deposits, by helping low-income families make up the difference between housing costs and what a family can afford to pay. Rental assistance helps prevent homelessness and other hardships – which have increased substantially during the economic downturn. Recent reports have shown that the number of homeless families has risen significantly, by 3% between 2008 and 2009. The number of Americans who have doubled up in homes rather than live on the street increased by around 12% over the same time period (National Alliance to End Homelessness).
The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education within the Department of Education would lose $2.1 billion from their “Accelerating Achievement and Ensuring Equity” program. This program targets elementary, secondary, and vocational education, and serves a number of purposes, including awarding Title I Grants to local educational agencies (which provide supplemental education funding in high-poverty areas and extra academic support to help raise the achievement of students at risk of educational failure) and providing financial assistance to state educational agencies (for improving educational programs for children of migratory farmworkers and fishers). Among a host of other services, this program also provides education services to neglected and delinquent youth in local state-run institutions.
Popular programs would suffer as well. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CBP) would lose $66.7 million. CBP promotes public telecommunications services, investing in more than 1,000 local radio and television stations, and reaching almost every household in the country. Cuts to this program would stand in the way of CBP’s mission to both develop and ensure access to non-commercial, high-quality educational programming.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to conduct oil spill response, through their Pollution Control and Abatement activities, would be cut $2.3 million. EPA was instrumental in responding to the BP oil spill last summer, monitoring air, water, sediment, and waste generated by cleanup operations. If it were decided that politically sensitive programs, such as this one, should be exempted from cuts, it would only mean greater cuts to the rest of the non-security discretionary budget.
What my colleagues in the House fail to understand is that right now, our number one priority needs to be getting the economy moving again. We need to get people back to work. As the experts at the hearings I held on the deficit told us, focusing on deficits in this way actually undermines the goal of generating more jobs.
Quite the opposite of creating jobs, if the crazy CR we are debating today actually becomes law, these cuts would reduce the number of jobs available significantly. Economists tell us that the rule of thumb is when gross domestic product (GDP) declines, there is an increase in unemployment. If this $60 billion in cuts go into effect the result would be a loss of around 590,000 jobs.
And what would we gain? Even if the majority would be able to meet their stated goal of cutting $100 billion to the non-security portion of discretionary spending, it would barely dent the debt obligations. It will, however, have a significant negative impact on government programs, state budget crises, and employment.
Friday, February 18, 2011
Cleaver: The damage budget cuts will do
In his latest from EC from DC report, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. explains the serious effects federal budget cuts will have on Missouri: