Congress Largely Silent While Speculation on Sequestration Bush Tax Cuts Grows
Congress has only a few weeks remaining to debate sequestration and taxes before August recess, yet agreement on these complicated looming fiscal issues is nowhere in sight. According to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), Congress is only beginning to examine the potential impacts of sequestration that would take effect in January 2013 and the little attention that has been paid to sequestration has thus far largely focused on the impact of defense cuts. However, efforts by a non-defense discretionary coalition and highlighting of the impact of sequestration on non-defense discretionary programs by members of Congress could change the scope of the conversation.
On July 18, the House passed H.R. 5872, the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, which includes language requiring the Office of Management and Budget to describe how programs, projects, and activities would be reduced under current law to achieve the sequester’s impending cuts. In June, the Senate included similar language in its Farm Bill after successful efforts by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and John McCain (R-AZ) to require the White House to explain the impact of sequestration on both non-defense and defense discretionary programs.
In recent months, some federal departments have provided lawmakers with information on the anticipated impacts on select programs. Most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services responded to a request from Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) to outline the potential impacts of sequestration on HHS programs. HHS reported that 2,300 research grants could be eliminated, up to 100,000 children would lose Head Start services, 12,150 fewer patients would receive benefits from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program and approximately 169,000 fewer individuals would be admitted to substance abuse programs.
Unfortunately, HUD has not released a similar set of impact estimates for its housing programs, despite requests from advocates.
A coalition of organizations representing non-defense discretionary programs delivered a letter to Congress the week of July 9, signed by nearly 3,000 organizations including Monarch Housing. The letter urges Congress take a “balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs, which have already done their part to reduce the deficit.”
In a letter marking the first united voice for organizations representing non-defense discretionary spending, the organizations write,
“NDD programs are core functions government provides for the benefit of all, including medical and scientific research; education and job training; infrastructure; public safety and law enforcement; public health; weather monitoring and environmental protection; natural and cultural resources; housing and social services; and international relations. Every day these programs support economic growth and strengthen the safety and security of every American in every state and community across the nation.”
To read the full report from the NLIHC click here.