People For the American Way

Trump and Congress Continue to Sacrifice Americans’ Basic Needs to Score Political Points with the Budget

People For in Action
Trump and Congress Continue to Sacrifice Americans’ Basic Needs to Score Political Points with the Budget
Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney (Official White House Photo by Evan Walker)

While Trump and Congress have since failed to pass rescissions, People For the American Way and allies are still urging them to abandon poison pill policy riders.

When President Trump finally signed a full funding package in March with almost half of the funding year already over, we knew there were reasons to keep resisting despite the bill’s progressive wins. It wasn’t long before Trump and Congress proved us right.

Trump now wants to revisit the March deal and take money away from basic needs programs like children’s health care. People For the American Way is among the organizations urging Congress to reject Trump’s rescissions package:

Dear Representative/Senator:

The undersigned 151 national organizations strongly urge you to reject the $15.3 billion rescissions package proposed by the Trump administration as well as other rescissions messages that may be subsequently offered. These cuts would violate the agreement enacted in the Bipartisan Budget Act, by eliminating funds that make fairer levels of domestic appropriations possible, so that unmet needs in public health, education, job training, housing, and other essential areas may be addressed.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is targeted for nearly half the cuts in the rescissions package. Nearly $2 billion of the rescinded funds could reduce CHIP’s capacity to respond if enrollment unexpectedly rises, as in the aftermath of a disaster, large layoffs due to plant closures, or an overall economic slowdown. Congress just enacted a long-overdue 10-year reauthorization of CHIP; it should not undermine that bipartisan agreement either by tampering with CHIP in this package. Another $5 billion would renege on the two-year Bipartisan Budget Act agreement, which in part counted on the availability of unspent CHIP funds to pay for needed increases in other services of importance to children and families.

The rescissions package also includes an $800 million cut to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, a program which according to the Congressional Budget Office will save $3 for every $1 spent between 2017 and 2026. It makes no sense to end such a cost-effective investment. Nor does it make sense to describe this package of cuts as putting “…our Nation on a sustainable fiscal path” when the recently enacted tax cuts, mainly for the wealthy and corporations, impose a $2 trillion cost.

Congress made important progress in the FY 2018 Omnibus appropriations bill because its bipartisan agreement allowed for increases in child care, opioid treatment, and other services. Congress should now turn its attention to building on this progress in FY 2019. Reneging on the hard-won bipartisan agreements now will make further gains extremely difficult. With the limited number of legislative days before you, please do not be distracted by undoing past progress.

We cannot emphasize enough that basic needs programs have lost ground after years of reductions, making it extremely important that you do not undermine the agreement to start to reverse these downward trends. Adult and youth job training has been cut nearly 15 percent since FY 2010, adjusted for inflation. If we are serious about helping people to get good jobs, we must undo these cuts. Many other services need rebuilding, such as home heating and cooling assistance (cut nearly 38 percent since FY 2010), juvenile justice programs (cut more than 40 percent), maternal and child health programs (cut 14 percent), and special education funding (cut between 7-11 percent since FY 2010). In an analysis of more than 180 human needs programs, the Coalition on Human Needs found that nearly 70 percent are still at lower levels than in FY 2010.

Please reject this rescissions package, and turn instead to your real responsibility: to provide adequate resources to address the unmet needs for education and training, child care, housing, health care, and other essential services.

PFAW and allies are also urging Congress to abandon a perennial GOP favorite—poison pill policy riders:

Dear Members of Congress,

As a part of the Clean Budget Coalition, we, the undersigned organizations write to ask you to oppose any FY 2019 appropriations measures which include ideological poison pill policy riders.

Time and time again, members of Congress attempt to quietly slip in special interest wish list items that couldn’t pass as standalone legislation into must-pass funding packages as poison pill riders.

Appropriations bills must not be misused to undermine essential safeguards. Slipping unrelated and damaging issues into must-pass appropriations bills as a means to win approval is a dangerous strategy for the public.

Poison pill riders are unpopular and damaging, and the public opposes using them to roll back public protections. The American people support policies to:

  • Restrain Wall Street abuses;
  • Ensure safe and healthy food and products;
  • Secure our air, land, water and wildlife;
  • Safeguard fair and safe workplaces;
  • Guard against consumer rip-offs and corporate wrongdoing;
  • Defend our campaign finance and election systems;
  • Provide access to justice and fair housing;
  • Protect civil rights; and
  • Guarantee continued access to vital health care services including reproductive health care, and more.

This year, in addition to threatening the budget process with harmful riders, the White House proposed rescissions that would claw back funds already appropriated in past spending packages—reneging on bipartisan agreements, where the latest took more than 15 months to pass. Like poison pill riders, rescissions cater to ideological extremists, represent a breach of regular order and threaten Congress’ ability to reach bipartisan spending agreements.

We urge members of Congress to oppose the White House rescissions package, to abide by the funding numbers agreed upon in that deal to fund the essential programs our nation needs for FY19, and to reject any flawed spending measures that includes poison pill policy riders.

We plan to reissue this letter as developments warrant:

  • 6/19/18: Sent to the Senate regarding the FY19 Legislative Branch, Energy & Water, and Military Construction-Veterans Affairs funding package