It’s been a busy week
I’m sure you know: yesterday, the House of Representatives disgraced itself by passing their bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We put out a statement, calling it “A Day of Shame for the U.S. House of Representatives.” Of course, we were not alone. Invaluable advocate and brilliant analyst Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote “I have been in Washington, D.C. for 45 years. But I have never seen members of Congress vote to so deeply hurt so many of their own constituents.” Please be encouraged to read Bob’s 2-page statement, which summarizes in gruesome detail the damage that the House’s bill would do. This is far from over. The Senate will try to come up with a different bill, and we must join forces with the outraged individuals and organizations fighting to protect Medicaid from destruction, and to keep Congress from breaking promises of affordable, adequate health insurance, all to hand hundreds of billions in tax cuts to millionaires and the health industry.
And today, President Trump signed into law the omnibus appropriations bill for the fiscal year we’re currently in – FY 2017. We are working on updating our table of human needs programs to show what’s happened over time to their funding. Look for that next week. But this preview: while Congress rejected the drastic last-minute cuts to domestic programs President Trump asked for, and also left out most ideological policy riders that had been sought by right wing members, appropriations for most programs of importance to low-income people have been shrinking over time. Almost all of the 168 programs we’ve tracked are funded below FY 2010 levels, taking inflation into account. Close to one-third have been cut at least 25 percent. We’re talking about the programs that need annual funding approval from Congress – including most education and training, housing and home energy assistance, Head Start, WIC, substance abuse and mental health services not provided through Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, many public health services, refugee assistance, and other services for children, youth, seniors, and people with disabilities. This bill does not include Medicaid, SNAP, or other programs that don’t require annual appropriations from Congress.
So what have we learned this week? Advocacy is making a difference, so we should understand how important it is that we continue to act, together. The House struggled to get its repeal bill out, and serious divisions among Republicans remain. But the threat to Medicaid and the rest of ACA cannot be exaggerated, so we must continue to speak out, encourage others to do so, and target our efforts where they will do the most good.
And then there’s the budget for FY 2018. We think the rest of the Trump budget will be out May 22. What we’ve seen so far cuts $54 billion out of domestic and international peace programs and transfers it all to the Pentagon. They’ve also put out a wish list of $5.5 trillion in tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring corporations, millionaires and billionaires, and support Medicaid cuts exceeding $800 billion in the health care repeal bill. This budget will be a massive transfer of resources from programs serving low-moderate income people to the rich and profitable corporations. The House Budget Resolution’s timing is uncertain – some now guessing not until early June. It may not be as extreme as Trump’s (!), but it is heading in the same direction of disinvestment in housing, nutrition, health care, education, and services for seniors, children and families. Just as advocates worked hard to persuade Congress to reject extreme cuts in the budget for this year, we can succeed in preventing harm to many millions of people, if we keep at it.
So thanks so much to the thousands of you who have participated in these big and important fights. We’re not done yet. We’ll keep you posted.