By Amelia Collins, Policy Analyst, UnidosUS
The House and Senate are set to return to the nation’s capital next week after a month-long recess and an ambitious agenda awaits them. Funding for the federal government runs out on September 30, and neither chamber has voted on a complete funding package for fiscal year 2018. Even though the House passed four of 12 spending bills before breaking for recess, they included $1.6 billion for the construction of a border wall, which has little chance of passing in the Senate.
What’s at stake in the upcoming budget debate? Overall spending levels for FY18. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration returns this upcoming fiscal year. That matters because the House-passed “security bus” blew through the cap for defense spending to the tune of $72 billion.
In the past, both parties have agreed to pair increases in defense spending with equal increases in funding for non-defense programs. But this time the House Appropriations Committee proposed a package of spending bills that would pair the $72 billion increase in defense with a $5 billion decrease in non-defense spending. This drastic reduction includes:
- Cutting $86 million from Workforce Innovation and Opportunity grants to states
- Slashing $409 million in funding for public and affordable housing
- Insufficient funding for English Language Acquisition grants
Perhaps most importantly, the proposed budget passed by the House Budget Committee and awaiting action on the House floor, would jeopardize programs that help Americans make ends meet, including millions of Latinos. For example:
- Changes to Medicaid and severely reduced funding would push states to restrict eligibility and/or cut benefits, impacting 18 million Latinos
- Eliminating eligibility for the Child Tax Credit—a pro-work, anti-poverty refundable tax credit—for tax-paying working families filing with an Individual Tax Identification Number—which would affect up to four million U.S. citizen Latino children
- Drastically reducing funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), jeopardizing food access and affordability for 10 million Latinos
Why would congressional Republicans and President Trump want to gut funding from these programs? To complete the first step in Congress’s push to give huge tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the working and middle class. Republicans in Congress can use a budget resolution to setup a one-sided, partisan overhaul of the tax system. What would the Trump/Republican tax plan look like? Stealing opportunity from working families to pad the wallets of the extremely wealthy.
Considering the devastation in Texas by Hurricane Harvey, Congress must also pass emergency funding to aid in the recovery from that unprecedented natural disaster. In the past, congressional Republicans have opposed disaster funds because they were not coupled with cuts to social programs. The devastation felt by thousands of Texans should not be a political bargaining chip—Congress should set petty politics aside to pass much needed disaster relief.
When Congress returns, it must pass spending bills that reflect our values as a country and to create opportunity and equality for everyone, especially those working to support their families and strive toward the American Dream.
Share your story about how cuts to these important programs—Medicaid, affordable housing, refundable tax credits—would impact you and your community.