Members of Congress and advocates alike are ramping up discussions over the impacts sequestration would have in 2013, drawing attention to the potential impacts of cutting non-defense discretionary spending.
On July 25, the Senate passed H.R. 5872, the Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, which would require 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 (see Memo, 7/20). The House passed H.R. 5872 on June 18. President Obama has yet to sign the bill.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) held a July 25 hearing, “The Impact of Sequestration on Education.” Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified on the potential impacts of cutting funding for his department’s programs. The Subcommittee released a report detailing the impacts of sequestration on the programs of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Labor, as well as the Social Security Administration. The report provides state-by-state data on the dollar amounts of the cuts, the number of households affected and impacts on these households.
Some Members of the House of Representatives also took a stand on protecting non-defense discretionary spending from sequestration in a July 19 letter to House and Senate leadership. “The Congressional Budget Office expects an 8% overall cut to domestic spending in 2013. This is totally unacceptable and would have disastrous effects on our still fragile economic recovery,” write the Representatives. They continue, “we cannot support any budget compromise that only deals with defense sequestration.”
Advocates of protecting non-defense discretionary spending from sequester held a rally attended by more than 300 people on July 25. Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) spoke for protecting Americans from sequester. Senator Murray called on Congress to “cut oil before healthcare. Cut private jets and yachts before housing. Cut tax cuts for the millionaires and billionaires before nutrition programs.” Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CA) and George Miller (D-CA) also spoke out at the rally against cutting non-defense discretionary spending.
As a rebuttal to Senator Murray’s July 16 Brookings Institute speech urging Congress to take a balanced deficit reduction approach (see Memo, 7/20), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) spoke at the Brookings Institution on July 24. Senator Toomey countered Senator Murray’s assertion that Congress need not take immediate action on the supposed “fiscal cliff,” saying that the nation in fact is headed off a fiscal cliff that should be avoided, and that the deficit needs to be addressed not through revenue but through spending reductions.
The House and Senate considered three bills the week of July 23 addressing tax cuts set to expire at the end of 2012. By a vote of 51 to 48, the Senate passed S. 3412, the “Middle Class Tax Cut Act,” which would extend the Bush-era tax cuts for households earning under $250,000 annually. The bill would extend the tax cuts for these households for one year and allow the cuts to expire for the 2% of taxpayers earning over this amount. A Republican alternative to the bill was voted down by the Senate.
NLIHC joined 128 other organizations in signing a letter to members of the Senate in support of ending tax cuts for households earning over $250,000. In the July 24 letter organized by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), national organizations say, “Ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest two percent of Americans, households with incomes over $250,000, is simply asking them to pay their fair share. If we continue unaffordable tax breaks for the richest two percent, we won’t be able to address critical national priorities demanding attention – such as supporting education, strengthening Medicare, creating jobs, improving our infrastructure, and helping the millions of families struggling to get by.”
The House is expected to vote on two bills that would extend the expiring tax cuts for even the highest income taxpayers during the week of July 30. H.R. 8, the “Job Protection and Recession Prevention Act of 2012,” and H.R. 6169, “The Pathway to Job Creation through a Simpler, Fairer Tax Code Act of 2012,” are both expected to be debated on the House floor early in the week. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said that the House may also vote on a version of S. 3412.
The Senate Subcommittee report is attached.
The House letter is attached.
Click here to view Senator Toomey’s speech.
The ATF letter is attached.