Budget

August Recess ToolKit: The Budget


While all eyes were on the Senate and the fight over health care, the House of Representatives started moving on the FY18 budget and appropriations. There are three main issues happening on the “budget” front that your members of Congress need to hear from you about over recess:

  1. the budget resolution making its way through the House;
  2. the need to pass funding bills to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September;
  3. and the looming issue of raising the debt ceiling.

The House budget resolution would give massive tax cuts to the wealthy by cutting the basics, like Medicare, Medicaid, and education. Remember, “the budget” decides how much money to spend and “appropriations” decide how that amount will be spent. (These explainers on budget and appropriations go much further into detail.) The FY18 budget resolution was passed by the House Budget Committee on July 19, and could go to the House floor after recess. The details are appalling:

  • $1 trillion cut from Medicaid over ten years (that’s 20% of Medicaid’s budget)
  • Over $150 billion cut from SNAP (that’s 22% of SNAP’s budget)
  • Nearly $500 billion cut from Medicare—and it’s turned into a voucher system
  • $3.3 billion cut from Pell grants—and they’d be harder for students to use
  • Billions in cuts to education, the environment, housing, and worker training

Republicans are using the budget to tee up massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The House budget resolution puts in motion the procedural steps they need to pass massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations through the Senate with only 51 votes. Just like they used the reconciliation process to try to jam through TrumpCare, they plan to jam through their tax cuts the same way. We need to make sure we stop them in their tracks. Find how these budget cuts will affect your state/Congressional district and share your story with these resources from Center for American Progress.

Appropriations bills are moving at the same time, which is like starting to build a house before you’ve finished drawing up the blueprint. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have finished work on all of their bills—but they didn’t adhere to spending caps that were put in place by the sequester. That means there will be a major fight in the fall over how to fund the government. So far the Senate has passed zero out of twelve appropriations bills, but the House has passed four—including funding for Trump’s deportation machine and the wall. (Find our immigration recess toolkit here.)

Government funding runs out on September 30, so Congress is under a tight deadline to finish this work. They could also pass a “continuing resolution,” which puts funding levels on auto-pilot in order to avoid a government shutdown. But whether Congress does the bare minimum and passes a CR, or finishes work on some or all of the appropriations bills, we have to make sure that either is done without damaging “policy riders”—strings attached that advance the Republicans’ policy agenda by riding along to must-pass funding bills.

As if this weren’t enough of a mess: the “debt ceiling” is back. A deadline perhaps even more significant than the September 30 deadline to fund the government is the September 29 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Congress has to do this in order to avoid defaulting on our obligations and throwing the global economy into chaos. The key thing to remember here: raising the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending. It simply allows us to pay the bill on the debt we’ve already racked up.

The uncertainty alone over whether or not Congress will raise the debt ceiling is enough to cause major financial turmoil all over the world. There’s no reason they shouldn’t easily take care of this—but many Republicans in the House refuse to raise the debt ceiling without demanding massive spending cuts in return. Tell your members of Congress: you want a “clean raise” without devastating cuts.

SAMPLE TOWN HALL QUESTIONS

For Republicans

  • The budget resolution passed out of the House Budget Committee in July was terrible. It takes away trillions of dollars in Medicare, Medicaid, and SNAP in order to give new tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. It makes massive cuts to basic services like education and transportation in order to give billions more in funding to the Pentagon. Will you commit to me, your constituent, that you will oppose the FY18 budget resolution?
  • Congress must figure out how to fund the government by September 30. We have to avoid a government a shutdown that closes our national parks, cuts off vital services, and creates major uncertainty for our small businesses. Given that there are only 12 legislative days in September, it’s unlikely that Congress will finish the appropriations bills. That means you’ll pass another Continuing Resolution. I do not want to see any damaging policy riders attached to a CR. Will you commit to me that you won’t use the threat of a shutdown to advance other policies and instead pass a clean CR?
  • The Treasury Department says the debt ceiling has to be raised by September 29 in order to avoid defaulting on our obligations. The last time Congress was faced with a deadline like this, Republicans in the House brought us right to the brink of default and led to our credit being downgraded for the first time in our nation’s history. That’s shameful. The debt ceiling has to be raised right away in order to bring certainty to financial markets and avoid causing economic turmoil across the globe. Demanding huge spending cuts or other damaging policy changes in exchange for raising the debt ceiling will only repeat the same fiasco we saw in 2011. Will you promise me you won’t mess around with the full faith and credit of the United States, and that you’ll support a “clean raise”?
  • The budgets we have seen from the President and the House cut billions from public education programs that support low-income children and their families. The FY18 funding bill for education cuts $2 billion from Title II funding, which supports our teachers. When my children’s school loses federal funding, it means classrooms get even more crowded and there are fewer after-school programs. My kid’s classroom is crowded enough. Will you oppose any budget resolution or funding bill that has cuts to public education?

For Democrats

  • Congress must figure out how to fund the government by September 30. We have to avoid a government a shutdown that closes our national parks, cuts off vital services, and creates major uncertainty for our small businesses. Given that there are only 12 legislative days in September, it’s unlikely that Congress will finish the appropriations bills. That means Republicans will see funding the government as an opportunity to load up the CR with damaging policy riders, and they may even try to undermine the Affordable Care Act or build up Trump’s deportation machine. Will you commit to me that you will oppose any funding bills or a CR that includes damaging policy riders related to the ACA or immigration?
  • The Treasury Department says the debt ceiling has to be raised by September 29 in order to avoid defaulting on our obligations. The last time Congress was faced with a deadline like this, Republicans in the House brought us right to the brink of default and led to our credit being downgraded for the first time in our nation’s history. That’s shameful. The debt ceiling has to be raised right away in order to bring certainty to financial markets and avoid causing economic turmoil across the globe. Will you promise not to give in to Republican demands for deep spending cuts in order to raise the debt ceiling?
  • The FY18 funding bills marked up by the Appropriations Committees shortchange public education, affordable housing, environmental protection, and scientific research. Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to pass bills with huge increases in military spending. If Democrats let that happen, they will give up all of their leverage to stop cuts to domestic programs. Will you promise not to support legislation that increases military spending until there is a bipartisan agreement to provide at least the same increase for domestic programs?