As we look ahead to the summer, I wanted to take a moment to give you an update on this year’s admittedly difficult session of Congress.
To start, we are faced with working simultaneously at preserving our annual appropriations funding, raising awareness about the benefits and perils of recompetition, planning for an eventual reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Child Care and Development Block Grant and the Head Start Act, fighting calls for the block granting Head Start, and preparing for a very loud and raucous fight to prevent the sequester from affecting our and many other good programs that are essential to the people we serve. These are all extremely challenging issues and I want to thank you for your relentless engagement and willingness to help us remain a relevant and forceful voice here in Washington.
We are of course working to balance the short and long term issues. But we can all agree that the impending “sequestration” is among the most difficult and potentially harmful decisions that Congress may or may not make this fall, in the lame duck session. In light of this, I want to share with you what is happening in Congress today on the issue, and what actions we are taking to ensure that Head Start is among the loudest advocates against harmful and indiscriminate cuts.
First, for quick background, the Budget Control Act, signed into law late in the summer of 2011, required Congress to come up with a 10 year plan to reduce the deficit via the infamous Super Committee, or allow cuts to be made via an across the board “sequester” of discretionary funding. The Super Committee failed in its mission, and the sequester is scheduled to take effect in January of 2013.
The House and Senate will not come to agreement on a Fiscal Year 2013 Budget; House Republicans have passed a budget that cuts programs deeper than the BCA spending levels, and the Senate declined to take a budget up at all. Therefore, due to the arcane federal budgeting rules, the “reconciliation” package the House passed last week cannot go any further.
Over the last 6 weeks, a coordinated lobbying and advocacy effort among the non-defense, discretionary spending community has emerged – the first time, to the best of our knowledge, that the that the coalitions representing the agriculture, justice, transportation, and human service communities (to name just a few) have proactively decided to work together. NHSA is a proud and active member of the Non-Defense Discretionary Summit (NDD). Our goals as a group are simple— (1) educating policymakers and the public about the value of nondefense discretionary programs, the impact of cuts our programs have sustained since fiscal 2010, and the impact of future cuts under a sequester; and (2) advocating for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further nondefense discretionary spending cuts. Through this “coalition of coalitions” we will each use our powerful advocacy and grassroots networks to ensure that Congress knows we will not be overshadowed by the defense community. While we can all agree that our military and veterans deserve ample investment to keep our nation secure, the nation it secures must also remain safe, whole, and prosperous for generations to come.
While we participate in macro-level messaging to Congress in Washington, over the next few weeks we will be sharing materials with you to help you, in your local outreach efforts, explain to your Senators and Representatives what the sequestration numbers mean for your state and your program. The NDD Summit participants have begun by asking State Governors to help us define what the impact of sequestration might be state by state—particularly as one third of ALL non-defense discretionary spending goes directly to States. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, another Summit participant, has begun creating helpful graphics for each of us to use. We will package these into materials for you to use locally. We will also be working on local press efforts to ensure that the budget debate has local faces and names—ensuring that your Member of Congress pays attention to the impact at home.
Members of the House and the Senate are already actively discussing various ways to avoid and avert sequester. Some propose to protect defense spending from sequestration; some propose a range of taxes or entitlement reforms. The discussions will continue, but nothing will be decided until after the Fall election. We can’t speculate what a final product may look like—it is possible the decision will even be delayed until next year, and it is even possible that the sequester may be better than the ultimate available “replacement” package. It is up to us in the meantime to ensure that Members of Congress know we’re still here and fighting for our nation’s most vulnerable children and families.
Thank you again for all that you do,