President Obama's budget documents

Appropriating to Meet Our Values



With the budget process moving along, the appropriations process also kicks in. Budget season allows for the president and the two chambers of Congress to lay out their priorities vis-à-vis funding levels for government programs and agencies. The appropriations process is when Congress sets the amounts in real funds, and requires a lot of negotiations and debate. And, the possibility that all the important government programs that need full funding will get it is slim.

The House Appropriations Committee began by taking the sequester-level cap of $1.017 trillion used in the GOP budget (effectively frozen from the current year) and dividing it up among the 12 spending bills. These allocations – known as 302(b)s, and which set funding levels for each of the 12 appropriations subcommittees – were approved last Wednesday.

Sequestration was designed to put pressure on Congress to reach an agreement on budget cuts. Under sequestration, $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board federal spending cuts began in 2013 and will last through 2021, with separate caps for defense and non-defense appropriations. In 2011, Congress set a goal for themselves of cutting it by $1.2 trillion spread out over ten years. The Reform Movement has long been outspoken against sequestration that accompany the programs that disproportionately impact our most vulnerable.

Sequestration was designed to hurt everyone’s priorities, so that everyone would have an incentive to avoid it. As such, its cuts are drastic and far-reaching – it requires big hits to both defense spending and things like programs for Women, Infants, and Children. The sequester has caused social service programs around the country to cut services: people who are long-term unemployed have had reduced benefits, and in 2013 there was a $2 billion cut to housing assistance. President Obama’s Budget calls for an end to sequestration and he said he will not sign any spending measure that keeps sequestration in place.

As a Reform Movement, we have approached the challenge of deficit reduction by seeking a balanced plan of cuts and revenue increases in the long term, while avoiding placing the onus of deficit reduction efforts on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. We do so guided by what we are taught in Proverbs: “One who withholds what is due to the poor affronts the Creator; one who cares for the needy honors God” (14:31). As the budget process moves forward, we call on Congress to avoid the severe austerity that has proven to be ineffective and that we know to be unjust.

It is up to us to encourage our Members of Congress to advocate for the programs that we as Reform Jews care about so deeply. We must encourage our Members of Congress to support child nutrition programs, fund the National Housing Trust Fund, and support the social safety net programs that our most vulnerable rely on every day.

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Melanie Fineman

About Melanie Fineman

Melanie Fineman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated from Brown University in 2014 and is originally from Newton, Massachusetts, where she is a member of Temple Shalom of Newton.

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    […] is in the middle of the arduous appropriations process, in which all the programs, agencies and departments run by federal government are given their […]

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