President Obama's budget documents

Appropriating for Justice



Now it is the time of year when the House Appropriations Committee will be marking up the spending bills that will determine government spending for vital government operations and programs.

Sequestration has added even more complexities to the appropriations process. Sequestration was designed in 2011 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.

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. President Obama’s FY 2016 Budget calls for an end to sequestration and the president said he will not sign any spending measure that keeps sequestration in place. Sequestration must be replaced with other forms of budget savings to ensure that government programs can continue to provide its much-needed services to millions of Americans.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services Funding Bill (or Labor H) includes cuts to important programs that would significantly hurt our most vulnerable. For instance, the bill would cut overall funding for the Departments of Labor, Education and Department of Health and Human Services by approximately $15 billion, or 9% of their current budgets. The proposal would lower early childhood education access, limit the ability for more Americans to have health insurance, and put worker justice issues at risk.

The appropriations process also has some concerning effects on issues of housing and homelessness. The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) funding bill for Fiscal Year 2016. Though the bill prioritizes federal rental assistance, the bill cuts $194 million that would repair and maintain public housing . Since the public housing programs already have an over $26 billion repair backlog, these cuts are especially devastating.

The Reform Movement has long 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.

One way that you can take action is by encouraging Congress to fund the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF). In 2008, Congress created the National Housing Trust Fund (NHTF) under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 to create 3.5 million affordable housing units. The National Housing Trust Fund is the only resource dedicated solely to funding affordable housing for people most at risk of becoming homeless, focusing on the most vulnerable and low-income populations. Take action and urge your Members of Congress to support the National Housing Trust Fund!

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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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