The record-breaking floods over the past week in Houston sadly remind us all of the fragility of our homes and refuges in the face of extreme weather. Many homes were destroyed in the severe flooding in Houston, along with two synagogues. Help support the people affected by the floods in Houston through the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston here. The floods also remind of the many individuals whose were not lost, but who were experiencing homelessness before and now will have to face even greater challenges to be safe and secure in a home of their own. While we reach out to and try to support those in Houston, we must also take action to ensure accessible, affordable housing for all people through legislative advocacy.
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.
As Congress and the administration consider different approaches to allocating the funding to run our government, we are here to discuss the budget negotiations on our country’s most vulnerable populations. We believe that the federal budget is a moral document. We want to support vital domestic programs that respond to the needs of people in need.
In Deuteronomy, one of the five books of Moses, we are taught “If… there is a needy person among you… do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your kin. Rather, you must open your hand and lend whatever is sufficient. “Let us pray that our budget will keep maintain these ideals.
As people of faith, we advocate for a just and compassionate federal budget that will promote the dignity of all Americans and will protect the vulnerable.
Yet let us also be called to act: given this knowledge given to us during this webinar and our passions, let us “speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy.” Let us advocate for a budget that will do just that.
We pray for a budget that well help all Americans and ensure a bright future for the country.
As people of faith, our Jewish values encourage us to advocate for systems that can lift people out of poverty. Jewish history also provides us with an example for helping the needy. During Talmudic times, much of tzedakah (justice) was done though tax-financed, community-run programs that helped those in needed, paralleling the social safety net that we continue to fight for today. Coming from the President, his proposed federal budget is a list of priorities for how funding should be spent in the year to come. Our budget is a moral document that can create the platform for addressing these and other injustices.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has estimated that the President’s budget would slightly reduce the debt as a share of GDP (gross domestic product) over the first ten years and would then stabilize it through 2040. This finding signifies how the budget President Obama has proposed is one that is responsible while also continuing to fund many important human needs programs. Read more…
At the State of the Union on Tuesday night, President Obama announced his proposals for the upcoming year, discussing his agenda for the next year. Throughout his speech, President Obama stressed the importance of having a budget that can truly help Americans and expand opportunity. He reminded all those watching about the different programs and improvements will address: “we set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity. We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure.” These programs are important, and we hope that they will not be cut or that funding to them will not be sacrificed in order to make room for more programs.
Debate over the “CRomnibus” spending bill closed out the 113th Congress—and 2014—with a bang. Ultimately, Congress passed the bill to avoid another shutdown and to fund the government until September 2015, the end of the fiscal year. But, lawmakers opposed the bill for its harmful policy riders, which, as my colleague Melanie Fineman explained, are amendments attached to legislation in its last stages to alter the language or to attach a new idea on a bill on which a compromise has already been reached.
One rider of particular concern will allow wealthy political contributors to give even more money to political parties. The provision creates three distinct funds within each national party, allowing individual donors to contribute up to $97,200 to each fund, each year. That’s $324,000 per year, or $648,000 per two-year election cycle. Until now, individual contributions to national parties were limited to $32,400 per year, or $64,800 in a two-year cycle. So, individual donors are now allowed to give 10 times the previous limit to finance national party activities, opening a dangerous door for wealthy contributors to gain undue influence on our political system. Read more…
Last week, Congress approved a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through September 30, 2015, the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The passage of this bill avoided a government shutdown by funding the federal government – except for the defense budget, which is appropriated separately – for the next nine months.
As my colleague Melanie Fineman described, a number of Members of Congress objected to the bill because it contained harmful policy riders, amendments attached to legislation in its last stages to alter the language or to attach a new idea on a bill on which a compromise has already been reached. One policy rider in the spending bill seriously weakened the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory legislation, and another will allow wealthy political contributors to give even more money to political parties. The Hyde Amendment is a classic example of a policy rider: for every budget passed by Congress, anti-choice members attach language that prohibits any taxpayer funding for abortion services. Though the Hyde Amendment has not been voted on solely by itself or only on its own merits, it has been the effective law of the land since 1976. Read more…
At the end of the 113th Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives voted to fund the federal government through the end of September 30, 2015, or to the end of the 2015 fiscal year. The passage of this bill avoided a government shut down by funding the federal government – except for the defense budget, which is appropriated separately – for the next nine months.
As people of faith, we advocate for a just and compassionate federal budget that will promote the dignity of all Americans and will protect the vulnerable. And, in this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dreams as foreshadowing seven years of prosperity, followed by seven years of famine (Genesis 41:1-32). We must ensure that our federal government will not act in ways that will ultimately lead to or create more poverty in the future.