As Negotiations Continue, a Balanced Approach is Essential
In the final hour, the Administration and Congress averted the so-called "fiscal cliff," including evading the January 2 timeline for sequestration, or across the board spending cuts. The cuts themselves however were not averted, but rather delayed by two months to March 1. Once again policymakers have an opportunity to negotiate and come to agreement on action that would prevent harmful cuts to a host of important programs, including child care, Head Start, and a range of other education, health and human services programs. And so, while there was much build up and uncertainty approaching the January cliff, we must recognize that this isn't over yet -- and child care and early education programs, as well as other non-defense discretionary programs, are still at risk.
Coupled with pending sequestration is a set of additional budget decisions Congress will need to make. Recent estimates project that we will hit the debt ceiling, the point at which the government runs out of money and cannot pay all of its debts, sometime between February 15 and March 1. However, on Wednesday, the House voted to suspend the debt limit until May. This may prevent the US from defaulting on its obligations, but it does not solve our fiscal challenges. The FY 2013 budget, which began last October, has not been affirmed and is still under a continuing resolution (CR) through the end of March, so Congress will need to make decisions on final spending levels before then, in addition to dealing with the sequester.
CLASP, together with the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), hosted an audio call last week explaining the sequence of events to come, including the approaching debt ceiling, pending sequestration, the 2013 CR and the upcoming FY 2014 budget. You can get more details by reading this transcript of the call.
While the budget numbers, timetables and partisan negotiating tactics seem to change by the day, one thing is clear: advocates must continue to be vigilant and sound the alarm that our children and our country cannot afford the pending sequester cuts or other proposals to reduce critical services and supports for vulnerable children and families. Congress must take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that avoids the most harmful cuts that impact vulnerable children and families and includes additional revenue increases to support critical government investments that afford opportunity to all children.