House Priorities about Protecting Defense Spending at Expense of Low-Income Families

May 09, 2012

By Helly Lee

UPDATE: The House of Representatives passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, on May 10 with 218 voting yea, 199 voting nay and 1 present. Although the Senate is unlikely to take up this bill, these types of cuts to vital safety net programs will continue to be a basis for debate throughout the year.

This week, the House Budget Committee debated and passed a harsh and unbalanced budget package that takes drastic measures to protect the defense budget-while making deep cuts to programs helping low-income working families and communities. The reconciliation bill is expected to make its way to the House floor for a vote this Thursday, May 10.

Last year's bipartisan Budget Control Act attempted to motivate lawmakers of both parties to come to agreement on deficit reduction plans by putting into place automatic cuts, known as  "sequestration,"  across all discretionary programs, both defense and domestic, starting in 2013, unless an alternative plan is agreed upon. The budget committee bill would break that agreement, creating "savings" by disproportionately slashing programs for the nation's most vulnerable. The cuts, though, will cost children, workers and families greatly.

Specifically, the bill would make significant cuts to:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) - Tasked with developing $33 billion in savings over 10 years in the House budget resolution, the Agriculture Committee decided to take it all out of one program, and go above and beyond the target amount, with cuts to SNAP (formerly called Food Stamps) of $36 billion. All SNAP recipients would see cuts in their benefits and some 2 million low-income individuals would lose SNAP benefits entirely. Nearly 280,000 low-income children would also lose free school meals. These cuts are not only harmful, but short-sighted. As my colleague, Elizabeth Lower-Basch, pointed out recently, the program has proven effective for reducing poverty and improving health.

Social Services - The reconciliation bill proposes to terminate the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which provides funding for child care, child welfare and elderly services programs, by cutting $17 billion over 10 years.

Child Tax Credit - $7.6 billion would be cut over 10 years from the Child Tax Credit by prohibiting parents from claiming credit for their children if they use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), as opposed to a Social Security Number to file their taxes. The cut will especially impact an estimated 5.5 million children from hard-working low-income immigrant families.

While cuts are being made to these programs, the budget reconciliation raises spending for defense programs, sending a clear message that the House majority believes the budget should be balanced on the backs of low-income families, children and the elderly. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a good analysis of additional cuts in the bill.

It's important that members of Congress know where their constituents stand on cuts to low-income programs. The Coalition on Human Needs, of which CLASP is a member, has a quick and easy online tool to urge your Representative to vote against these harmful cuts

Although the House will vote tomorrow, the FY 2013 budget process is not over. CLASP is working extensively with our partner organizations to urge Congress to protect low-income families and children in the budget debate. A balanced approach to reducing the deficit and deciding our nation’s spending priorities is important for families’ well-being as much as the nation’s well-being. 

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