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Policy Focus: A Tale of Two Budgets

April 2013

Bread for the World’s 2013 Offering of Letters, “A Place at the Table,” is in full swing, and now is the time to contact your legislators. On Capitol Hill, several proposals threaten programs that alleviate hunger and poverty. Below is a list of current legislation affecting programs for people who are living with hunger and poverty:

Continuing Resolution

Both the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through September, the end of the fiscal year. This averted a government shutdown, but will result in reductions in spending on the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) and many poverty-focused development assistance (PFDA) programs. The Senate passed the bill 73-26, and the House approved it 318-109. President Barack Obama signed the continuing resolution into law on Tuesday, March 26, 2013.

Sequestration

The  sequester is in effect and poised to cut programs on which vulnerable populations rely. Sequestration will impose a 5 percent across-the-board cut to federal programs, including WIC and PFDA, for the remainder of fiscal year 2013. For more on sequestration basics, and a list of anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs that are affected, download our fact sheet "The Consequences of Sequestration" or read this overview of a recent webinar conducted by Bread and our Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) coalition partners.

The sequester does not have to stay in effect for the next nine years. Many members of Congress are hoping a grand bargain can emerge that replaces sequestration with a mix of revenues and some more responsible spending cuts. However, members of Congress will only develop the political will to enact such a grand bargain if they face enough public outcry to replace it. If Congress fails to replace sequestration with a more balanced deficit reduction package by the fall, it is very likely the sequestration cuts will remain.

Budget Resolutions

The House and Senate budget committees released their FY14 budget proposals. Both budgets passed on strict party-line votes. Bread for the World released a comparison chart of the two proposals, evaluating them in terms of how they would affect hungry and poor people. The House proposal would drastically cut programs that serve vulnerable populations—66 percent of the cuts would come from programs that serve low-income people— while the Senate version takes a more balanced approach. See Bread for the World's press release for details.

The White House will release its budget on April 8.

Farm Bill/SNAP

Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) introduced H. Res. 90, a resolution in support of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), along with Reps. Fudge (D-Ohio), DeLauro (D-Conn.), and George Miller (D-Calif.). This resolution is very similar to H. Res. 760, which was introduced last year and had more than 100 cosponsors. Currently, H. Res. 90 has 36 cosponsors and we are urging more members to sign on to show their support for SNAP. To view the latest list of cosponsors, go here. If your representative is not on the list, please invite him or her to cosponsor.

On the Senate side, we continue efforts to push back against Senator Roberts’ (R-Kan.) SNAP cut bill. The Improve Nutrition Program Integrity and Deficit Reduction Act (S. 458), would cut more than $36 billion from SNAP. This bill is similar to the budget reconciliation bill approved by the House Agriculture Committee and passed by the full House of Representatives in May 2012 by party-line votes. Senator Thune (R-S.D.) and Senator Johanns (R-Neb.) have both signed on to the bill. While we do not expect this bill to become law, it’s possible the full package or individual provisions could be offered as amendments in the Budget Committee markup or in other bills considered by the Senate Agriculture Committee or on the Senate floor.

Petition the President

We now have more than 8,000 signatures on the petition asking President Barack Obama to set a goal and work with Congress to end hunger at home and abroad.  If you haven’t already done so, sign the petition today, and encourage others in your network to join you.
Congress is on recess through April 8.


FEATURED PHOTO: More than 5 million older Americans struggle to put food on the table, and another 3.5 million live in poverty. The House budget would cut millions of meals from the Meals on Wheels program. Photo courtesy Meals on Wheels

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