Tell the Senate to Vote No on Disastrous Discretionary Spending Caps

In what looks like an attempt to out-fiscal-hawk President Obama, Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) have introduced an amendment that would impose strict limits on discretionary spending for the next three years. The amendment sets limits far lower than Obama's already low budget proposal, and it even includes a cap on defense discretionary spending, something the President's proposal does not do. Such caps would result in drastic cuts to many vital economic safety net programs and public protection agencies, negatively impacting the lives of millions of Americans. And while the two senators claim that the amendment will reduce the deficit, in reality, because discretionary spending is so little of the federal budget, the amendment's deficit-reducing effects will be minimal.

Enacting these caps would be the height of irresponsibility. Placing limits on discretionary spending locks in spending levels prior to knowing our nation's needs in the coming few years, which will leave us flat-footed and unable to respond to unforeseen challenges. Without thorough debate about whether these programs are protecting the well-being of the men, women, and children they serve, Congress will be ignoring its responsibility to meet the needs of the nation. A responsible budget is one that has the flexibility to fully fund the nation's priorities while maintaining sustainable levels of debt.

There are many reasons why the Sessions-McCaskill amendment is an irresponsible move that will bring harm to our nation:

  • Cuts to food safety programs will result in even more sickness and death caused by contaminants in the nation's food supply.
  • Cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will restrict access to vital nutritional assistance that so many of our friends and neighbors need in these harsh economic times.
  • Cuts in the Treasury Department's budget will allow more tax cheats to break the law and escape paying their fair share of taxes.
  • Cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will hinder the nation's ability to prepare for hurricanes, blizzards, and climate change.

The Sessions-McCaskill amendment could force all of these things and more to happen, without thorough debate in Congress, simply because of arbitrary caps enacted years earlier. Even worse, the caps cannot be adjusted except by supermajority votes in both houses.

Long-term fiscal imbalances are a threat to the economy and should be addressed; however, the Sessions-McCaskill amendment does nothing to reverse the trend toward unsustainable national debt. And, in the short-term, reducing the federal budget deficit will stifle the emerging economic recovery while punching holes through the already frayed safety net.

Contact you senators using this form. Tell them that the Sessions-McCaskill amendment is bad for the nation and that we need a budget that responds to the needs of all Americans. Tell them to vote no on S.Amdt. 3453.

For more information, check out the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which has an excellent rundown on just how bad this amendment is.

Image by Flickr user talkradionews used under a Creative Commons license.

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