by Tiffany Kaszuba, Senior Policy Associate
Sequestration sounds like a nasty disease but for NDD United, led by our own Emily Holubowich and supported by 2,500 national, state, and local organizations, it is a poor policy tool that is holding the country back from making critical investments in everything from education to public health, natural resources to public safety, science to housing, and infrastructure to nutrition programs. The unbiased budget cuts have placed such austere caps on federal domestic funding that the level of funding for all of these “nondefense discretionary” programs (or NDD as they are referred to by budget wonks) is at the lowest level since the Eisenhower Administration (the furthest back there are data on this category of spending).
After a two year break from sequestration courtesy of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (aka the “Ryan-Murray” Deal), sequestration cuts are scheduled to come back in full force this fall. Despite bipartisan agreement that this portion of the budget is not contributing to our debt and calls from budget experts to make a deal, Congress has not yet begun negotiations to replace the harmful cuts - and time is running short of they want to do it before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.. This has led to a complete halt in the appropriations process, with Democrats blocking Senate bills that lock in the harmful cuts. Couple that with the Republicans vowing to not support any bill that funds Planned Parenthood and keeping the government open past the September 30th deadline seems impossible.
In response, NDD United joined with 2,500 organizations across NDD sectors and across the country to call for an end to the harmful cuts. The letter outlined the group’s demands for a deal, namely:
- A deal should consider the deep cuts that have already been made to nondefense discretionary programs starting in 2010 and not continue to cut these programs which have already done their part to reduce the deficit.
- Relief given to NDD should be equal, dollar to dollar, to the relief that is provided to the defense side of the ledger.
To make an even bigger splash on Capitol Hill, NDD United launched a fundraising campaign that earned enough support from organizations across NDD sectors to purchase hats emblazoned with “Raise the Caps” to distribute to all Capitol Hill offices. The caps, along with a copy of the letter, were distributed on September 10th by more than 50 volunteers armed with their own caps and NDD tote bags.
Further raising the campaign's visibility, Emily joined NDD United Co-Chair Joel Packer of the Committee for Education Funding, Representatives Chris Van Hollen (MD) Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Barbara Lee (CA) and NDD United advocates for a press conference calling for Congress to avoid a shutdown and begin work on a deal that replaces sequestration. With caps in hands and on heads, the speakers outlined the consequences of these painful cuts on Americans from every walk in life.
Adding to the excitement of the day, Representative Van Hollen announced that he and Representatives Lee and DeLauro would be introducing the “Prevent a Government Shutdown Act of 2015” (H.R. 3476) that would require Congress to set up a leadership conference to develop a plan to be enacted before October 1. The plan would require parity for defense and no defense - that is, to replace the cuts equally for defense and nondefense. Should Congress fail to do so, the caps in the President’s budget, which replace all of sequestration, would take effect.
Of course, no campaign is complete without a strong social media presence and #RaisetheCaps exceeded everyone’s expectations. In fact, during the late morning and early afternoon, NDDUnited and #RaisetheCaps were the number one and two trending topics on Twitter in Washington, DC. Overall, there were almost 1,200 tweets and 4 million impressions (number of people who viewed the tweets) over the course of the day. Emily also published a blog on the need to raise the caps in “The Hill” the following morning which is available here. The story was also picked up by Federal News Radio.
As the September 30th deadline quickly approaches, Congress is faced with a number of decisions on how to move forward in funding the government. While the media will largely be focused on Planned Parenthood and a possible government shutdown, this underlying issue of austerity will also play a large role in negotiations moving forward and their decision will have an impact on all Americans.
NDD United extends sincere gratitude for all of the support received by the steering committee, sponsors, volunteers, and advocates that help make the campaign a success time and time again. For more information about NDD United and our supporters, please visit www.nddunited.org.