Congress’ leaders and President Trump care about getting tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations – that much has been established.
But how about carrying out the most basic responsibilities of government? Such as: ensuring the stable continuation of health coverage for children and operations of community health centers; helping to alleviate the suffering of people trying to recover from disasters; continuing the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; renewing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act; providing permanent legal status and a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, as overwhelmingly favored on a bipartisan basis across the nation. Oh – and keeping adequate funds flowing to government services. These are the things Congress and the Trump Administration should make happen. But they’re not. Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and President Trump kicked the can to December 22, just before Christmas, because they couldn’t come to grips with meeting their responsibilities before then. Now, it looks like they will do it again – another can-kick to January 19, with short-term flat funding so government doesn’t shut down. But no relief for the Dreamers, 122 of whom lose legal status every day and thus risk deportation while the failed leadership thwarts bipartisan willingness to provide legal status.
Will they do anything about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)? It’s fluid as I write; but the stopgap bill in the House provides $2.85 billion through the end of March and continues to allow funds to be shifted from one state to another. That is not expected to cover all the costs through March and may not prevent more states from sending out notices to families that they may lose their children’s insurance. A new report estimates that if CHIP doesn’t get renewed by January nearly two million children may lose coverage, with a million more at risk in February. It is grossly irresponsible to leave families hanging in this way.
On December 6, the Coalition on Human Needs joined with more than 100 national groups in calling upon Congress to put First Things First and carry out these responsibilities. Since then, they’ve passed a grossly inequitable tax cut and punted on everything else except the most short-term fixes. So CHN wrote another letter today telling Congress to vote down a sorely deficient stopgap spending bill and replace it by dealing with these urgent issues. We don’t want to delay anyone’s holiday, but we do have to hold Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and President Trump accountable for putting tax cuts for the wealthy before health care, disaster relief, and basic security for millions of people.
This failure of leadership is hurting people. While the majority party will be home for the holidays celebrating their tax cuts (at least where the angry public is not likely to see them), Dreamers will be frightened about being separated from their families and losing all they’ve worked for. Every single day, another 122 Dreamers lose their legal status. People in Puerto Rico, at least one thousand of whom have died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, need safe water and access to health care. The leadership has shown how little it cares about our citizens living in Puerto Rico. Despite its tattered economy, Congress has not yet waived Puerto Rico’s required Medicaid match, or waived matching requirements for emergency rebuilding funds. And the tax bill hit Puerto Rico even harder by levying a new tax that may discourage business investment there.
More harm: the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program is a cost-effective way to improve maternal and newborn health and school readiness in children, and to reduce domestic violence. It’s not on the list for reauthorization and more funding now. Youth in trouble need services and supports, not incarceration. Reauthorizing the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act would stop jail time for youth who skip school.
So much more is at stake. Even the 2020 Census, constitutionally required and necessary to ensure fair redistricting and allocation of funds, is underfunded. Adequate funds for housing, nutrition, child care and job training are lacking. A bipartisan deal to increase budget caps would help, but that isn’t done either.
We deserve better.