Senator Harkin’s Report on Impact of Sequestration

By jschneidewind on August 3, 2012 in Policy/Advocacy

by Donna Crews, Director of Government Affairs

On Wednesday, July 25, 2012, the Senate Appropriations Committee–Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies held a hearing on The Impact of Sequestration on the Nondefense Discretionary (NDD) portfolio (the hearing was webcasted and can be accessed here). At the hearing Senator Harkin released his report, “Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services,” (here, prepared by the Senate Labor-HHS subcommittee based on data provided by the departments under its jurisdiction) which provides data by state on the impact of sequestration. From an HIV perspective, both HIV testing and the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) are mentioned and reviewed in the report.

As Senator Harkin explains:

So far, we’ve heard a great deal about sequestration’s impact on Pentagon spending. The defense industry has highlighted the potential impacts of across-the-board cut on defense-related jobs and services. Some Members of Congress are now demanding that we exempt the Pentagon from sequestration, either by finding offsets for the defense cuts only, or by making nondefense programs bear the full brunt of the entire $1.2 trillion in cuts.

But sequestration wouldn’t apply only to defense. It would also have destructive impacts on the whole array of Federal activities that promote and protect the middle class in this country – everything from education to job training, medical research, child care, worker safety, food safety, national parks, border security and safe air travel. These essential government services directly touch every family in America, and they will be subject to deep, arbitrary cuts under sequestration.

Soon after the hearing a rally–“Rally to Restore Balance: Protect America’s Families” was held in the Senate Park with approximately 300 people in attendance to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) led the event, at which Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Representative George Miller (D-CA), and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, AZ spoke on how cuts to NDD would hurt most Americans.

Also speaking at the rally were small business owner Martin Knott and single-working mom Rita Ngabo, both explaining  how the government helps them through job training and child care services. There was a lot of enthusiasm from the speakers and the crowd to protect NDD and the programs that serve all Americans and to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The event also drew diverse media outlets, including video coverage from Al Jazeera, PBS, and CNN and reporters from Politico, The Huffington Post, and more.

In subsequent conversations with the Administration, AIDS United staff has learned that the Administration continues to work with Congress to avoid the sequester scheduled for January. The Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients believes that in the remaining five months, Congress will find a way to avoid the impending sequester with an alternative plan to address the deficit. However, Mr. Zients issued a Memorandum on July 31 to all agencies outlining measures they should review with the General Counsel in order to determine what programs would be exempted from the sequester. He stated the Administration’s intends to uphold the military personnel exemption, which would increase the burden of funding cuts to the remaining Defense appropriations.

Jeffery Zients stated in a hearing on August 1 before House Armed Services committee (testimony here):

I want to start today by reiterating a point the Administration first made when the President signed the Budget Control Act (BCA) last August: the Joint Committee sequestration, by design, is bad policy, and Congress should pass balanced, bipartisan deficit reduction to avoid it. The intent of including the sequestration in the BCA was to encourage Congress to enact a compromise deficit reduction plan through the threat of mutually disagreeable cuts to both defense and non-defense programs. If allowed to occur, the sequestration would be highly destructive to domestic investments, national security, and core government functions.

In related news, the House, Senate, and Administration agreed on a six-month Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded at the agreed-upon FY2013 level of $1.047 trillion from October 1 until March 2013. The bill will be finalized during August and ready for a September vote, when the Congress returns from recess. This amount is $19 billion higher than the Ryan House passed budget, but is the amount that was agreed to in the BCA of 2011. Finalizing the FY2013 appropriations process even in the short term lessens the amount of work that must be finalized after the election in the lame duck session.

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