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Turn the Heat Up

Both the House and the Senate have adjourned for the August recess. Federal lawmakers are back in district, talking with constituents and doing site visits in communities to learn more about the issues that are of deepest concern to their voters.

During the last few months, we’ve worked together to fight back a barrage of attacks on the basic needs programs that help struggling families scrape by. So far, we’ve done amazing work together as programs like SNAP and Medicaid remain intact. The August recess gives us a chance to take a breath to regroup, but by no means does it mean letting up on our efforts. The August recess gives us opportunities to educate lawmakers to help inform their decisions when they resume work on many of these issues in the fall. Here’s what we can expect:

Federal Appropriations

Congress must pass a spending package by September 30th or else we risk a government shutdown with the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1. Both the White House and the House Budget Committee have put out budget proposals that would slash safety net programs and gut discretionary spending programs that help provide basic needs and promote economic growth. The House budget also includes a fast track process that can make it easier for Congress to pass sweeping changes to entitlement programs that would end these programs as we know them by turning them into block grants. Block grants will make these programs will lose the flexibility to provide a safety net for any of us during times of economic need.

Health Care

The effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act suffered a big set back in the Senate last month, but Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell can still call back this issue for a vote at any time. Before the Senate adjourned last Friday, a new repeal and replace bill was openly circulated among Congressional Republicans and Governors. At the same time, there is new energy for a bipartisan approach to stabilizing the insurance markets and fixing health care costs, including an effort to repair the Affordable Care Act, led by Sen. Lemar Alexander and our own, Sen. Patty Murray.

Tax Reform and Immigration

We may also see proposals emerge on tax reform, a high priority issue for Sen. McConnell and for President Trump. We do not have details yet about what this may look like, but it would likely be similar to ideas already proposed in the White House and House budget proposals that would primarily create new tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and corporations, offset by deep cuts to the safety net.

Complicating the agenda for fall action is a new immigration reform bill, the RAISE Act, introduced days before the Senate adjourned. The bill would rehaul our visa program from one focused on family reunification to a points based system that favors high skilled workers that have English proficiency. Our primary concerns with the bill are the provisions that would restrict access to SNAP, health care and income support programs for both points visa holders and anyone in their household, including US citizen spouses and children.

During the hot weather weeks of August, we need to turn the heat up on our advocacy: get out to town halls and other community events that your member of Congress is attending; invite lawmakers to your program for a site visit to talk with constituents first hand. Make sure your message is heard so that when Congress is back in session in September, your member knows that your vote will depend on how they approach the programs that help our families in need.