Congress came to a verbal agreement on the debt ceiling Sunday evening. The House voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (bill text) yesterday evening, and the Senate passed it earlier today. All house representatives in California voted in favor of the bill except for a handful of representatives who did not vote. Senators Boxer and Feinstein voted in favor as well. The bill awaits final approval from the president.
Members of Congress and political pundits are still unclear about all the details of the agreement. However, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the deal trims at least $2.1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years, and raises the debt limit in a two-step process. How the spending cuts will actually play out is uncertain. This is what we do know:
- The cap is on federal nutrition programs and it is about to get screwed even tighter. Government-wide budget caps are set for the next ten fiscal years; which means that federal nutrition programs like WIC, TEFAP and CSFP will face even stiffer competition for federal dollars against other federal programs like military and education spending. Entitlement programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and Social Security are exempt from these caps.
- A “Super-Committee” is tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts to the deficit, just in time for Thanksgiving. In less than four months hunger activists will need to influence this plan to ensure hungry children, seniors and families are not bearing the brunt of these cuts. The plan needs to be unveiled by November 23 and approved by December 23.
- A failed Super-Committee plan guarantees an unfair burden placed on middle and low-income families. If Congress fails to pass the super committee plan or enacts less than $1.2 million in cuts, across-the-board cuts will occur. There is one small victory: Social safety-net programs including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SNAP, Child Care and Development Block Grant program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are not subject to these cuts. It is unclear whether TEFAP – which provides food banks with a significant percentage of food – will be on the chopping block. However, all other programs helping middle and low-income families are fair game.
Thank you to our friends at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas for providing this update.