Congress Left Priorities Unfinished and Went Home
Congress left for 2017 after rapidly passing a major tax overhaul and preventing a government shutdown for another month, leaving a number of “must do items” undone. These include:
1) Passage of the Dream Act for the young immigrants who have grown up in the U.S. and know this country as home. More than 100 DACA recipients lose their legal status ever day Congress delays and hundreds of thousands more will endure the holidays with the prospect of deportation and family separation looming over their heads.
2) Reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Special Diabetes Program for Indians (SDPI). CHIP provides health coverage for millions of children in low- and moderate-income households. SDPI is a federal grant program that provides funds for diabetes treatment and prevention to Indian Health Services, Tribal, and Urban Indian health programs across the United States. Both expired in September.
3) Desperately needed disaster assistance for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, and California. Puerto Rico is about to run out of Medicaid dollars.
4) Bipartisan legislation to help stabilize the health insurance markets.
5) A budget deal to fund the federal government for a fiscal year that is already three months in. Democrats are resisting any increase in Pentagon spending that is not matched dollar for dollar with non-defense spending.
6) Then, after agreeing upon the overall levels of spending, Congress has to allocate the dollars among all the annually appropriated federal programs.
Instead of doing its job, Congress passed a short-term extension for all government funding until January 19 and temporarily funding CHIP and SDPI through March. Kicking the can yet again, the mass of unfinished business means real consequences for millions of Americans.
As we turn to 2018, Congress must address the above issues, nearly all within the initial weeks of January. At the same time, FCNL sees additional legislative threats on the horizon, including:
Preventing war with North Korea
Ending US military support that fuels the humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Blocking efforts to pay for the most recent tax bill by cutting essential services for struggling families, such as SNAP (formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and Social Security Disability Insurance
Opposing further resources going towards militarizing our border, escalating deportation and detention, and increasing immigration enforcement
2017 has been a tumultuous year, and its close in Washington leaves just as much uncertainty as the year began. We’ve had a number of legislative victories, defeating many of the worst legislative proposals. We’ve also had some losses. But FCNL ends this year in a stronger position to advance the work in the New Year. The past year has shown the power of constituent advocacy and FCNL’s place in this work.
So rest up and enjoy the holidays. We wish you happy times with family and loved ones. And be ready for another big year. The 2018 legislative agenda is starting early and it’s starting crowded. Let 2018 be the year Congress hears FCNL more powerfully than ever before.