Health CareImmigrationTax & Budget

What to Watch for in the March 23 Spending Bill


Here we go again. Congress once again needs to pass a spending bill to avert a government shutdown, and it needs to do it by March 23. This time the Dream Act isn’t the central issue, and we don’t expect there to be another government shutdown. But there are still a number of important issues that need to be resolved and where you can make a difference. Here’s what you need to watch for and ways you can help protect our most vulnerable communities.

Spending Bills Refresher!

Before we begin, here’s a quick refresher on the types of government spending bills that Congress typically passes:

“CR”: A continuing resolution, this is government-on-autopilot, or a temporary band-aid. It continues current funding levels for a duration of time (usually short, sometimes only a few days or weeks) set by Congress.

“Omnibus”: This is a set of twelve funding bills, which Congress is supposed to pass every year, rolled into one giant funding bill. This funding typically lasts a year.

“CRomnibus”: This is a combination of the two. In a “CRomnibus,” some government departments have their funding extended for a year, and some departments have their funding extended only for a short term on auto-pilot. Congress used this approach in 2015.

Congress will try to pass an Omnibus, but may have to settle for a CRomnibus

Republicans are hoping to pass a spending bill that will take them through the rest of the fiscal year ending on September 30, 2018. Republicans and Democrats have finalized the details in most of the 12 funding bills, but they’ve been putting off some of the most controversial issues until the very end. Negotiations have stalled around the funding allocations within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees both emergency management and immigration enforcement agencies. If negotiators fail to reach a compromise on the DHS components, Congress may need to pass a CRomnibus to avert a shutdown while giving itself additional time to work through the DHS funding levels.

Republicans are intent on jacking up funding for Trump’s deportation machine

If you care about Dreamers, you should care about the ongoing omnibus negotiations. While the Dream Act is not under consideration in the spending bill talks, what is under consideration is the amount of money that will become available to deport them and their families. Trump is asking for billions of dollars in funding for his border wall, additional funding for detention beds and facilities, and an increase in funding for both Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In short, while Congress has failed at providing desperately needed relief for Dreamers, it is about to increase funding for their deportation.

There are other issues you should know about, too.

Health Care

When Trump tried to sabotage the Affordable Care Act last fall, Republicans and Democrats came together to put together legislation (referred to as “Alexander-Murray,” named after Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) to put a stop to it. But since that time, Republicans totally changed the game: they repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a key piece of the law. That totally changes the dynamics of the health care market. And because insurance companies adjusted on their own to Trump’s sabotage, passing this legislation now would actually drive UP costs for consumers. Nonetheless, Mitch McConnell has a promise to keep to Senator Susan Collins (she traded her yes vote on the #GOPTaxScam for passage of this legislation) and he wants it in the Omnibus. That’s good for Republican horse-trading but bad for the American people.

Taxes

Republicans passed the Tax Scam at warp speed in the middle of the night, with handwritten notes in the margins of the pages. It was a disaster and a total perversion of policymaking. So naturally, there are more than a few technical problems with the bill. Now that Republicans have created a huge mess with the bill they passed on a hyper-partisan fast track, they expect Democrats to help them clean up the mess by including fixes to their errors in the Omnibus. And, unfortunately, Democrats are all too eager to help. In fact, Senator Maria Cantwell wants to trade a watered-down version of her Low Income Housing Tax Credit bill in exchange for Tax Scam fixes. Democrats should not be helping Republicans clean up their Tax Scam mess. Period.

Tell your MoCs to oppose increased funding for Trump’s deportation machine

The negotiations are ongoing and so you can make a difference by making it clear to your three members of Congress that you don’t want increased funding for ICE, CBP, and the rest of Trump’s deportation machine. As talks continue, it’ll be up to congressional leadership from both parties whether funding is increased, so they need to hear from rank-and-file members of Congress ASAP. That’s where you come in. Demand that your MoCs let their party leaders that they’re opposed to more funding for Trump’s deportation machine.

SAMPLE CALL SCRIPT

Call Your Members of Congress Now
Caller: Hello! My name is ___ and I’m calling from [part of state]. I wanted to know the [Representative / Senator]’s position on funding for immigration enforcement in the omnibus. Trump wants more funding for immigration agents, detention beds, and border wall money. Will [Representative / Senator] support increased funding for immigration enforcement?

Staffer: Thank you for calling. [Representative / Senator] thinks that we need to fix our broken immigration system, but we need to start by respecting our laws. He supports funding for ICE, CBP, and for border security because it’s necessary to keep our communities safe.

Caller: That’s disappointing. Congress has failed to provide relief for Dreamers and hundreds continue to lose their protections every day. It is unacceptable that as Dreamers continue to wait for relief, [Representative / Senator] plans to vote for making it easier for Trump to deport them.

For Democrats

I demand that [Representative / Senator] tell [Leader Nancy Pelosi / Senator Schumer] to oppose more money for ICE, CBP, or detention beds.

For Republicans

I demand that [Representative / Senator] tell [Speaker Paul Ryan / Mitch McConnell] to oppose more money for ICE, CBP, or detention beds.

Staffer: I'll pass your message to the [Representative / Senator].

Caller: Yes please do, and please take down my contact information so you can let me know what the Senator decides to do on future votes.