Funded through the annual appropriations process, federal discretionary programs for low-income, vulnerable populations that LSA members serve are critical to the health, well-being, and independence of millions of Americans. Yet, funding for discretionary programs has not kept pace with inflation or population growth for decades, and current levels are inadequate to meet the ever-growing demand for services. LSA urges Congress to fund critical non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs at levels that protect and strengthen them.
Where Things Stand
Facing a return to discretionary spending levels created in the 2011 deficit reduction law, congressional leaders and the White House came together in October 2015 to reach a two-year agreement that allowed for an additional $80 billion in discretionary dollars for fiscal 2016 and fiscal 2017. With these overall spending levels set, lawmakers began work to compile all 12 appropriations bills into one comprehensive spending package, or omnibus, by the end of the year. On December 18, Congress cleared and the President signed a $1.15 trillion omnibus spending package (PL 114-113), marking the end of a contentious debate over fiscal 2016 government funding.
Critical Negotiations are Underway: This Thanksgiving, Tell Congress to Support Children, Youth, and Families
Earlier this month, Congress passed and the President signed a two-year budget deal, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA). In part, the agreement eliminates some of the harmful sequester cuts to programs and services that support the communities, individuals, and families you serve. However, the BBA does not include enough sequester relief to increase funding for all of the programs that are subject to it, and we don’t yet know what programs will see increases. That’s because it’s up to Congress to make these decisions through the annual appropriations process.
These negotiations are currently underway, as lawmakers hope to begin consideration of key spending bills when they return to Washington after the Thanksgiving holiday. This means the next few weeks are critical. As Congress nears decisions about what programs to prioritize, your Representatives and Senators need to hear from you about why increasing investments in programs that serve children, youth, and families (CYF) is important to you and your community. Weigh in today!
CALL CONGRESS: Speak directly to your Member’s staff and tell them personally why it is critical to increase funding for CYF programs. Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected.
EMAIL CONGRESS: Tell your Members of Congress why they must support increased funding for kids and families. Go to each Member’s website and submit your comments via the established portals. To connect with your Senators, please click here. For your Representatives, please follow this link. Make sure to personalize your message!
THE MESSAGE: As a constituent and a faith-based provider in my community, I urge you to invest in programs that that serve children, youth, and families in the FY16 budget. Vulnerable, low-income families are among those hit hardest by the extreme cuts in previous years. This year, please prioritize America’s future by utilizing the additional funding approved by Congress to support CYF programs.
Tell Congress to Increase Funding for Aging Programs
Congress recently passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which means there are additional dollars for lamwkers to increase funding for and restore past cuts to programs. But, it will be up to Members of Congress to decide how those funds are spent, and these decisions are currently being made. To highlight the importance of investing in programs that keep seniors healthy and safe in their homes and communities, LSA is partnering with other national organizations to host a call-in and email campaign around FY16 funding for aging programs. It is critical that your Representatives and Senators hear from you about why increasing investments in aging programs is important to you and your community. Please call and email Congress, and ask others to do the same!
CALL CONGRESS: Speak directly to your Member’s staff and tell them personally why it is critical to increase funding for aging programs! Call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to be connected.
EMAIL CONGRESS: Tell your Members why funding for aging programs must be increased! Click here to send your email, and make sure to tell your personal story!
THE MESSAGE: Please help older adults age with independence and dignity by adequately funding nondefense discretionary senior services programs in the FY16 budget. These programs are the backbone of the nation’s home and community based services system, and provide older adults with in-home support, meals, volunteer opportunities, transportation, caregiver support, and ombudsman programs that also protect residents in nursing homes.
Urge Your Lawmakers to Increase Funding for Critical Programs in FY16
The Balanced Budget Act of 2015 (BBA) raises sequestration caps by $80 billion over the next two years. For the upcoming fiscal year, FY16, it provides $33 billion more for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs than would have been available if the sequester caps had not been lifted. The deal raises the caps by only $23 billion more for FY17, meaning THIS YEAR, not next, is our best opportunity to secure funding increases. Appropriators will now determine new allocations for the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees of both the House and Senate. It is critical that they hear from you NOW about the importance of investing in programs critical to those you serve. Congress has until December 11, when the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out, to pass a final FY16 omnibus spending bill, so things are suddenly moving very quickly. Act Today! Call or Email your Representatives and Senators, and ask other advocates to do the same!
- Call - The US Capitol Switchboard can connect you to your Members of Congress: (202) 224-3121
- Email - Go to each Member’s website and submit your comments via the established portals. To connect with their comment submission forms: Senate and House.
FY16 Omnibus Signed Into Law
December 18, 2015 - House leaders released the FY16 omnibus in the early hours of December 16, 2015, and by noon on December 18, it had cleared Congress, with the president signing it hours later. The $1.15 trillion measure provides fresh line-by-line guidance to every agency through September 30, 2016. For more information on what’s in the omnibus and what’s not, see these summaries from House Democrats, House Republicans, Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, or the bill text.
Thanksgiving Recess Update
November 25, 2015 - Since passage of the BBA, Congressional appropriators in the House and Senate have been re-writing and reconciling their FY16 spending bills. Lawmakers still hope to compile all 12 annual spending bills into one comprehensive package, known as an omnibus, before the Continuing Resolution (CR) currently funding the federal government expires on December 11. To meet this deadline, the appropriations subcommittees will work through the Thanksgiving recess, making the majority of program-level funding decisions before Congress returns on November 30, and leaving only the major sticking points - controversial policy riders - to be resolved among House and Senate leaders. Should negotiators fail to strike deals on some or all of the 12 individual bills that collectively fund the federal government, lawmakers will need to advance one or more CRs in December to avoid a partial government shutdown.
LSA Urges CYF Providers to Advocate for Increased Funding in FY16
November 24, 2015 - Though Congress has adjourned for the Thanksgiving holiday, negotiations over FY16 funding levels continue, as lawmakers hope to begin consideration of key spending bills when they return to Washington. This means the next few weeks are critical. As Congress nears decisions about what programs to prioritize, your Representatives and Senators need to hear from you about why increasing investments in programs that serve children, youth, and families is important to you and your community. Please call 202-224-3121 and email your lawmakers today!
LSA Partners for National Senior Services Advocacy Days, November 18-20
November 17, 2015 - The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 provides some sequestration relief, and it will be up to Members of Congress to decide how those funds are spent. To bring attention to the importance of investing in programs for older adults, LSA is partnering with other national organizations to host a week of action around FY16 funding for aging programs. Together, we have organized opportunities for our collective members to call and email Congress from Wednesday, November 18 - Friday, November 20. It is critical that your Representatives and Senators hear from you about why increasing investments in aging programs is important to you and your community. Please call (1-800-998-0180) and email Congress this week, and ask others to do the same!
New LSA Analysis - The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015
November 12, 2015 - On November 2, President Obama signed into law a two-year budget and debt ceiling agreement, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA, 114-74). The measure lifts the federal borrowing limit – also known as the debt ceiling - through March 2017, and provides a framework for federal spending in fiscal years 2016 and 2017. The deal includes $80 billion in sequestration relief, split evenly between defense and nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs – a major win for NDD advocates like LSA. The legislation also addresses a looming increase in Medicare Part B premiums, and makes legislative changes to extend the solvency of the Social Security Disability Insurance trust fund. To comply with parliamentary requirements, the BBA also includes program and policy changes to offset the cost of these sequester and health care provisions.
LSA is pleased that the budget deal takes a positive step in restoring funding for programs critical to LSA members and those you serve. However, we don’t yet know what federal programs will receive extra funding under the deal. That’s because the agreement does not actually fund government programs, nor does it specify how the sequester relief should be distributed among the programs subject to it. These decisions lie with the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, whose members determine specific funding levels for individual federal government programs through the annual appropriations process. Their work is currently underway, and additional advocacy will be needed to ensure the NDD programs you administer realize these potential funding increases. Read our analysis to learn more about what’s in the deal, what’s next, and how you can make a difference!
Two-Year Budget, Debt Ceiling Deal Now Law
November 3, 2015 - The House passed a two-year budget and debt ceiling agreement (HR 1314) on October 28 by a vote of 266-167. The Senate quickly followed suit, clearing the bill (64-36) in a series of early morning votes on Friday, October 30. On Monday, President Obama signed the bipartisan bill into law, just one day before the November 3 deadline for averting a default on US financial obligations by raising the debt limit.
The measure, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, avoids this potentially devastating default by lifting the federal borrowing limit through March 2017, and it sharply reduces the risk of a government shutdown by setting clear spending targets for the next two years. The deal eliminates about 90 percent of the sequestration budget cuts for domestic programs in FY16 and about 60 percent of the cuts in FY17. The sequester cuts were already slotted to be less in FY17, so total funding for domestic programs in FY17 will be roughly the same as in FY16. Notably, even with the sequestration relief provided, funding for domestic programs in FY16 will be 12 percent below the 2010 level, adjusted for inflation. By 2017, domestic spending will fall to its lowest level on record as a share of the economy, with data back to 1962.
Among the roughly $80 billion in offsets for this partial, temporary relief is a one-year extension of the sequester for mandatory programs, and the repeal of a not-yet-implemented Affordable Care Act provision that would have required large employers to automatically enroll their employees in health coverage. The agreement also extends the solvency of Social Security Disability Insurance through 2022, and avoids an anticipated 52 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums for roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries in 2016. Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
House Passes Two-Year Budget, Debt Limit Agreement
October 28, 2015 - The House passed a two-year budget and debt ceiling agreement (HR 1314) on Wednesday by a vote of 266-167. The Senate is slated to take up the bill right away and move to final passage, likely this weekend, clearing it for the signature of President Obama. The White House supports the measure and has urged its passage in Congress.
Congress, White House Reach Tentative, Two-Year Budget Deal
October 27, 2015 - Today, Senate and House leadership announced a budget deal that would provide relief from sequestration and raise budget caps for discretionary programs in FY 2016 and 2017. It would reallocate funds to the Social Security Disability Insurance fund which will permit it to remain solvent through 2022, avoiding across the board cuts of nearly 20 percent that the fund was facing starting in 2016 absent action. The compromise also includes the raising of the debt ceiling until early 2017. Medicare Part B premiums will not increase for approximately 70 percent of beneficiaries despite increases in Medicare costs. The budget deal has yet to be voted on, but is expected to be approved later this week.
Congress Returns, Deadline for FY16 Funding Nears
September 18, 2015 - Congress returned to Washington on September 8 with long list of 'must do' legislative priorities, the most urgent being an agreement on fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding. During the August recess, leaders in the House and Senate conceded that a short-term continuing resolution (CR) would be necessary to keep the government open in early fiscal 2016, which begins October 1. The stopgap – expected to last into November or December – would give lawmakers a few more months to iron out differences in the 12 annual spending bills and set longer-term funding levels for the remainder of FY16. But with just five legislative days until current budget authority expires, neither chamber has released a plan to fund the government beyond September 30. The delay is due to a division within the GOP over funding for Planned Parenthood, which Republican leaders hope to resolve in time to avoid a disruption in government funding. Read more from Roll Call.
LSA Seeks Sequestration Relief for Federal Programs in 2016
September 10, 2015 - Just weeks before federal funding runs out and draconian budget cuts stopped by a 2013 congressional budget deal are scheduled to go back into effect, LSA joined more than 2,500 national, state and local organizations in calling on Congress to end sequestration. The letter was organized by NDD United, a coalition of organizations across the non-defense discretionary sector. In part, the letter urges Congress to raise the spending caps and end sequestration through a bipartisan budget deal before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. A deal would prevent drastic cuts to programs of importance for LSA members and those they serve, including early education, aging and disability services, and veteran services, among others. The letter is available here.
Debt Ceiling to be Hit by Early December
August 25, 2015 - Congress will likely have to move to raise the debt ceiling before the end of the year in order to stave off default, according to the latest data by Capitol Hill’s nonpartisan budget referee, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Given the need for Congress to pass a short-term patch to continue current federal funding levels into FY16, it’s possible that the two upcoming fiscal battles – longer-term FY16 spending bills and raising the debt ceiling — could merge into a single, staggering task for lawmakers around the end of the calendar year. Since Republicans took the Senate this year they haven’t had to take a tough vote to raise the debt ceiling, and leaders have gently floated spending cuts as a way to get conservative GOP members on board with raising the country’s borrowing authority. Read more from Politico.
Senate Democrats Press for Immediate Budget Talks
August 19, 2015 - Congress has until September 30 to reach an agreement on FY16 spending. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already signaled a short-term continuing resolution will be considered. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has vowed that he won't let the government shut down, but he's also remained tightlipped about his plan, telling reporters late last month, “We’re not talking about negotiations. ... We’ll come back after August [and] we’ll discuss a way forward." On Tuesday, Democratic senators applied new pressure on Republicans to negotiate a budget deal, sending a letter to Sen. McConnell urging him to schedule talks immediately and suggesting that waiting until Congress returns to Washington on September 8 would be “unwise,” since lawmakers are facing "the existence of a clear and urgent deadline for action." All 46 members of the Democratic caucus signed the letter. Read more from The Hill.
August Recess Update
August 15, 2015 – Earlier this month, lawmakers headed home for the annual August recess. Before adjourning, Republican leaders in the House and Senate acknowledged that a temporary extension of current funding levels, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), would be necessary to prevent a government shutdown this fall. Despite the work of Congressional appropriators to craft FY16 appropriations bills, the process remains at an impasse. Senate Democrats have vowed to block the spending bills because they adhere to sequester-level caps approved by the Republican majority, and the White House has threatened a veto for the same reason. In addition, the House is scheduled to have only 10 legislative days in September - and the Senate 15 - leaving too little time to negotiate a longer-term spending deal before FY16 begins on October 1. A CR would be expected to extend current funding levels into November or December, giving lawmakers additional time to craft a more comprehensive, year-end fiscal package. Lawmakers in both chambers will return to Washington after Labor Day, at which point Congressional leaders and the White House are expected to begin negotiating a spending deal for FY16. While there is bipartisan interest in crafting a deal that provides some sequestration relief, there are sharply different views on what such a package would entail.
Republican Leaders Vow No Government Shutdown
August 5, 2015 - Amid growing concerns that partisan gridlock over FY16 spending bills could lead to a government shutdown this fall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pledged on August 4 that he would not allow a shutdown. He also indicated that he expects to negotiate a funding solution with the Administration and Congressional Democrats. As quoted in The Hill, Sen. McConnell stated “Let me say it again: no more government shutdowns….[w]e have divided government. The different parties control the Congress, control the White House and at some point we’ll negotiate the way forward.” When pressed on whether that meant a budget summit was inevitable, McConnell repeated, “At some point we’ll negotiate the way forward.” The statements mark the first time Senate GOP leadership has allowed that Republicans will have to engage in budget talks Democrats have been calling for all summer.
Progress Stalls on FY16 Spending Bills
July 20, 2015 - Despite the work of House and Senate appropriators to craft most of the FY16 funding bills before the end of the current fiscal year, it is unlikely that any bills will receive full Congressional approval by the September 30 deadline. Democrats and the White House remain firmly opposed to maintaining the sequestration spending limits. Appropriations levels, as approved by the Republican majority, stay within these restrictive caps. Accordingly, with Congress preparing to leave town for the August recess – and only 12 legislative days scheduled in September - it is expected that lawmakers will focus on a Continuing Resolution (CR) when they return from recess, temporarily extending current funding levels into FY16 while they work towards a more comprehensive agreement. Read more from the Coalition on Human Needs.
Republicans, Democrats at Odds on FY16 Spending Bills
May 29, 2015 - Congressional appropriators are continuing their work to develop FY16 spending bills, which adhere to the sequester-level allocations agreed to by Republicans in their joint budget resolution. Democrats remain opposed to this framework, preferring instead to negotiate a budget deal that would provide some sequestration relief for discretionary programs in FY16, and allocate program funding within these increased caps.
Though some top Republicans have conceded a discussion about government spending will likely be needed this year, in the near-term, the party’s Senate leaders plan to complete as much work on the annual spending bills as possible, in order to gain political momentum heading into any eventual negotiations. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are working with their colleagues at the committee and subcommittee levels, helping to craft individual appropriations bills despite their opposition to the underlying allocation levels. They hope this engagement will ease the way for a potential wrap-up spending bill later this year, but remain committed to first securing a bipartisan deal to roll back some of the sequester’s cuts.
Accordingly, despite their committee work, Senate Democrats have indicated they will use procedural rules to block any spending bills from coming to the floor, unless and until a bipartisan deal to raise the FY16 spending caps is in place. In so doing, Democrats are attempting to force Republicans to negotiate a budget deal relatively early in the appropriations process, to prevent the need for last minute bargaining and FY16 uncertainty. They will likely the need the extra time - GOP leaders are expected to recommend any sequestration relief be offset only by changes to mandatory programs, while Democrats will seek to include revenue raisers as part of a final agreement. For its part, the White House is supportive of the Democrats’ strategy; President Obama has threatened to veto any FY16 spending bills that reach his desk and adhere to the current statutory framework.
LSA Asks Congress, the White House to Address the Sequester
February 18, 2015 - In a letter sent today, LSA joined more than 2,100 national, state, and local organizations in asking Congress and the President to work together to replace sequestration with a balanced approach to deficit reduction. The letter emphasizes (1) the importance of non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs, (2) the harmful effects of budget cuts to date, and (3) the equal importance of both defense and non-defense programs in America's security at home and abroad, and thus the need for equal sequestration relief. The letter is available here.