It’s that time of year again in Washington when lawmakers must pass the annual budget, this time set to expire on December 11, 2015. In October, Congress relaxed sequester caps that would have cut deeply across the budget and instead raised spending levels for FY 16-17, adding $50 billion split evenly between defense and non-defense spending for 2016. Before this budget/debt limit deal was struck, domestic human needs programs were likely to see drastic cuts, leaving millions of Americans without critical hunger and poverty assistance. Now, WIC, child nutrition programs, Social Security Disability Insurance, and more are likely to remain at the same funding levels. In the previous compromise, Congress also increased the debt ceiling, decreasing the pressure in the current talks.
In the past few weeks, lawmakers have suggested several policy provisions known as “riders” that may be attached to the budget. Many of the proposals are highly controversial, such as discontinuing funding for Planned Parenthood, blocking resettlement for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, preventing implementation of EPA clean water rules, and repealing various provisions of the Affordable Care Act such as the Medicaid expansion and individual and employer mandates. However, President Obama has threatened to veto spending bills that include any of these provisions.
In the next few weeks, lawmakers will also be voting on extending tax breaks – principally to businesses – for the upcoming tax year. Anti-poverty advocates are also urging Congress to extend and make permanent the expiring provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Together, EITC and the CTC are the most effective anti-poverty programs in the United States.