Today, at 10am members of the House Judiciary Committee heard the testimony of 16 directors and advocates from service providers and local government agencies. Witnesses were testifying for the Committee’s Forum on the Impact of Budget Proposals on Justice, Job Creation, Public Safety, and Constitutional Rights, and spoke to the likely effects that the recently passed budget bill will have on local communities. The bill, H.R. 1, slashed the domestic spending, mostly from social service providers.
While the witnesses represented organizations that deal with issues as divergent as gun violence to women’s health and civil liberties, there was a pervasive theme: this type of budget reduction targets the populations who were the hardest hit by the recession and are already impoverished. To add insult, the cuts will also diminish the capacity of these populations to pull themselves out of poverty.
Amongst concerns that budget cuts to critical social services will have detrimental effects on health, education and public safety, a witness from LIRS testified about how cuts to domestic programs will influence the U.S. ability to promote peace and security abroad. Susan Krehbiel, Vice President for Protection and Programs at LIRS, outlined how reductions to the United States Refugee Resettlement program will influence our nation’s ability to help alleviate stress in conflict zones around the world, thus our ability to help stabilize these areas. According to Mrs. Krehbiel, the United States is seen as a leader in this field, admitting the most vulnerable refugees, often those with medical issues. Funding for our country’s refugee programs has been inadequate, and with the cuts proposed in H.R. 1, we would see an additional 10% reduction in funding. Mrs. Krehbiel emphasized that these dollars mean life saving services, and funding cuts should not be taken lightly. Congressman Conyers, who oversaw the briefing, agreed with Mrs. Krehbiel and added that our treatment of refugees in the United States directly affects the treatment of Americans living abroad.
All of the groups that testified expressed concern over the federal deficit, but the overarching sentiment was that this is not the way. “These dollars have faces; these dollars have families,” said Tara Andrews of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. We cannot address the deficit at the expense of the most vulnerable.
H.R. 1 was passed through the House of Representatives on February 19th after days of grueling debate. The bill still has to pass through the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, who has threatened to veto the legislation, before it would go into effect.
You can help LIRS continue to press the Senate and President Obama to ensure these proposed cuts do not become a reality. Visit our Action Center and speak up on behalf of those who are the victims of war and persecution.