To my ear, “sequester” is a lovely word. Despite what the dictionary says about its synonyms like segregate, seclude and withdraw or its chemical meaning related to binding and absorbing carbon dioxide, it has a certain lyrical quality. I almost expect it to be a dessert wine (“I’ll take a glass of the Sequester, please”) or a fifth house at Hogwarts School.
But this word is on my mind today because of the negotiations going on in Washington, D.C. right now that will determine whether our nation faces another very challenging period when the federal government is at least partially shut down. Remember that 35-day shut down that started on December 22, 2018? It was the longest in U.S. history. This was an especially frightening event in the lives of our neighbors who depend on the safety net, like housing subsidies or food assistance programs. I had several calls from frightened friends, wondering if they might be hungry or homeless soon.
Currently Congress and the White House have until October 1 to pass Fiscal Year 2020 spending bills or we will experience another shutdown. Before the bills can be enacted, however, due to the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, congressional leaders must reach an agreement to lift spending caps on defense and domestic programs. At the time the BCA was passed, one source says “sequestration was thought to be so outrageously punitive – such an intensely misguided, ill-considered, and poorly targeted method to achieve deficit reduction – that negotiators would compromise before resorting to it.”
Good public policy is seldom achieved through threats. Like a firing squad choosing to form a circle before pulling the trigger, The U.S. Congress and White House have repeatedly not made the sane choice. Sequestration has happened in the past, and, even when compromises are negotiated so that spending caps are lifted, the deals reached generally lead to some very painful cuts to essential programs like child care, housing, and community development.
The present situation is that, if the spending caps are not lifted, key programs will face a nearly 10% cut. At least five of our national partners have joined in calling for a National Call-in Day on July 22, so we ask that you join us in one or both of the following actions:
- Only July 22, call 1-888-668-8919 and tell Senator Blunt and Senator Hawley: “Before you leave for recess, please enact a two-year budget deal to match or raise House levels to fund services all U.S. families need like child care, housing, and health care, and to prevent an economic crisis by raising the debt ceiling.”
- Click on this link that allows you to send a message to your senators and U.S. Representative using a template we are providing. Thankfully, the House has passed budget bills that have spending levels high enough to offer real progress. We also want a two-year budget deal to prevent another crisis that would land in the middle of the 2020 presidential election campaigns. We do not need that kind of circus when the basic human needs of millions are at stake!
Your action can matter to the most vulnerable of our neighbors. Please join the National Call-in Day on Monday, July 22, and/or send your email NOW!
Jeanette Mott Oxford, Executive Director