Both Republicans and Democrats agree that something must be done to prevent the 8% automatic, across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to occur in January 2013—right in the the middle of the school year. But, they disagree on what approach to take. Republicans want to use deep spending cuts to protect defense programs and avoid revenue increases. Democrats would rather use targeted spending reductions and revenue increases.
Today, the House of Representatives is voting on a bill with recommendations from several House commitees on how to save enough money to stave off some of the cuts. The package to reduce part of the automatic spending cuts does not spare programs equally—it eliminates Defense Department cuts, while shifting all of the automatic cuts to nondefense discretionary spending, which includes the Department of Education. This move would dramatically increase the impact of scheduled cuts on non-defense programs. Republicans have proposed an actual increase in defense spending.
To protect their priorities, House Republicans are proposing to reduce SNAP (food stamp) benefits for every current recipient, and eliminating benefits entirely for 1.8 million low-income Americans. An estimated 300,000 children would lose free school meals as a result of these cuts.
In addition, federal employee benefits would be reduced, along with the Social Service Block Grant, which provides states with flexible funding to support services like providing low-income families with child care assistance. Republicans have also proposed reducing protections for low-income children covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. As a result, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office predicts 300,000 children would lose health coverage over the next three years.
The FY 2013 House-passed Budget Resolution included instructions for six House committees (Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means) to cut spending by $261 billion over the 2012-2022 period. All six committees passed their proposed cuts, which the House Budget Committee accepted the recommendations without making substantial changes. The Agriculture Committee decided to target all of their cuts to food and nutrition assistance for low-income individuals.