The following is from HRC Senior Public Policy Advocate Andrea Levario:
As we told you in late December, funding for federal programs is set to run out on March 4, 2011. Over the past few weeks, House appropriators have been cobbling together another stopgap measure to keep the government running for the remaining seven months of this fiscal year. Last night, Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, revealed the funding package for the balance of FY 2011. Using a chainsaw, rather than a scalpel to make targeted cuts, the Republican appropriators were able to meet their unprecedented and unreasonable savings of target of $ 100 billion.
The House majority’s proposal would defund key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The health reform law provided one billion in new funding to expand Community Health Centers (CHCs), the continuing resolution as drafted would zero out that funding. Millions of Americans, rely on these primary care centers and providers for basic health care services. For LGBT people, the CHCs have and continue to be at the frontline in the fight against HIV/AIDS and they have been in desperate need of additional funding to continue services to a growing patient base. The resources to train health professionals to deliver those services, in CHCs or in other settings, were also placed in the unnecessary column by the majority.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative which had received $ 114 million to provide comprehensive, medically accurate, and age-appropriate sex education to young people to help reduce their risk of unintended pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and other STDs was zeroed out. And, the proposed CR would reinstate the rider to ban funding for syringe exchange programs in the District of Columbia which we have fought hard, along with our coalition partners for years, to have lifted.
Earlier in the week Chairman Rogers released a more modest plan which would have curtailed spending by $ 32 billion. After being rebuffed by new members who pledged much deeper cuts, the current proposal was cobbled together. Next week the House will vote on that package which is FIVE times larger than any other discretionary cut package ever considered by the House, and those reductions are expected to be made not over a full year but a mere 7 months!
As happened with the effort to repeal health reform, the leaders in the Senate are not onboard with their House colleagues. They acknowledge the difficult financial situation, but plan to stand firm to protect programs to ensure the health and safety of all Americans. All lawmakers agree that the country’s deficit must be reduced. The real leaders are those that recognize programs to ensure the health of our citizens, in the short and long-term, are investments in the well-being of our country.
Real funding battles are looming and we are preparing. HRC will, at every opportunity, alone and in partnership with other progressive groups, fight to preserve the dollars to address HIV/AIDS, implement the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.