If you’re wondering how to tell that it’s an election year for the House of Representatives, look no further than the de facto understanding out of Washington that no substantial legislation will move
forward in 2014. As elected officials, particularly those in contested races, look to hunker down and ride out the year MPA’s work becomes that much more important. It’s the job of MPA members to hold legislators responsible on issues of social and economic justice and to use 2014 as a chance to distinguish between champions for change and those who are content with the status quo.
A Roadmap for Immigration
So, what’s happening in Washington? While there are whispers of a renewed effort on immigration reform legislation, House Republicans facing primaries are hesitant to engage in any sort of deal making that might leave them vulnerable to attacks from the right claiming that they favor “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. House Republican leadership will almost certainly delay any efforts to move a vote on even the most lukewarm of immigration reform measures until the fall.
A Real Federal Budget
For the first time in years, Congress passed a budget that stretches beyond a matter of months. It’s troubling that Congress views the completion of one of its most basic functions as an act worthy of palm fronds and party favors, particularly since the budget fails to make the level of investment necessary in programs and systems which work for our community members in the greatest need, but it’s laudatory that the nation’s elected officials recognize the economic instability caused by lurching from one artificially-created crisis to the next.
Little Tax Fairness
Largely excluded from the budget are efforts to raise substantial revenue from the wealthiest individuals and large corporations. Despite overwhelming popular support for an end to offshore tax havens used by corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, members of Congress continued to ignore the glaring need for an increase in federal revenue as they brokered a deal. Even commonsense adjustments like reforming the mortgage interest deduction to ensure that millionaires don’t receive unnecessary tax breaks when purchasing homes failed to make their way from public conversation into legislative solutions.
Deep Cuts to Unemployment, Anti-Hunger Programs
Early this year, Congress faced a decision regarding a proposed extension of unemployment insurance for people out of work for long periods of time. While extending UI to families in need makes both incredibly sound economic sense and satisfies a moral imperative to help our neighbors in need, Senate Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins, blocked this legislation’s passage. In addition, Congress is also poised to pass a Farm Bill which will enact a series of cuts to the SNAP program. While these cuts are billed as efforts to curb administrative cost within the food assistance program, decisions on both SNAP cuts and UI extension reflect the fact that many members of Congress continue to fundamentally misunderstand the economic reality facing the majority of families in the country.
Leaders in Washington should reframe the conversation and start talking about an economy where everyone pays their fair share and where the American people invest in the future by funding systems and structures that protect and support everyone.