Congress Must Pass a Budget That Honors the Dignity of All

September 27, 2023Miriam Edelman

Before October 1, Congress must pass a federal budget to avoid a government shutdown. Congress can either pass a package of 12 appropriations bills to establish new funding levels for the upcoming fiscal year and/or a continuing resolution to temporarily continue funding levels from the prior year. Yet as the end of the fiscal year quickly approaches, Congress has not yet negotiated a budget deal of any kind. In fact, as of September 21, none of the twelve appropriations bills have passed both chambers of Congress . If Congress fails to pass budget legislation, the government will shut down for the eleventh time since May 1980 and the fourth time in the last decade (the longest and most recent shutdown was 35 days from December 2018 to January 2019).

Several of the appropriations bills proposed in the House of Representatives, however, include troubling provisions that cut housing benefits, target LGBTQ+ people, roll back critical climate funding, and hurt our immigration system. As the House and Senate negotiate over the next week, we urge members of Congress to reject these provisions and adopt a budget that preserves the dignity and humanity of all people.

Housing: The Senate and House housing appropriations bills propose different housing-related funding levels. While the Senate legislation consists of $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnership Program that is a main federal method that state and local government create affordable housing, the House decreases funding for this program to $500 million. $500 million would be the lowest funding level of that program since that program began around 30 years ago. The Senate bill provides slightly more than the House legislation for tenant-based Section 8 vouchers. The House legislation contains a little more than the Senate bill for project-based rental help to renew housing contracts.

LGBTQ+ Rights: At least 45 anti-LGBTQ+ provisions are in most proposed appropriations bills in unprecedented efforts to reduce LGBTQ+ people's rights - the first time in history that all bills include some form of anti-LGBTQ+ language. Many of these parts would weaken protections for same-sex couples or reduce gender-affirming care. Seven of the 12 appropriations bills would prevent federal money to fly Pride flags over government buildings, which would send a message that LGBTQ+ individuals are not welcome. 11 of the bills include parts that repeal protections for same-sex couples. If enacted, ten of the bills would restrict money to programs that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for racial minorities or LGBTQ+ individuals.

Environment: The appropriations bills proposed in the House of Representatives also contain harmful environment-related sections, endangering climate investments. The proposed legislation would decrease Environmental Protection Agency funding by 39 percent ($4 billion). In addition, $31 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act that was designed to advance energy efficiency and clean energy and deal with climate change has been eliminated in legislation. These removals include $18.9 billion from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (which provides grants relating to clean energy technologies, focusing on low-income and disadvantaged group); $4.4 billion from a rebate programs to help low- and moderate-income consumers upgrade to high-efficiency electric systems and appliances; $1.35 billion from grants for environmental justice programs in disadvantaged communities; $1 billion for aide assistance to rural electric cooperatives; and $500 million from a program relating energy efficiency and renewable energy for agricultural manufacturers and small businesses in rural areas.

Immigration: Finally, the proposed funding package also includes H.R. 2, a collection of anti-immigration proposals that would overhaul the federal asylum system and target existing protections for migrant children and families. The bill would allow deportations without due process, restart border wall expansion, and reestablish the failed "Remain in Mexico" program. This extreme bill cuts funding from humane and cost-effective programs, while reinstating ineffective policies that do not honor the dignity and safety of all people.

The federal budget has enormous impact on the poor and others in need, and Judaism compels us to work to address poverty and advance the dignity and justice of all. Proverbs 31:9 teaches Jews to "speak up, judge righteously, champion the poor and the needy." Similarly, the concept of bal tashchit (do not destroy) inspires us to care for the Earth. Guided by these teachings and others, we urge Congress to pass appropriations legislation that invests in climate and housing and reject provisions that target LGBTQ+ people and immigrants.

Tell Congress: pass a budget deal that advances the dignity and humanity of all people.

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