Washington Update (October 18, 2013)
There’s a weird feeling in the air over on Capitol Hill. On one hand, people are relieved that Congress avoided default and agreed to let federal employees and contractors go back to work. But on the other hand, Wednesday’s agreement means we’re going to have these fights again in the next four months. The agreement lifts the debt limit until February 7, setting up another confrontation over the government’s ability to pay its bills sometime in March. Meanwhile, federal agencies are funded through January 15, when they might shut down again unless lawmakers agree on funding levels and ending sequestration.
It’s not like the shutdown actually helped anyone. In fact, the American economy lost a lot of ground during those 16 days. The shutdown cost the economy an estimated $24 billion, according to Standard & Poor’s. That’s almost what it costs to fund Head Start, children’s insurance programs, and the Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Program for a whole year. Basically, we wasted money because of political games.
As part of their agreement, the House and Senate are coming together to negotiate a budget. AAUW will continue to urge Congress to pursue a responsible appropriations process that ends the harmful effects of sequestration, and we will oppose any attempt to cut critical entitlement programs.
We can’t do this alone. Watch out for updates from us on what Congress is doing and how you can help protect the interests of women and girls, and tell Congress how they should move beyond the shutdown.
AAUW Regulatory Affairs Manager
ONE THING YOU MUST DO
Just like the student can’t recycle an old book report and expect to pass the test, Congress can’t recycle old solutions (like sequestration) and pass our test for a responsible budget. Tell Congress to end sequestration and protect the needs of women and families!
BUT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO MORE
Send an e-mail to five friends and ask them to join you in taking action!
Check out this graphic, courtesy of National Journal, for a quick explanation of the debt ceiling/government shutdown deal signed this week, and share it on social media with the following post:
For Facebook or Twitter: Explaining the debt ceiling deal — what’s in it and what’s not — in a single slide: http://bit.ly/H5YfMY
Are you a middle or high school gender studies teacher? Don’t miss the opportunity to register for the AAUW Gender Studies Symposium, Creating Classrooms of Justice: Teacher Gender Studies in School, featuring high school teacher and esteemed activist Ileana Jimenez. This exciting one-day event will be at the University of Missouri, St. Louis on Saturday, October 26, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The application deadline for a 2013–2014 Campus Action Project grant is just around the corner! This year’s grants will focus on the issues raised in the research report Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success. Teams of college students, faculty adviser(s), and AAUW branch liaisons must implement their projects during the 2014 spring semester. Application deadline is Monday, October 21.
Budget Conference Committee Starts Its Work
The agreement to reopen the government tasked a budget conference committee consisting of senators and representatives with reconciling the two chambers’ spending proposals by December 13. The leaders of the committee – Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Reps. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – met on Thursday morning to start their discussions, but it’s still unclear whether they will make any progress. Unlike the “super committee” established after the 2011 debt ceiling fight, there are no immediate consequences if the budget conference committee fails to reach an agreement – besides the prospect of another government shutdown in January when the current spending resolution expires.
Senate Women Work Across Party Lines to Reopen Government
Even though their gender represents only 20 percent of the Senate, it was a bipartisan group of female senators who led the effort to end the government shutdown. Multiple reports, including praise from some of their male colleagues, credit Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Patty Murray (D-WA) with shaping the negotiations and working across party lines to address ideological concerns in settling the issue.
Social Security Benefits Increase Expected to be Small
For the second year in a row, the cost-of-living adjustment given to the millions of Social Security beneficiaries, disabled veterans, and federal retirees is expected to be small. The increase in benefits will likely be around 1.5 percent, which is one of the lowest increases since 1975, when automatic increases were first adopted.
STATE SPOTLIGHT: Wisconsin
AAUW-WI Holds Successful Lobby Day
About 40 AAUW of Wisconsin members had a highly successful Legislative Day, which included training from AAUW representatives. Members discussed equal pay, paid family leave, women’s reproductive health, and school vouchers while meeting with 18 state legislative offices. AAUW-WI President Joyce Hoffman even received an impromptu standing ovation when her representative pulled her into a Democratic Caucus meeting and asked her to speak about the 30 branches in Wisconsin. Congratulations to all the leaders and members of AAUW-WI!
- Is your state interested in planning a lobby day? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll get you started!
AAUW CHEER OF THE WEEK
Congratulations to the Elect Her-Campus Women Win program for adding 17 new training sites for the 2014 year! Elect Her is a program by AAUW and Running Start that is designed to expand the pipeline of women running for elected office in college and beyond. Elect Her first debuted on nine campuses and will reach 50 sites next year.
AAUW JEER OF THE WEEK
These two graphs show the sad truth about the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act: Many of the states that have opted out of expanding Medicaid so far are the ones with residents who need health coverage the most.
BITS AND PIECES
- Former House Speaker Tom Foley passed away today as a result of complications from a stroke he suffered last December. Foley represented eastern Washington from 1965 to 1995 and was described by his colleague House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as a “quintessential champion of the common good.”
- Today, President Obama announced the nomination of Jeh Johnson for secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Johnson has an extensive background addressing national security issues as the general counsel for the Department of Defense, and he is known for his work on repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
- On Tuesday, Massachusetts State Sen. Katherine Clark won the Democratic primary in a special election for Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District. The seat was left vacant when now-Sen. Ed Markey won a special election to fill John Kerry’s seat when he was appointed secretary of state. Clark is favored to win the general election in the heavily Democratic district.
- In other electoral news, Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D-NJ) won the special election for New Jersey’s Senate seat on Wednesday. Booker will replace Sen. Jeff Chiesa, who was temporarily appointed to the seat after the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg in June.
- This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case challenging the Michigan Constitution’s ban on affirmative action, which was enacted after voters approved a 2006 ballot initiative. Major universities and civil rights groups are arguing against the ban.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report on Wednesday summarizing the problems identified in the 3,800 complaints it received from private student loan borrowers earlier this year. The main problem appears to be a lack of flexibility for repayment. The bureau is looking to extend its oversight over these private student loan companies.
- Thanks to the AAUW members who shared their experiences with private student loans with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau through AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist tool earlier this year!