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LOCAL Commentary :: Government & Elections : Poverty & Urban Development

Update on Federal Budget From Rep. Sam Farr

Even though we might all be tired of hearing "it's a budget emergency!" again, we need to be informed about what is going on with the federal budget situation. Recently, over 100 people were arrested outside federal offices in D.C., protesting the immorality of this budget.

If these budget cuts are indeed passed, it will not only affect the quality of life for all of us, people and our environmment will die as a result. Even if you consider yourself an antigoverment anarchist, please consider doing all you can to try and stop this from passing anyway. It is a reality that the majority of the population resides in a urban areas. Many will not be able to meet their (very) basic needs without some form of goverment programs.

Here is Rep. Sam Farr's response to my inquiry about the budget. I thought it was worth sharing.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the federal budget and the
misnamed "Deficit Reduction Act" (HR 4241). Congress holds the
'power of the purse' and can wreck havoc or increase the spending
power of American families -- depending on how it manages the
federal budget.

Unfortunately, the Congressional Republican Leadership through
a process called "Budget Reconciliation" has cut important
domestic programs for middle class American families -- making
$27,000 to $65,000 -- while creating space in the budget for
additional tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of Americans who make
over $1.2 million. On November 18, 2005 the House Republican
Leadership arm-twisted the moderates within their own party to
pass HR 4241. The Republican version of deficit reduction will
mean billions of dollars of cuts to: student aid programs, food
stamp programs, Medicaid and Medicare. I strongly opposed this
bill and voted against it. Unfortunately it narrowly passed with
many moderate Republicans in opposition, 217 - 215 (Roll Call
No. 601).

The House and Senate then worked out the differences between
their two versions of a bad bill, and produced a conference report
(H.Rept. 109-362) that removed some egregious environmental
provisions but, at its core, the bill remains a fiscal and moral
disaster. Though the Republican Leadership claims that this bill
will reduce the deficit, because it pairs spending cuts with even
larger tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, there will be a net
increase of billions of dollars to the deficit.

At the same time, the conference report cuts spending by
$39.7 billion over five years from a number of important safety net
* $12.7 billion in cuts to student loans. The bill imposes
higher fees on students and increases the interest rate on
parent loans, making paying for higher education even
more difficult.
* Cuts $6.4 billion to Medicare. Part of these cuts come from
freezing physician payments for doctors who
accept Medicare patients. The Central Coast is already
experiencing a shortage of Medicare providers; however, it
is likely this freeze in physician payments will not be part
of the final bill.
* $6.9 billion to Medicaid, a state-federal health care
program for low-income patients.
* Authority for states to cut Medicaid benefits and reduce
coverage to poor children. The vast majority of research
shows that low-income people, if forced to pay higher co-
pays, will forego preventative care, resulting in higher
emergency care costs that are often picked up by the states.
* $934 million from vital Farm Bill conservation programs
that would help farmers and ranchers protect and enhance
natural resources.
* After eliminating accounting gimmicks, the conference
report cuts Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF) by $459 million.
* $1.6 billion for incentive payments to encourage
better child support compliance. The result is penny wise,
pound foolish and will result in reduced child-support
collections of $2.9 billion over 5 years.
* $75 million to the Environmental Quality Incentives
Program (EQIP) that provides farmers and ranchers with
financial and technical assistance to improve water, soil,
and air quality as well as improve wildlife habitat.

One of the few positive outcomes from the conference negotiations
was the elimination of the most egregious environmental
provisions. Most significantly, the mis-guided provision to
open ANWR, one of the most pristine
wildernesses areas in the Nation to oil drilling, was removed from
the conference report. Additionally, the moratorium on oil and gas
development on the Outer Continental Shelf, primarily off the
coast of California and Florida, was maintained. The House
provision that would have changed current mining law, fast-
tracked the development of oil shale and sold public land in
Nevada, Idaho and the District of Colombia was dropped.

The House passed the conference report, 212-206, after 6:00 am on
December 19, at the end of an all-night session and just hours after
the 774-page bill was filed. I voted against the conference report
(Roll Call No 670).

On December 21, the Senate removed extraneous matter from the
report and by a vote of 51-50 (with four moderate Senators voting
against the bill and Vice President Cheney breaking a tie vote),
requiring a final vote in the House of Representatives. You may
be assured I will continue to strongly oppose this bill because it is
an attack on domestic programs that benefit the middle class.

Thank you very much for contacting me regarding this important
issue and please feel free to contact me again regarding this or any
other federal matter.

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