You may have heard or read in the news that Congress passed a bipartisan budget agreement last week; yesterday it went to the President’s desk. Even for the most hardcore advocates, your eyes may have glazed over reading terms like “overseas contingency operations” and “sequester caps.” So what is the budget deal, and what does it mean for some of the things you have been advocating for, like restoring funding for programs to prevent child labor and additional funding for the Syria crisis?
The budget deal signed yesterday addresses some of the issues around the overall spending limit for Congress for the next two years. Congress has been working under budget “caps” on spending, which has meant making tough choices around which programs get funding and which programs get cut. Caps viewed as overly restrictive led to good programs having their funding reduced – like the Bureau for International Labor Affairs that does vital child labor prevention work. It also meant that conversations around additional funding for the Syria humanitarian response were stagnated. Thankfully, with an increase in these budget caps, we have renewed hope that these programs can get the funding they need and deserve.
Where the rubber really hits the road, however, is NOW as Congress now works to finish the appropriations bills– the bills that will designate how this newly budgeted money is spent. While the budget sets the parameters and the caps, the appropriations bills are where each program is designated its funding. With the budget deal completed, Congress will now shift to looking at specific programs and determining where the additional funding made available by lifting the budget caps should be spent.
So your calls and emails are more important than ever. Congress needs to hear from you on the importance of keeping children out of child labor and ensuring we respond to the humanitarian needs of the Syrian people. As these final funding decisions are being made, your voice, as people of faith who care deeply about these issues, has a critical role to play.