Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva last night voted against the year-end budget deal – created by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) – that passed the House despite failing to address most of the nation’s pressing economic issues. Grijalva hosted a Wednesday press conference on Capitol Hill with working and retired Americans on the damage the deal could have done to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security if not for diligent advocacy by Congressional Progressive Caucus leaders and their allies.
“The best way to help the American people is to create jobs and get more families back into this economy, and this deal doesn’t do that,” Grijalva said. “I don’t see enough here that helps the people I represent. This package doesn’t help people looking for jobs, it doesn’t help people wondering what they’re supposed to do when their unemployment insurance is cut off, and it doesn’t create any new opportunities for working Americans. It used the flawed Budget Control Act as its starting point, and that meant the finished product wasn’t strong enough to earn my support.”
The sequester portion of the Budget Control Act passed in 2011 included a reduction in payment rates to Medicare health care providers that would have expired in 2021. Last night’s budget deal extends those cuts to fiscal years 2022 and 2023. It also postpones, but does not eliminate, certain scheduled cuts to future budget years’ federal education and job creation funding. Other cuts will go forward on schedule.
In addition to ignoring the impending end of unemployment insurance benefits for approximately 1.3 million Americans later this month, the deal falls well short of necessarily funding levels for major programs that help Southern Arizonans, Grijalva pointed out. The graph at the right shows how far below historical funding levels this deal falls given its overall $1.012 trillion spending level for 2014 – more than half of which ($520.5 billion) will be spent on the military.
“We started cutting too deeply years ago, and we’ve just been cutting more ever since,” Grijalva said. “It’s as though the only job Congress is here to do is make things tougher for people. If we want an economy that really creates growth and opportunity, all we have to do is look at what we’ve gotten from austerity economics to see we’re not getting results.”
Grijalva agreed with the negotiators’ decision not to cut Medicaid or Social Security benefits at this point and said those programs “should be expanded rather than granted a last-second reprieve.” However, he said, “doing less damage than you’re threatening to do isn’t the same thing as passing a good law. When Congress comes back in January, expanding job opportunities and helping working people succeed in this economy is going to stay my top priority, and I hope my colleagues say the same. We can’t just check this box and say we’ve done our bit for working families. Congress needs to continue a longer and very necessary conversation about economic inequality and job opportunity in this country, and I look forward to doing that as early as possible next year.”