Early this morning, the U.S. House passed a budget resolution that cuts spending in many vital programs by $60 billion. The vote was 235-189. U.S. Rep. Mike Ross for once broke with Arkansas's Republican congressmen and voted against the budget bill. The Senate isn't expected to go along. A government shutdown could eventually be in the offing.
Ross' staff was ready this morning with a lengthy statement explaining how the bill was bad for Arkansas. (So are many of the budget cuts Ross DID support, such as ending support of gynecological and family planning services for women.) It will be interesting to hear from others in Congress as they explain their support for the certain pain and damage to be caused by some cuts. U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, for example, can shake his head sorrowfully at the need to slash Interior Department spending and deprive Central Arkansas Water of $12 million expected to protect the water supply of Central Arkansas from pollution.
But Ross shouldn't be released lightly for once doing right. His Blue Dog rhetoric and blithe ratification of Republican talking points on everything from health care to farm programs helped enable the Republican electoral victories and the public sentiment that empowered them. The blood is already on his hands. This morning's vote doesn't wash them clean.
NOTE TO RAIL FANS: The bill slashes Amtrak's budget. All three Arkansas Republicans voted for an amendment that would have slashed passenger rail spending even further. Remember that should Congressmen Griffin and Rick Crawford ever choose an Amtrak station in their district for a photo op. Steve Womack, who hates bicycle trails as much as he hates Amtrak, is a lost cause in Fortress Republican.
MIKE ROSS NEWS RELEASE
WASHINGTON — U.S. Congressman Mike Ross of Prescott today voted against a continuing resolution in the House of Representatives he said would hurt thousands of Arkansas’s working families, veterans and farmers and make it more difficult for communities and economic leaders to create jobs and continue their economic recovery efforts. H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act 2011, allocates over $1 trillion to fund the federal government through the 2011 fiscal year ending on September 30, 2011. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives and must now be considered by the Senate.
“As a fiscal conservative and Co-Chair of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition, I’ve said for years Congress must stop the deficit spending and balance our nation’s budget. However, we must find a responsible balance between spending cuts and the investments that will make Arkansas and America stronger and safer and create more private-sector jobs,” said Ross. “We must cut spending, but not at the expense of America’s future and not on the backs of our children, working families and veterans that didn’t get us into this mess in the first place. We must cut spending, but not at the expense of border security and our law enforcement and firefighters that keep us safe and secure. We need meaningful, long-term solutions to our fiscal crisis — not a knee-jerk and politically-motivated reaction that ignores the real problems facing our country today.”
Ross said H.R. 1 will specifically make cuts to important priorities in Arkansas in the areas of education, agriculture and community and economic development. Among the many cuts, Head Start in Arkansas will be forced to drop an estimated 2,546 children, Pell Grant funds for college students will be slashed by $68.8 million in Arkansas alone and Teach for America — which puts young, talented teachers in underserved communities — would lose all of its federal funding.
“Instead of slashing Head Start funding for children, cutting Pell Grants for students trying to afford college, hampering our economic development efforts, cutting border security and reducing funding for law enforcement and firefighters, we should make government more efficient and make cuts that don’t make life harder for working Arkansans and less secure for all Americans,” said Ross. “I opposed this bill because I believe we should focus on true, long-term fiscal reform and not on drastic, arbitrary cuts that punish hardworking Americans for the irresponsibility of their government. I will continue to lead the efforts of the fiscally conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition as we build off our Blueprint for Fiscal Reform and work toward commonsense reforms that address our nation’s fundamental budgetary problems in a responsible and bipartisan way”
Ross also said that true fiscal reform will require that this nation consider much more than arbitrary cuts to non-defense discretionary spending.
“In addition, H.R. 1 makes all the spending cuts from only non-defense discretionary spending. Non-defense discretionary spending is only 15 percent of the overall federal budget. If you eliminated every single non-defense federal program, our country would still run huge annual budget deficits. These cuts do not represent a shared sacrifice, but rather provide drastic cuts to programs critical to the future of our children and our country,” said Ross.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, H.R. 1 would also cost the United States more than 800,000 private and public sector jobs. Among the proposed national cuts, this bill would:
§ Force communities to lay off police and first responders because it cuts over $200 million from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program and $581 million from the Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program, both of which are instrumental in helping communities all across Arkansas put more police officers on the streets;
§ Hurt our farming community by cutting $185 million from the Agricultural Research Service — which helps fund the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in Booneville — and over $190 million in farm assistance programs.
§ Cuts support for veterans by eliminating $75 million in funding for approximately 10,000 supportive housing vouchers for veterans.
§ Weaken community and economic development by cutting $446 million in rural development loans and $600 million from the Corps of Engineers; cutting $84 million from the Small Business Administration; and cutting about half the budget for both The National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) near Pine Bluff and the Delta Regional Authority, which is key to the economic recovery of communities along the Mississippi River delta region.
§ Hurt working families by cutting $1 billion from community health centers, $390 million from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) and over $745 billion for Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), which provides healthcare and nutrition of low-income pregnant women, infants and children under the age of five.