It's good news for the rest of the world, but not for Americans. Dick Cheney is cutting short an overseas diplomatic mission to cast the tie-breaking vote in a Republican spending cuts bill. As TomPaine.com readers well know  , this bill accomplishes "savings" for the government by slashing funds for programs serving low-income Americans.
Today, the spokesman for the Emergency Campaign for America's Priorities  , one of the groups leading the fight for a moral budget, denounced Cheney's skewed priorities. Brad Woodhouse issued this statement:
It is an extraordinary testament to the skewed priorities of the Bush Administration and of the Republican leadership in Congress that the Vice President of the United States is breaking off a diplomatic mission abroad to be present to potentially break a tie vote on a bill that slashes health care for poor children and the elderly, that cuts child support enforcement and slashes student loans.
The bill faces a tight vote in the Senate in part because it contains more drastic cuts to Medicaid--which serves low-income and disabled Americans. Although the cuts to food stamps were dropped from the final version passed by the House over the weekend, it's still loaded with reductions to programs that are vital to the welfare of low-income families. This AP story  offers a good overview of the problems with this bill:
Overall, the deficit reduction bill claimed savings of $39.7 billion over five years. That's just 2.5 percent of the $1.6 trillion in total red ink that congressional officials estimate will pile up during the same period. The slender results nonetheless pleased GOP conservatives.
The savings included $4.8 billion from Medicaid, the health care program for the poor. One provision would make it harder for beneficiaries to transfer assets to their children in order to qualify for government-paid nursing home care, which has raised the ire of the AARP, the powerful lobby for seniors.
Drug companies won a last-minute break against cuts to their Medicaid payments at the expense of beneficiaries, who face higher co-payments that advocates for the poor say will drive people out of the program. Regional health insurance companies, another powerful lobby, stopped a Senate bid to cut a subsidy fund designed to entice them into the Medicare market.
Moderate Republicans in the Senate also were angry over a last-minute deal to extend the 1996 welfare reform law. They complained it didn't provide enough child care help as more parents will have to meet work requirements to obtain benefits.
ECAP's Brad Woodhouse has taken to calling the Republicans pushing these cuts "Rolls Royce" Republicans. They support tax cuts that skew toward the wealthiest Americans while slashing funding for programs that help America's most vulnerable. This is a fight they cannot be allowed to win. Another group lobbying against this bill has issued a very specific action alert. The Coalition on Human Needs  asks constituents of the following senators to call today:
While calls to all Senators are very important, it is urgently important that these Senators hear from their constituents: Chafee (RI), Coleman (MN), Collins (ME), DeWine (OH), Landrieu (LA), Nelson (NE), Smith (OR), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA)Please use the toll-free number: 800-426-8073. Ask to be connected to your Senators, and tell them:
- Please vote NO on the
budgetreconciliation conference report (S. 1932). It hurts low-income children, families, the elderly and disabled. Do not allow these one-sided sacrifices to be inflicted on low-income Americans while Congress is preparing to give still more tax breaks to the rich.