This week, Congress prepares to pass a bill to fund the government. ELCA Advocacy is working to support funding proposals and legislation focused on justice and love for our neighbor. Together with you, we strive to create room for practical solutions, open respectful bipartisan dialogues, fulfill our Biblical values, and avoid scenarios which foster a government shutdown.
Appropriation legislators recently released a $1.1 trillion spending agreement on Fiscal Year 2015. This proposal would fund all of the government, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, until September 2015. As legislators work to pass the new budget before December 11, the ELCA remains focused on issues that affect our faith communities and neighbors:
Nutrition: The ELCA has long advocated for food security and access for all. As part of our call to speak for a just society and love for our neighbor, we are pleased to see Congress is isupporting funding that provides supplemental food and nutrition education to new mothers in the WIC program. After facing intense threats of cutbacks, we are also pleased that work requirements for the SNAP nutrition program were not tightened. However, we are concerned by the implications of a policy rider which would give schools a one year waiver to bypass nutritional meal requirements. Nutrition standards in schools affect children’s health, their educational achievement and economic security. As a church called to strive for justice, we will continue to advocate in 2015 for policies that care for the health and nutrition of all our brothers and sisters, including the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act..
Environment: In 2014, ELCA Advocacy joined Lutherans in the People’s Climate March in New York and advocated for policies that care for God’s creation. We are deeply concerned by funding cuts that will significantly reduce EPA agency staff to the lowest number since the 1980s and will ban contributions to the international Green Climate Fund for one year. In 2015, we will continue to push for policies that care for the earth, our neighbors and all of God’s creation. After contentious debates, Senate appropriators succeeded on limiting large cuts to the EPA’s environmental programs, including language for the new proposal on Power Plant Carbon Emissions, which ELCA Advocacy championed over the summer.
Abortion: Appropriation bills maintained nearly all pro-life policy riders, with the exception of a rape and incest exception added to the Peace Corps program. Additional funding was provided to abstinence education. New language was also added which will make the Affordable Care Act disclose abortion coverage.
International Affairs: ELCA Advocacy welcomes the addition of $2.5 billion in emergency funding to help address the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. However, this amount is less than the $6.18 billion needed for immediate needs, as requested by President Obama. Through Lutheran Disaster Response and other partnerships, the ELCA has worked to provide over $100,000 to containing and addressing the Ebola crisis. We will continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure that more funding resources are available to help address the Ebola emergency. In the Middle East, Jordan will receive $1 billion to help the country with hosting Syrian refugees and fighting the extremist group calling itself The Islamic State.
Immigration: This summer, ELCA Advocacy took action to support the rights of all migrants– including children and families, and ensure that they are treated with dignity and compassion. We are happy to see Congress acknowledge the need for a holistic approach to the influx of migrant children and families seeking refuge in the United States. Proposed funding levels will help finance agencies that take care of children, and help the State Department address the root causes of migration. We look forward to continue our work in 2015 with the Administration, Congress, and partner organizations to ensure that the programs and policies supported by these funds acknowledge the humanity in all of God’s children and concentrate in effectively supporting those who are vulnerable.
Money in Politics: Among the other policy riders, a surprise piece of legislation affecting money in politics is stirring new controversy. As it stands, the proposal would increase an individual’s maximum campaign contributions from $64,800 to nearly $1.6 million. If the wealthiest can continue to overwhelm the voices of ordinary Americans, we not only cease to be a democracy, but also silence the most marginalized members of our communities who cannot afford to make large campaign contributions. This year, hundreds of Lutheran advocates voiced their concerns on the overwhelming increase of money and special interests in politics to the Senate. As advocates who work to empower all voices, we will continue to challenge social systems which weaken our democracy.
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