from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: April 2024



HUNGER IN THE FARM BILL:  Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA), chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, announced intentions to introduce legislative text for reauthorizing the Farm Bill as soon as April. This comes after reports of policy disagreements among lawmakers on how to allocate anti-hunger, conservation and crop investment funding.

Though little is expected to pass in an election year, Congress must pass or temporarily extend a Farm Bill by the end of September before certain programs start to expire.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

Food programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) accompany the mission of our ministries, food pantries and charitable investments striving for a just world where all are fed. Cuts or newly added barriers to the SNAP program could come at a dire time as food costs continue to climb in many of our communities, and as many of our ministries are over capacity.

What’s Next:

The ELCA Action Center has a current Action Alert urging lawmakers to preserve funding for SNAP and anti-hunger programs in the Farm Bill. ELCA Witness in Society staff will be meeting with congressional staff ahead of potential House introduction and will be monitoring the legislation.

PARTICULATE MATTER EMISSIONS STANDARDS: In February, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) updated its standards for particulate matter in accordance with the Clean Air Act. This new standard is to go into effect on May 6, 2024. Recently, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a Congressional Review Act to nullify this rule change.

Why it Matters in the ELCA:

ELCA advocacy joined other faith partners to advocate for this change over the last year (March 2023 letter) and celebrated the new standard from the EPA. This rule change is expected to save an estimated 4,500 lives and deliver $46 billion in health benefits in 2032.

What’s Next:

ELCA advocacy and interfaith partners are advocating with lawmakers to show support for the new EPA particulate matter emissions standards and asking offices to oppose the proposed congressional review act.

PEPFAR EXTENDED FOR JUST ONE YEAR: Members of Congress included a one-year extension of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in the final FY24 appropriations bill. The new reauthorization will expire on Mar. 25, 2025. This is the first time PEPFAR has received reauthorization of less than five years, raising concerns about the long-term impact on global PEPFAR services.

In addition to reauthorization, Congress also appropriated a flat level of funding for PEPFAR programming, and for other bilateral HIV programs administered by USAID. The multilateral Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria received a reduction.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

PEPFAR is the largest U.S. global health program devoted to a single disease. Today, PEPFAR supports over 20 million people around the world by providing lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. Because of PEPFAR, millions of babies born to mothers living with HIV are born HIV-free. Lutheran hospitals in countries like Tanzania partner with PEPFAR to provide various services to people living with HIV.

What’s Next:

In the coming year, ELCA advocacy and partners will continue to urge members of Congress to pass a multi-year PEPFAR reauthorization before Mar. 25, 2025.

CALLS FOR BILATERAL CEASEFIRE INCREASE:  ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton joined global Christian leaders in calling for a cease fire in Gaza. The chorus of churches and global Christian leaders wrote an Easter letter calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and saying, “We hold onto the hope that peace is possible even in the midst of this darkest hour.”

Despite White House statements and congressional action, President Biden authorized arms transfer to Israel. Despite multiple letters to the administration from church leaders – including those from the ELCA and global Christian leaders – the Biden Administration authorized a multi-billion-dollar arms transfer to Israel on Mar. 27, even after historic public condemnation of the Netanyahu government from the administration and Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The opening line of the ELCA social statement For Peace in God’s World states: “We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America share with the Church of Jesus Christ in all times and places the calling to be peacemakers.”

What’s Next:

The ELCA will continue to advocate for a permanent bilateral ceasefire and the restoration of funding to UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

APPROPRIATIONS BILL INCREASES IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT SPENDING: On Mar. 8, Congress passed H.R. 2882, the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2024”. The FY24 minibus package provides funding for various immigration programs and provisions. The package did not include harmful immigration policy riders. The spending package overall represents a dramatic increase in funding for immigration enforcement, detention, and removal operations; meanwhile, funding for overseas programs to address migration and refugees decreased or stayed the same.

Some notable highlights include $34 million to process work permit applications and funding for case management, alternatives to detention, and the Shelter and Service Program (SSP) through FEMA to support NGOs serving migrants.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The ELCA continues to work for fair and compassionate immigration policies that weigh the need for security with functioning asylum and immigration policies, arising from the accompaniment of ELCA programs and ministries with migrants. By providing yet more billions in additional for funding for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) while neglecting to address the drivers of migration or widening legal pathways to the United States, lawmakers resign to repeat the mistakes of the past. For years, the number of people arriving at the border has increased, despite an ever-increasing influx of tax-dollars for border enforcement. During the FY24 budget process, the ELCA advocated for funding to provide safety and dignity for asylum seekers, for international assistance to address the drivers of migration and for investments in refugee protection.

What’s Next:

The FY25 federal appropriations process begins in earnest soon. Reportedly, the administration is also weighing certain executive actions (used previously to impose a travel ban on people of Muslim-majority countries) which would most certainly draw legal challenges, irrespective of congressional action on a border supplemental package.


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