Activism Works: Federal Budget Maintains Funding For Essential Services–At Least For Now (VIDEO)


There is much cause for concern these days. We have an executive branch clearly in the pocket of petro-billionaires and a majority of Congress is marching along with it in lock-step.

President Donald Trump’s campaign is under FBI investigation for collusion with Russia.

Faith in our electoral system rests under a cloud of doubt from voter suppression, the viability of the Electoral College, and fake news generated in foreign countries.

The new administration is, as we speak, rolling back protections for the environment, unions, students with federal loans, low-income Americans, and healthcare.

Income equality is multiplying.

Our international reputation is quickly eroding.

In this time of Sturm und Drang, we expect to be, and are, bombarded with foreboding prognostications. It might be a good time then to invoke the unprecedented wave of activism sweeping the nation, beginning with the January 21 Women’s March and continuing unrelentingly every day. These displays of solidarity and resistance have been effective in demonstrating to lawmakers we are not going to sit idly and allow them to chip away at the best things about America. It is encouraging news we rarely hear above the din. Despite what many would like people to believe, our opposition to Trump’s authoritarian agenda is proving successful.

One of the most recent examples we were treated to last week was news of the impending government shutdown. President Trump demanded that in the congressional budget be included funding for the Southern border wall he promised his base during the campaign, defunding Planned Parenthood, cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cuts to the National Institutions of Health (NIH), defunding sanctuary cities, and a host of other controversial measures.

That shutdown did not happen, though. These and other programs will remain funded through September, and if we keep up the pressure, for good.

According to a Think Progress piece from last week, there are fourteen ways Trump lost and we won.

1. No funding for the border wall

There is reportedly language in the $1 trillion omnibus bill prohibiting construction of a new wall along the southern border.

The Democratic appropriations summary says the omnibus:

“Does not include… funding requested by President Trump to build a border wall or fencing on areas of the U.S.-Mexico border where no fencing currently exists.”

2. No cuts to Planned Parenthood

Trump signed a law that makes it easier for states to withhold Planned Parenthood funding. However, this did not make it into the budget. The Democratic appropriations summary states the deal contains no language about defunding Planned Parenthood.

3. No drastic cuts for EPA

According to congressional aides, the budget bill retains ninety-nine percent of funding for the EPA, which is already underfunded, and all current staff positions remain.

4. No funding for Trump’s deportation force

During his campaign, Trump proposed cracking down on undocumented immigrants across the country, and is following through on this in many respects. However, Democrats told reporters last week the budget deal contains no funding for a so-called “deportation force.”

5. Funding for ACA subsidies

Trump dropped his opposition to funding subsides that allow low-income Americans to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This is still threatened, though, by Republican efforts to repeal the ACA. Thursday, Republicans in the House effectively voted for repeal, sending the repeal effort to the Senate where it will undergo amendments.

6. $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH’s medical research will continue. The budget awards $34.1 billion to NIH, which is  $2 billion more than it currently receives. This is $3.2 billion more than the Trump administration wanted. Included is a down-payment on the Obama administration’s cancer research “moonshot” initiative.

7. Funding for Community Development Block Grants

According to budget proposals, Trump would rather eliminate this program that provides funding for Meals on Wheels programs around the country and helps low-income Americans who no longer have affordable places to live. The omnibus budget maintains the same $3 billion funding as currently exists .

According to the Guardian, had President Trump gotten his way, nearly every community action partnership (CAP) in the country would have to close. The community service block grant (CSBG) that funds CAP is one of dozens of community service and poverty-fighting programs the president hallowed out in his administration’s “skinny budget” proposal in March.

8. No defunding of sanctuary cities

Sanctuary cities are municipalities that decide not to act as de facto community deportation forces through non-cooperation with federal efforts in arresting undocumented immigrants. Trump has attacked these cities by threatening to cut their funding. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was shut down in court for threatening the same thing. The omnibus bill, though, does not contain any language prohibiting funds for these cities.

9. Funding for Puerto Rico

Trump told Reuters:

“I don’t think that’s fair to the people of Iowa, and I don’t think it’s fair to the people of Wisconsin and Ohio and North Carolina and Pennsylvania that we should be bailing out Puerto Rico for billions and billions of dollars.”

But the budget deal includes $295 million for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.

10. Half of the requested funding for the military

Trump asked for a $30 billion increase in military spending for this fiscal year, promising to add hundreds of ships, a dozen infantry battalions, and over 1,000 aircraft to “rebuild” the armed forces.

He got half.

11. Less than half of the requested funding for border security

Trump wanted $3 billion more for border security; instead he will get $1.2 billion for technology and infrastructure improvements. According to the Democratic appropriations summary, the budget agreement:

“Does not include a statutory requirement from prior years to maintain a minimum number of detention beds” or a “longstanding statutory requirement to maintain a minimum number of detention beds.”

12. Funding for high-speed rail

Caving to Republican pressure, Trump back in February decided to block $647 million in federal grants intended to fund California’s high-speed rail project that would help electrify the route connecting a proposed corridor to San Francisco. Under the budget deal, California will continue to get $100 million in federal funding.

The Democratic appropriations summary said:

“The T-HUD bill does not include a rider that prevents the Federal Railroad Administration from administering a grant agreement for a high speed rail project in California.”

13. Increase in non-defense domestic spending

Trump asked for $18 billion in cuts to domestic discretionary spending. On the campaign trail, he promised to cut domestic spending, zero out the deficit, and shrink the debt. But he will now have to sign a bill that grows the government, including providing $4.6 billion for an Appalachian coal miners health extension and $2 billion in disaster relief.

14. No other “poison pills”

A rider or “poison pill” is an extreme amendment unrelated to budgetary policy. There was reason to believe Republicans would include one in the current budget proposal. According to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), though, the deal currently has none. This doesn’t mean there will not be pressure to attach one to the bill. But right now, the bill appears to be a clean.

Make no mistake: if we had remained complacent and silent since January 20, the aforementioned budget would likely look very bleak. Instead, we raised our voices, lobbied our representatives, rallied, marched, sent postcards, letters, emails, tweets, and flooded lawmakers’ offices with phone calls. Those that care about re-election listened. Persisting in our activism is not going to necessarily make for easy battles, but it sends the right message that we aren’t planning on rolling over soon.

Featured image from Outside the Beltway.

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to Op-Ed News, Liberal Nation Rising, and Zoedune.