Congress averted a potential March 4 government shutdown by approving a temporary spending measure (H.J. Res. 44). This Continuing Resolution (CR) legislation will keep federal programs funded through March 18, 2011, while cutting current spending by $4 billion. While temporarily averting a shutdown, the threat to job training programs remains at â€˜Code Red.â€™
The good news is that H.J. Res. 44 does not include the drastic reductions included in another CR, (H.R. 1), which passed the House on February 19. Representatives weighed in on party lines on this bill, which proposes to extend funding through the end of FY 2011, while cutting current spending by $59 billion, including a 90 percent cut to the Department of Laborâ€™s job training budget.
The bad news is that H.R. 1 is still on the table.
For the next two weeks, Congress will continue debating the $59 billion gap that divides the parties. Considering the enormous difference between Republicans and Democrats, Beltway insiders expect Congress to pass yet another short-term CR in order to avert a government shutdown on March 18. That CR would likely be good for one or two more weeks and include additional cuts to current spending.
At a time when unemployment stubbornly hovers near 10 percent, this scenario poses three serious, potential threats to job-training proponents:
- Additional cuts that are likely to be included in the anticipated short-term CR will come from programs that the Presidentâ€™s FY 2012 budget proposes to cut or eliminate, such as the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), which the President proposes to reduce from $825 million to $450 million.
- The long-term CR (H.R. 1) continues to include a proposal to cut $3.87 billion from the Department of Laborâ€™s job training budget.
- The FY 2012 budget and appropriations process represents another opportunity for opposing sides of this debate to extend this debate into a Presidential election cycle â€“ thus increasing political pressure on Congressional job training champions to make concessions or risk being labeled â€˜fiscally irresponsible.â€™
Grassroots support is needed to demonstrate continued support for programs that aim to quickly put people back to work.
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