While Congress is back in session after the August recess, it is only for a short while. The House and Senate are expected to adjourn soon and not reconvene until after Election Day on November 6, but will address a number of priorities while they are still in Washington, D.C.
The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, 2012 , and Congress has failed to pass any of the 12 annual spending bills to fund the government during upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2013. On September 13, the House passed a stop-gap, six-month continuing resolution (H.J. Res. 117) by a vote of 329-91 in order to prevent a government shutdown. The continuing resolution (CR), introduced by House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY) provides federal funding through March 27, 2013. This utilizes the Budget Control Act level of $1.047 trillion for discretionary spending (a slight increase of .612% compared to FY2012 funding). The Senate passed the continuing resolution on Wednesday, September 19 by a vote of 76-22, with 24 Republicans joining Democrats. Under the CR, all programs will operate under the same terms and conditions as in the FY2012 bills, so no new programs will start and no programs will be eliminated. While there are several changes addressed by the CR, the bill does not include the 21st CCLC language allowing funds to support a longer school day or school yearthat was added in the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) spending bill that passed the Appropriations Committee last summer. The House LHHS spending bill did not include that language either.
On Jan. 2, 2013, $1.2 trillion in automatic across-the-board spending cuts (known as sequestration) will go into effect unless Congress and the president can come to an agreement on a mix of tax increases and spending cuts to offset them. On September 14, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released a report detailing the impact of sequestration. The report calls sequestration “deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments, and core government functions.” The report finds that sequestration would result in a 9.4 percent cut in defense discretionary funding and an 8.2 percent cut in nondefense discretionary funding, including education funding, for FY2013. That works out to an approximate $55 billion cut from defense, $38 billion from domestic discretionary programs, $11 billion from Medicare, and $5 billion from other mandatory spending. While the new report does not go into specific program level cuts, sequestration estimates by the Senate Appropriations Committee suggest 145,180 fewer students would be able to access afterschool and summer learning opportunities currently provided through the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative; and 80,000 fewer children would be served by the Child Care Development Block Grant. Congress has until the end of the year to address sequestration in order to prevent these cuts from taking place.
The Child Protection Improvements Act (CPIA) passed the Senate Judiciary Committee this month and could be voted upon by the full Senate in September. The CPIA bill passed the House of Representatives in July 2011 with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 412-4. The bill addresses the gaping hole in federal law that bars youth-serving organizations in the majority of states from accessing the FBI's criminal records database when screening potential staff and volunteers who will be working with children. The Afterschool Alliance has worked with the American Camp Association and other partners in support of this bill for the past several years.
Members of Congress will soon depart Washington for their home districts to campaign through September and October. The campaign season provides a great opportunity to reach out to members of Congress in support of afterschool and summer learning programs, particularly through Lights On Afterschool. Emails to Congress are also a great way to express your support for quality afterschool and summer learning programs.