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Press Release: NETWORK Deplores Congressional Sequester Priorities

For immediate release: April 26, 2013

Contact: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 ext.224, sniedringhaus@networklobby.org

Washington DC:  Within the past 24 hours, both the Senate and House have voted in record time to change the sequester rules so that those with enough money to travel by air are spared the inconvenience of delayed flights. Meanwhile, children are being denied Head Start services, families are denied access to affordable housing, and financial help for people who are long-term unemployed is shrinking – all because of sequestration.

These two recent votes are a shameful example of upside-down priorities.

Yesterday, prior to the Senate vote, Sister Marge Clark, a NETWORK Lobbyist, wrote the following letter to Democratic senators. We deeply regret that so many legislators from both parties ignored the substance of what she wrote.

Dear Senator:

NETWORK staff have read and heard some members of your caucus considering a piecemeal approach to problems caused by sequestration. NETWORK sharply disagrees with using a piecemeal approach.

The current issue is to make changes to compensate for flight delays that affect predominantly people who can afford to fly – including many members of the House and the Senate. The suggestion is to allow the FAA to be flexible in how it makes savings. 

However, there is little discussion of making changes that would allow those struggling economically to be able to live in dignity. There are not proposals to compensate for the loss of housing vouchers, or significant reduction in the portion of rent paid by them. There are not proposals to protect supplemental nutrition funding (SNAP and other programs). These are just two examples of ways we support those with the greatest need, and least ability to care for themselves: the elderly, children, those with disabilities and veterans and their families. Compensations for cuts that affect the wealthy, but allowing those in or near poverty to languish is not what this nation is about.

Giving “flexibility” within Committees or Departments to adjust what they choose to cut is very dangerous. This is both a political and a moral issue – less likely a policy-based one.  There are members, particularly in the House, who will take every advantage to make ever deeper cuts to programs that support the members of our communities who experience the greatest need.  This can be seen in their attempts to eliminate Community Development Block Grants, to drastically reduce Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds, to cut funding for housing vouchers and preventing funds for increasing the stock of housing units for those in the extremely-low-income bracket.

Strengthen your backbone, your heart – and other members of the Senate – to heed the call of Christ (Matthew 5:1-11), the warnings of Isaiah (Is. 10:1-2) and of the Quran (74: 38-44). Place the needs of all the people, particularly those in poverty, ahead of your own political gain, or threat of pressure from funders.

We hold you in prayer as you struggle in this difficult political atmosphere. We recognize that the decisions to be made are complex asking hard choices of you.  Be firm and gentle, and walk with integrity.

Sincerely,

Marge Clark, BVM

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby