Congress Needs Our Prayer & Reminders to Prioritize Vulnerable People & Common Good

In these last few days of Congressional action before the Christmas break, Congress needs our prayers and reminders about prioritizing the common good and those who are most vulnerable!

“Through human decisions and actions, God is at work in economic life. Economic life is intended to be a means through which God’s purposes for humankind and creation are to be served. When this does not occur, as a church we cannot remain silent because of who and whose we are.”  – from Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All (ELCA Social Statement, passed by Churchwide Assembly, meeting in Denver, Colorado, August 16-22, 1999)

First Action: PRAY

Pray that members of Congress will remember and act for those who are most vulnerable among us, and for the common good, as they

  • vote on the final tax bill,
  • determine whether to reinstate DACA (legal status for children of immigrants that often know no other country & are ready to contribute to the U.S. economy), and
  • either extend temporary continuations of spending at the 2017 levels or decide new appropriations for 2018

Second Action:  CALL* and/or EMAIL* Representatives and Senators

 Tell them: As final decisions are made and voted upon for the tax bill and 2018 spending, keep low-income people and the common good as top priorities, not narrow economic interests.  [*Use your own words & include some reasons for why you care]

 Also tell them that you want to know how they voted and what they did to protect low-income people and the common good. Make sure they take your name and address so that they can contact you. This makes your concern weigh heavier than a simple mark in a tally.

 Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121

 Click name for email contact form: MN01: Rep. Tim Walz (southern MN);  MN02: Rep. Jason Lewis (southern suburbs of Twin Cities);  MN03: Rep. Erik Paulsen (western suburbs and Bloomington);  MN04: Rep. Betty McCollum (St. Paul and its inner-ring suburbs):  MN05: Rep. Keith Ellison (Minneapolis its inner-ring suburbs):  MN06: Rep. Tom Emmer (I-94 corridor);  MN07: Rep. Collin Peterson (Northwestern MN and West-Central MN);  MN08: Rep. Rick Nolan (Northeastern MN); Senator Amy Klobuchar (whole state); Senator Al Franken (whole state)

Timeline:

  • Tuesday, Dec. 18: The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the tax bill.
  • Later this week: The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the tax bill.
  • Friday, December 22: Deadline to continue 2018 spending at 2017 levels or decide new levels. If no decision is made, the government will shut down, which will impacting many services and payments, and that in the end will cost significantly more. This should have been figured out before the beginning of the 2018 fiscal year which began on Oct. 1, but they delayed the decisions.

Background on Final Negotiated Tax Bill:

Following the release of the 1000+ page bill on Friday, many economists have commented that it won’t turn into large savings for most low and middle income people, although it may seem like it as families see more in their paychecks in the first years of changes (with less deducted for taxes). In fact, after 8 years most people will have higher taxes than they would if the system would be left as it is.

Additionally, low–income people will likely end up worse off, in addition to losing many tools that could help them work their way out of poverty.

This chart is borrowed from the PBS NewsHour. Amounts changed slightly in the final negotiated bill, but the trends remain the same.

What else do we see wrong with the bill?

1)      The bill will cost an estimated $1.5 -1.7 trillion. Its cost is expected to come in the form of

  • cuts to Medicare,
  • cuts to Medicaid,
  • cuts to Social Security,
  • cuts to food assistance,
  • cuts to job training,
  • cuts to affordable housing programs,
  • cuts to clean air and clean water programs,
  • and much, much more.

2)      The bill removes the health insurance mandate under the Affordable Care Act causing an estimated 13 million people to lose insurance. In addition, as participants decrease or opt of health insurance markets, premiums for those who remain are predicted to increase by as much as 20 percent.

3)      The bill removes incentives for charitable giving. By increasing the standard deduction and changing itemized deductions, people will find that they get no tax benefit to give to non-profit organizations and churches. Giving is estimated to drop by about $13.1 billion (including a nearly 5% drop in religious giving). [We got this info. from the Minnesota Council of NonProfits]

Background on 2018 Spending Decisions* and Immigrant Dreamer Decisions:

*Note: Spending bills need a supermajority of 60% to pass.

Members from both parties agreed to address the situation of the Dreamers (young adult immigrants brought to the U.S. as children) before the end of the year. The administration discontinued the program known as DACA a few months ago (DACA is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), meaning that people who had been working or in school, suddenly lost their legal status. Unfortunately, DACA has been shoved to the side by other issues, including the tax bills. There is fear that it will keep being pushed aside, endangering Dreamers, their jobs, and much more. Several members of Congress want to address the issue before the Christmas break and might try to hold the spending bill until it gets addressed.

Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota and ELCA Advocacy want quick solution and a “clean Dream Act” (not attached to other bills or loaded with additional issues attached to it). It must be addressed very soon. The well-being of Dreamers and their families are impacted, as are their communities and employers.

Meanwhile, leaders in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate have said that the next priorities are “changing” (read chopping) programs like Medicaid and SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). We are very concerned by cuts to those important programs, and by announcing that, the leaders are essentially saying that even though they promised a Dream Act vote, it isn’t on their agenda anymore.

The spending bill, already 3 months into the fiscal year, must be addressed by Dec. 22, or risk closing down the government. Each time that has happened it ended up costing billions of dollars. Will Congress try to attach major cuts to the conjoined spending bills for 2018? There are some members who may try to hold it up unless there are major cuts. With the Christmas break coming very soon, many members of Congress just want to pass a continuing resolution for 2018 spending (keeping it at 2017 levels) and deal with everything in the new year.

Clearly, Congress needs our prayers, and it needs us to remind them that the common good and those most vulnerable need to be top priorities.

Thanks again, friends! Your action is worth so much!