Your U.S. Senators and Representatives Will Be Home This Week! Take Action!

March 21-25:  a week when U.S. Senators and Reps will be home.
They need to hear from you!

Members of Congress will come home, just having voted to keep the government running for another 3 weeks (until April 8).  This three week funding bill cut another $6 billion, but this time they mostly avoided cuts in child and family programs. 

This new approach of funding the federal government a few weeks at a time could not be less efficient – agencies are being given small allocations, anticipating later cuts to come; they cannot sign leases or plan.  Both the president and leaders in Congress say the next vote on this year’s budget will be the last, and will fund the government through September, the end of the fiscal year. There remains a substantial risk that they could still adopt the cuts passed initially by the House of Representatives. If so, children’s programs will be hit hard. 

And some in Congress will propose even bigger budget cuts for FY 2012, including Medicaid, along with more cuts in domestic programs. 

Senators and Reps have cast votes either for or against the House-passed spending plan (H.R. 1).  If they voted for it, they voted to deny Head Start to 218,000 children, to prevent 11 million people from getting health care from Community Health Centers, and to reduce or eliminate Pell Grants for 9.4 million low-income college students. Click here to see the full impact of H.R. 1.

To see how your Senators voted on these cuts, click here

No Democrats in the Senate voted for H.R. 1.  Most Republicans did, except a few who opposed it because they didn’t feel it cut enough.  There was a second vote on an alternative proposal developed by Senator Inouye (D-HI), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  All Republicans voted against the Inouye substitute proposal; 10 Democrats and 1 Independent also opposed it, in most cases because they did not believe it cut deeply enough, but sometimes because they felt it cut too much — Senator Sanders (I-VT) believed it cut too much, for example.  Click here to see the roll call vote on the Inouye substitute.

When they go home, who will they hear from?  A series of polls show that big majorities of Americans do not want these cuts.  But if members of Congress only hear from people screaming to defund the government, your elected officials will return to Washington convinced that their constituents want them to cut more deeply.

Please don’t let that happen.

We hope you’ll try these or other approaches to seeing your senators next week.  (We’re emphasizing senators because the Senate holds the key to opposing extreme proposals that may emerge from the House.)

It is also important to hold Reps accountable, so take advantage of opportunities to see your Rep too.

Go to a public event arranged by the Senator’s office:  Many Senators are holding town meetings, “meet-‘n-greet” events, or other forums where they can speak with constituents.  Call one or both of your Senators’ offices nearest you and find out whether they will be staging an event you can go to.  If there is one, make plans to attend, preferably with at least a few other people.

Be prepared with a question that incorporates a brief statement, such as:

“Senator, thanks for voting against the extreme cuts in the House spending plan earlier this month. I work at (service provider agency), [and/or] in our area, cuts are already being felt in [program example].  We have high poverty and joblessness, and cuts in [community health centers, Head Start, job training, education…] will make things even worse. We’ll never reduce the deficit if you don’t fund the services that educate, heal, and protect our children, and help their parents get jobs.  As you work on approving final spending for this fiscal year and move on to plans for next year, will you oppose cuts that hurt low- and moderate-income families, including restrictive caps on all spending that will inevitably cut needed services, and support investments that will create jobs?  Will you support increased revenues from corporations and upper-income people who have been doing very well so we can reduce the deficit without hurting those most in need?”

Of course, change the question to make it apply to your Senator and/or your community.  If it’s appropriate, ask your Senator if he/she would be willing to visit a service provider site in your area sometime soon, to see the value of the services provided.  If you aren’t given a chance to ask the question during the forum/event, try to catch the senator on the way out and ask it then.

Arrange for your Senator to visit a child serving site:  Call the Senator’s local office now to invite him/her to your agency (child care center, Head Start program, community health center, emergency food site, school, etc.).  If he/she is unable to come during the week of March 21-25, ask for a visit during the next recess, April 18-29.  This is obviously a harder task than attending a forum, but would be extremely valuable.  Give the Senator an opportunity to meet agency staff and people making use of the services.  Make it an event that will get press attention.  Consider incorporating a meeting in which the senator can hear from people representing a range of services that help low-income people, inviting people from other agencies or organizations to join in.

Ways to raise your issues even if you do not attend a meeting with the Senator or Rep: 

  • If the Senator is in the news during the recess, write a letter to the editor making the connection to the need to protect low/moderate income people, and our economy, from harsh cuts.  For example:  “Senator X was right to focus on the need to invest in education.  That’s why, as a constituent and [service provider, etc., or, as a constituent concerned about the urgent need to provide a route out of poverty for (state’s) poor children], I am counting on Senator X to oppose foolhardy cuts, not only in education but also in nutrition, child care, housing, and health care.  Children who are hungry, sick, or living in unsafe conditions are more likely to fall behind in school.  Senator X did the right thing by opposing the extreme cuts to these and other programs in the House spending plan.  (S)He needs to take the lead in fighting for the necessary investments in our future in the budget decisions still before Congress.”
  • Send this emailable letter to your senators.

Lots of ways to be heard!  Please choose one or more, so your senators know their constituents hold them accountable for protecting low-income people and investing in economic growth for all. 


Michael Petit
Every Child Matters Education Fund