Saturday, November 12, 2011

What Does it Take for Congress to Pass a Compassionate Budget?

On Tuesday, November 8, members of the Bread for the World board of directors took time from our meetings in Washington to visit our senators to urge them to form a Circle of Protection around programs that help the most vulnerable in our country and overseas.  This was both for the 2012 budget and for the longer term. 

From the God's Politics blog
I had very good meetings with the aides to Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, who seem very supportive of this effort.  Other members met with the staffs of Sens. Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, Dianne Feinstein, Barbara Boxer and others. 

The board member who had one of the most important meetings was from Washington state. Her senator  Patty Murray, plays a key role in the budget debate.  She is co-chair of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, more commonly known as the Super Committee. 

The Super Committee is nearing the Nov. 23 deadline to put forth a plan that will cut the deficit, whether it is through budget cuts or revenue enhancement. The committee, comprised of House and Senate members, is charged with issuing a recommendation for at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction steps to be undertaken over a ten‐year period.  

Most of the proposals are looking at budget cuts, and the programs that are most vulnerable to cuts are those that provide food and nutrition assistance (WIC, SNAP), job training, energy assistance, child care. 

From National Council of Churches Super Vigil site
"Many of their proposed cuts the Super Committee is contemplating strike fear in my soul -- a visceral forboding of injustice," Karla T. Vasquez wrote in a piece entitled Human Circles of Protection: 16, 23, 24 is the Combination to Guard the Needy Against Budget Cuts, published in  Sojourners' God's Politics blog.

According to Ms. Vasquez, there are three key numbers (or dates): 16,  23, and  24.  I would add 20 (or November 20), and I'll tell you why in a second. 

On November 16, communities around the country will gather at noon to form human circles of protection around the buildings of organizations and agencies that have dedicated their lives to helping the poor and are in jeopardy of losing essential funding from the federal government. 

November 23 is the Super Committee deadline.

On November 24, we all will be thankful for the hands that joined together in order to take a stand for their community, for justice and for hope," said Ms. Vasquez.

Join us for Vigil at Bataan Park on November 20

As far as I know, no event has been planned in Albuquerque for Nov. 16, but the New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light, Bread New Mexico, and other members of the local faith community have put together An Interfaith Vigil for a Compassionate Budget on Sunday, November 20, at 3:00 p.m. at Bataan Park (on the corner of Lomas and Girard).  Read more on Facebook.

Our event is tied to the Super Vigil promoted by the National Council of Churches for that date.  We will be using a version of this budget litany.  I'm sure many communities around the country will organized vigils and rallies around both the Sojourners and the NCC events.

We began the dialogue here in Albuquerque with Joining Hands in a Circle of Protection, a prayer vigil that we organized at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Oct. 22.  

We are following up on that vigil by meeting with five candidates seeking the open seat in the First Congressional District: Michelle Lujan Grisham (Nov. 16); Dan Lewis, Janice Arnold-Jones and Martin Chavez (all on Nov. 18); and Eric Griego (Nov. 19). If you want to participate in the congressional visits, please drop me a note at  

And if you can't come for any of those meetings, please join us on November 20 for the vigil at Bataan Park.

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