Thursday, July 11, 2019

Budget for combatting child sex trafficking reduced by Acosta - and then looms the next debt ceiling fight

Judd Legum reports this item in a popular.info subscriber’s post to the morning email.

Acosta proposed a massive cut in funds that protect children from sex trafficking

As Secretary of Labor, Acosta is in charge of overseeing much of the federal government’s efforts to combat child sex trafficking. Acosta’s proposed 2020 budget contains an 80% funding cut for the section of the Labor Department that fights “against the sexual exploitation of children.” That section, known as the International Labor Affairs Bureau, would see its funding reduced from $68 million to $18.5 million.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) called the proposed cuts “reckless” and “amoral.” Kathleen Kim, a law professor at Loyola Law School, said the proposed cuts are “bound to expose children to more risk of sexual trafficking” and “will undoubtedly eliminate many of the US government’s anti-human trafficking efforts that have been critical in encouraging action by law enforcement.”

Asked about the proposed cuts at his press conference, Acosta didn’t have much of an answer. He said that those kinds of grants could be cut and restored later.

As Legum said, this was not “much of an answer.”

Bear in mind that the threat to this program may be amplified by other governmental actions (or inactions) such as the looming debt ceiling deadline. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports At the intersection of a debt-ceiling mess and a shutdown threat.

I’ve long thought of debt-ceiling fights like a scheduled root canal on the calendar: it’s one of those unpleasant things you know is coming, but you’d prefer not to think too much about it until it’s absolutely necessary.

Earlier this week, the Bipartisan Policy Center insisted it’s absolutely necessary. The think tank concluded that federal tax revenue is falling short of projections, so the time we thought we had in advance of the next debt-ceiling increase is evaporating. In fact, the group said the borrowing limit would probably have to be addressed by early September – not October or November, as previously estimated.

As it turns out, the Bipartisan Policy Center isn’t alone in its concerns. The Hill reported this morning that lawmakers are “growing anxious that they might have to vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in a matter of weeks.”

Lawmakers had hoped they would be able to avoid the politically painful vote to raise the debt ceiling until the fall – and that it could be packaged with other legislation to fund the government and set budget caps on spending.

But that could be much more difficult if Treasury’s ability to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit ends in mid-September – just days after lawmakers would be set to return from their summer recess.

At some point, we should all probably have a conversation about why federal tax revenue is proving to be a problem – have I mentioned lately that the Republican tax plan was a bad idea? – but in the short term, the prospect of an ugly train wreck is coming into sharper focus.

Because increasing the debt ceiling isn’t the only related challenge on Congress’ late-summer to-do list.

Not only does it now appear that lawmakers will have to raise the debt limit in September, that will coincide with the expiration of existing federal spending that keeps federal operations running. Politico reported yesterday that the odds of yet another government shutdown are “skyrocketing,” adding, “There’s been next to no progress on a deal to lift mandatory government spending caps that take effect in January, so aides in both parties have said they believe that a shutdown is becoming more and more likely.”

The Washington Post recently reported, “GOP leaders have spent months cajoling President Trump in favor of a bipartisan budget deal that would fund the government and raise the limit on federal borrowing this fall, but their efforts have yet to produce a deal…. The GOP dysfunction — coupled with a new House Democratic majority with its own priorities — leaves the sides much farther apart than they were at this point in last year’s budget process, which ended in a record-long government funding lapse.”

We’ll dig into this in more detail as the deadlines draw closer, but there are three basic elements to keep an eye on: Congress and the White House will have to (1) agree to raise the debt ceiling; (2) fund government operations; and (3) lift budget caps that will otherwise kick in automatically (thanks to that darned sequester law from 2011) and cut more than $100 billion from domestic and military priorities.

The stakes are high, and given what we’ve seen in recent weeks, there’s been little evidence of progress. No wonder lawmakers are starting to feel “anxious.”

No comments:

Post a Comment