14 Weeks That Could Make a Difference
By Jim Cason on 08/06/2012 @ 12:40 PM
When will Congress decide on cuts to the Pentagon budget, tax issues and other policy choices of concern to FCNL? Every day seems to bring a new answer, or partial answer to this question. The real answer, a friend of mine who works on the Hill told me this weekend, is no one knows -- not even members of Congress themselves.
What we do know is that members of Congress are unlikely to reach agreement on any of the big issues until after the November 6 elections. Then Congress will have less than two months before sweeping cuts in both Pentagon and other government spending will go into effect and a full range of tax cuts will expire.
In November and December Congress will be under tremendous pressure to reach a "comprehensive" agreement that covers taxes, spending and a host of other controversial issues. And remember, this isn't just a discussion about what happens in 2013. It's a discussion about what happens in the next ten years.
The question is what kind of deal will Congress go for? Part of the answer will depend on what members of Congress are hearing from the administration, from Pentagon contractors and from their constituents. Ultimately, if Congress does come up with a deal in December it will probably be crafted in small, backrooms and then brought for a vote just before Christmas. You and I will not be in those rooms.
But before Congress retreats to those backroom negotiations, you have a vital role. We know from conversations with their offices here in Washington and from your meetings around the country that members of Congress are listening to what their constituents are saying. So far, we're told, Congress is hearing a lot more from groups who don't want the Pentagon to pay its fair share of any budget cuts in the next ten years.
The Next 14 Weeks will be Important
Meetings with Senators: What would happen if every Senator in the country had at least four requests for meetings from community delegations pressing to make sure that any effort to cut the federal budget deficit takes a balanced approach that includes significant cuts to Pentagon spending?
Letters to the editor: Folks in the FCNL network have probably already published close to 100 letters to the editor in favor of cuts in Pentagon spending over the last year. What would happen if every senator saw her or his name mentioned in a published letter to the editor calling for cuts in Pentagon spending at least three times in the next 14 weeks?
Letters to Senators on Pentagon budget cuts: What would happen if the staff who open letters in the senate offices faced at least 50 letters every week calling for cuts in Pentagon spending.
Come to Washington November 15-18
After you do all that, we hope you'll then come to Washington for FCNL's Quaker Public Policy Institute and Lobby Day in the week before Thanksgiving. The institute is timed to be just about the last possible moment when your visits to these offices could have an impact before they go into the backrooms to make a deal.
We expect that members of Congress will be gearing up to make decisions on key budget issues, including whether or not the Pentagon will have to pay its fair share of budget cuts. We also know that if every senate office had a least one delegation visiting this week it would have an impact on the staff and on the senators.
Of course, Congress could put off the decision. But right now that doesn't seem likely. And even if the decision is postponed for a few months, what members of Congress hear in the next 14 weeks will make a tremendous difference.