April 3, 2017
Between daily headlines and calls for action, March was an onslaught of political news. We break down some of these highs and lows below as we move into spring.
What's going on with federal funding?
On March 16, the White House released America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again, for fiscal year (FY) 2018 as well as proposals for final FY 2017 funding. Termed the “skinny budget,” the proposal would cut $54 billion in nondefense spending with $15.1 billion in proposed cuts to Health and Human Services (HHS) programs in FY 2018 alone and included $18 billion in proposed cuts to current FY 2017 funding that has yet to be finalized.
Though the skinny budget did not specify funding request levels for programs that can support sex education, additional information released in the subsequent days has provided more detail on the FY 2017 proposals. A $50 million cut to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program has been proposed by this Administration, without a clear rationale for reducing the current $101 million funding level by 50%.
Congress will need to pass new funding legislation prior to April 28 to extend FY 2017 funding beyond the current Continuing Resolution deadline. It is unlikely that the President’s FY 2017 budget proposals will gain much traction among Republican leadership, and Democrats in Congress have already condemned the draconian cuts proposed for FY 2017 and forecasted for FY 2018.
Time for action!
It's important to remember that the President’s budget reflects the Administration’s priorities, but Congress ultimately determines federal funding. The President’s skinny budget does, however, confirm that programs that can support sex education and other adolescent sexual health promotion efforts will be attacked by this Administration.
With the President’s full FY 2018 budget reportedly to be released sometime in May, it’s important that Congress hear from you how critical it is to protect funding that supports adolescent health and rights.
We're making noise!
Federal leaders certainly heard from SIECUS and fellow national sex education partners this month. From SIECUS’ President & CEO, Chitra Panjabi’s commentary in Rewire to Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President of Education, Leslie Kantor’s op-ed in The Hill, followed by an additional op-ed from Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the Guttmacher Institute’s Policy Review Special Series, national leaders laid out the numerous reasons why support for sex education and adolescent health promotion programs is so critical.
Keeping an eye on other threats...
As Congress starts its final week in session before heading back to their home states and districts for the April recess, it’s worth recapping some additional federal activity that’s been packed into the past few weeks.
- The House GOP failed to advance the American Health Care Act, their effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
- The Senate proceeded with confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announcing a floor vote on Friday, April 7. Much speculation remains as to whether the Republicans will secure enough Democratic votes to surpass the necessary 60 votes to proceed to a yea or nay vote.
- The Senate, following prior House passage mainly along party lines, voted to dismantle an Obama administration rule protecting access to care at family planning providers, though it required a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Pence.
- Questions related to sexual orientation and gender identity have been removed from federal surveys on aging and services for the disabled. There are also reports that the 2020 U.S. Census and the American Community Survey will exclude these questions as well.
- The appointment of an anti-LGBTQ activist, Roger Severino, to lead the HHS Civil Rights Office.
- The President signed bills pushed through Congress by Republicans that repeal two education final rules related to state flexibility and control over school accountability and teaching training.