As the White House and Congress continue to engage in heated battle over budget cuts and tax rates, activists warn that going over the "fiscal cliff" would result in a series of cuts to federal programs that support LGBT Americans.
In a new report published by the Center for American Progress and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the authors warn that if Congress cannot reach a deal before the end of the lame duck session, cuts to the LGBT community will be severe and may include a depletion in funds for investigating hate crimes as well as an estimated 10,000 low-income people losing access to medicine under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.
Known as sequestration, going off the fiscal cliff would cause cuts to federal spending and increases to taxes to automatically go into effect on Jan. 2, 2013.
Specifically, the report details which programs could be affected the most by across-the-board cuts and how those cuts would negatively affect LGBT Americans. The report states:
- Sequestration would hurt gay and transgender workers and threaten their employment security because federal agencies would have fewer resources to investigate claims of employment discrimination.
- Sequestration would compromise gay and transgender health by reducing programmatic funding used to address the health care needs of gay and transgender Americans.
- Sequestration would remove critical resources from government agencies currently working to combat bullying and school violence against gay and transgender youth.
- Sequestration would limit the federal government’s ability to address the high rates of homelessness among gay and transgender youth.
- Sequestration would limit the government’s capacity to prevent discrimination in housing against gay and transgender renters, tenants and potential homeowners.
- Sequestration would hamper the government’s efforts to prevent violent crime against gay and transgender people through enforcement of hate-crimes legislation and other similar federal initiatives aimed at preventing violence in this community.
Twenty-three other organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, joined in issuing the report and calling on lawmakers for action. In a forward to the report, HRC President Chad Griffin writes that cuts from sequestration would "pull the safety net out from under" vulnerable Americans.
"As this report lays out in detail, we cannot afford for Congress to sit idly by while programs that provide a lifeline to vulnerable gay and transgender people are gutted by avoidable cuts," Griffin writes. "There's no doubt that tough choices need to be made, but we urge Congress to make cuts thoughtfully. Now is not the time to abandon the programs so vital to vulnerable Americans, including gay and transgender people. Now is the time to work together to achieve a balanced, fair approach for everyone."
The White House and leaders on Capitol Hill continue to search for a compromise on key issues of the budget. President Barack Obama has urged the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to approve a plan that extends the Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class families, but lets the top tax rate rise from 35 percent to 39.6 percent.
Although some Republicans have signaled flexibility in allowing tax rates to increase for the wealthiest Americans, they stipulate such a deal can only be reached if considerable cuts to spending are made as well.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said "no substantive progress" had been made in attempts to reach a deal with the White House and Democrats, adding that "the White House has to get serious."
At a press briefing following Boehner's remarks, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reaffirmed the president's opposition to signing any legislation that extends Bush-era tax cuts for top earners.
"This should not be news to anyone on Capitol Hill," Carney said. "It is certainly not news to anyone in America who was not in a coma during the campaign season, because this was an explicit, repeated and high-profile debate throughout the campaign."
Obama and Boehner spoke by phone last night about ongoing negotiations. The call lasted 28 minutes and, according to Carney, was “frank and direct and a good conversation.”
READ the full report here: