Thursday, October 06, 2005

GOP Senators Cut Critical Aid To Children, Poor, Elderly

“One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” - William Shakespeare [Hamlet]

And so it went on the floor of the United States Senate last Friday as those perennially heartless – but almost always smiling – Senate Republicans voted to gut the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program.

Unfortunately, in a busy political-news week, it was easy to miss.

By a vote of 53-39 and without a single Republican voting in favor, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin's CSBG-related amendment to a continuing resolution (to fund the government for the next seven weeks) was shot down on the Senate floor.

After approval by the House and Senate on Thursday and Friday, respectively, Bush signed the continuing-resolution legislation to temporarily keep the federal government running. This was necessary after the Republican-controlled Congress failed to pass annual spending bills before the start of the new fiscal year.

Bush signed the legislation without the critical amendment by Harkin, that would have kept funding stable for the CSBG program, which provides money to states to help low-income people with essential living expenses such as housing, food and heating costs.

Every Democrat on the floor – along with Independent Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont -- voted for the amendment while every Republican lined up behind George W. Bush and voted against it.

Harkin pleaded with his Senate colleagues to vote for the measure, saying that it was a relatively small amount of money that wouldn't mean much for most programs, but the absence of which would be a severe blow to the 6.5 million poor Americans served by the CSBG.

"These cuts to essential programs for needy families and children, including victims of Katrina, are callous and ill-advised," Harkin said.

Other programs cited by Harkin as being negatively impacted include Head Start, transportation for the elderly, and help for people applying for the earned income tax credit.
Without Senate approval of Harkin's amendment, the House-passed bill for 2006 reduces CSBG spending to $320 million, half the $637 million level approved for 2005.

Again, every single Democrat on the Senate floor voted for this ongoing assistance to children, the poor and the elderly. Every Republican voted against it. Remember this next time you hear anyone say there's no difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Also note how much more enthusiastically the Republicans support the next vote for yet another tax cut for the wealthy.