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At the end of October, Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (BBA, P.L. 114-74). Also known as the budget deal, the BBA was the result of an agreement made by then-Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader McConnell, Senate Democratic Leader Reid and House Democratic Leader Pelosi. In addition to addressing the debt limit through March 15, 2017, the law mirrored the Murray-Ryan budget deal of 2013 by increasing discretionary spending caps for fiscal year (FY) 2016 and 2017. It provided an additional $80 billion split equally between defense and nondefense spending along with $32 billion over those two years for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, off-budget defense spending, as well as emergency nondefense spending, which is anticipated for State Department activities.

These elements of the bill, excluding offsets, met some of the requests in a previous letter from organizational members of the Children’s Budget Coalition to Leadership calling on Congress to consider a bipartisan deal similar to Murray-Ryan and lift non-defense discretionary caps on par with defense spending.

Signed into law by President Barack Obama, the budget deal requires further action by Congress – and more work to do for children. With increased discretionary spending levels (known as 302(a) allocations), the appropriations committees have been charged with carrying out the next step in the federal budget process: setting new appropriations subcommittee allocations in order to craft appropriations measures.

Stepping up, 23 leading advocates from the Children’s Budget Coalition sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee Chairs and Ranking Members urging a strong investment in children. Specifically, the letter thanked these lead appropriators for their support of the BBA and asked them to prioritize the long-term interests of children, citing that several of the 12 subcommittees have jurisdiction over children’s initiatives.

Collectively, the Children’s Budget Coalition supports increasing the share of spending on kids, and are concerned about past cuts to critical investments in children. The letter highlights the Children’s Budget 2015, released by First Focus in June, which finds that only 8 percent of the 2015 federal budget (mandatory and discretionary) is invested in children, while they make up about 25 percent of the population. The letter cites that the vast majority of children’s programs on the discretionary side of the federal budget have been cut by about 7 percent since 2011, on an inflation-adjusted basis. Notably, programs in education have seen an almost 20 percent reduction, along with cuts to programs in the areas of abuse and neglect prevention, health, nutrition, housing, safety, and youth job training.

The letter goes on to reflect the committees’ attempt to return to regular order and efforts to increase funding for some children’s programs, but cautions over the cuts, even program eliminations, in appropriations measures to date. Finally, it urges appropriators to protect those increases and ensure strong investment in children with the additional resources provided.

Action on such upcoming appropriations legislation, likely an omnibus, will have to occur in advance of the current Continuing Resolution running out on December 11. President Obama has been clear to Congress that he will not sign another short-term continuing resolution in December. The White House has also said they are firmly opposed to any ideological riders. As this plays out, the Children’s Budget Coalition will be watching to see if congressional appropriators prioritize children the way they should.

Appropriators: The Children’s Budget Coalition is watching out for kids > v/ @First_Focus #InvestInKids #DontCutKids
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