Make Them Hear You! is a weekly feature on KGNU, produced by Chris Mohr, letting listeners know how they can have their voices heard on issues up before Congress. You can hear it Wednesday mornings at 8.20am during the Morning Magazine.
Members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus voted for the recent tax cut bill, knowing full well it would increase the national debt by some $1.5 trillion. Now they are suddenly expressing deep concern that the budget isn’t balancing. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who also supported the tax bill, recently went further, making clear in a radio interview that “entitlement reform,” as the party often calls it, would be a top Republican priority in 2018. In Republican parlance, “entitlement” programs include food stamps, housing assistance, Medicare and Medicaid health insurance for the elderly, poor and disabled, as well as other programs created by Washington to assist the needy. President Trump promised as a candidate not to touch entitlement programs, but has already cut deeply into Obamacare coverage.
Democrats said all along that Republicans would try to pay for their tax cuts with deep spending cuts for social programs. For now, Republicans are playing down the likelihood that Medicare cuts are likely. “No such thing is going to be triggered automatically,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, the votes of some Democrats will be needed to approve a budget and prevent a government shutdown. Democrats will use their leverage in the Senate, which Republicans narrowly control, to defend both discretionary non-defense programs and social spending, while tackling the issue of the “Dreamers,” people brought illegally to the country as children. Trump put a March 2018 expiration date on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which protects the young immigrants from deportation and gives them work permits. The president has tweeted that he wants funding for his Mexican border wall and other immigration law changes in exchange for agreeing to help the Dreamers.
Representative Debbie Dingell told CBS she did not favor linking that issue to other policy objectives, such as wall funding. “We need to do DACA clean,” she said. Sen Lindsey Graham’s Dream Act of 2017, SB 1615, was introduced last July and appears to be languishing in the Judiciary Committee. It does not require that a wall be built as part of dealing with the Dreamers. Republican Senator Jeff Flake agreed to support the tax cut bill as long as the Senate produced a DACA-type bill before March.
If you have an opinion on the so-called entitlement programs the Republicans want to cut, or a DACA bill free of ties to the Trump Wall, you can contact your Senators and Congressperson and share your concerns.