September 30, 2014

Tuesday, September 30, 2014: November and December Congressional Agenda

The more you work with Congress, the more you see how uncontrollable events have an impact on our fate as a program. For instance, during Senate Appropriations discussions, our program was poised to attain a slight increase in funding. However, because of the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border, several programs did not receive the boost they needed—including Community Action. I expect that the ongoing ISIS situation will dominate the conversation come November and December with calls to increase Defense spending.

Big issues like this are constantly competing for the attention and resources of Congress, though Republican and Democratic members alike are now realizing that recent cuts on federal spending have had negative impacts in ways we never anticipated. Whether it is the recent security breach at the White House or the seeming unpreparedness of the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization concerning the Ebola virus, members are becoming aware of the damaging implications that off-the-radar cuts are having. I hope Congress keeps these lessons in mind as they deal with the budget, appropriations and potential sequestration cuts next year.

September 29, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014: Tom Harkin & The Clintons

Recently, I attended Senator Tom Harkin’s Annual Steak Fry in Des Moines, Iowa. I have gone every year for the past 15 years or so. It was a very bittersweet event for me. Harkin has been Community Action’s biggest champion throughout his time in the Senate. As a Senator, he has perhaps been the most under the radar political giant of the past 50 or 60 years. More than that, he is truly a good person. Harkin inspires me and we will miss him tremendously.

While the sadness of saying goodbye to Tom Harkin resonated with me, so did my interaction with the two keynote speakers: Hillary and Bill Clinton. Bill remembers his positive relationship with the Arkansas CAPs, and Hillary is familiar with our program as well. Overall, it was a good and satisfying conversation. 

September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 24, 2014: Midterm Implications

I hope that Congress can really get down to some serious work after the November elections. Hopefully they can work to compromise and get some of these pent up legislative needs addressed. As an optimist, I think this can happen. However, my fear is that those members having the toughest re-election campaigns are the same members (Republicans and Democrats) that make a point to compromise with the other side. As far as our legislative agenda is concerned, members that may want to go to the middle are already concerned about potential primaries in 2016. One of the consequences might be fewer moderates in Congress than before—a recipe for further gridlock.

This is the biggest fear, that there will be a further erosion of the middle following the mid-term elections. If we aren’t careful, Congress will be more polarized post-election than it was before. Clearly, this is a very troubling possibility.