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Washington Report – October 2023

Oct 4, 2023 | Blog, Washington Report

Written by: Madison Mayhew, IPL Federal Policy Manager

The first full week of October has already been full of twists and surprises, including a historic first in American history. Every year, Congress must pass a new budget before the deadline on September 30th in order to prevent a government shutdown. With the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in disarray weeks before the deadline, the chances of avoiding a shutdown looked incredibly slim. Federal government agencies began to prepare, as did many Washingtonians. However, in the final hours of the evening, Congress passed a short term funding agreement, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), for 45 days. 

Because of the politics to reach a deal and avoid a shutdown, right wing conservatives were unhappy with Speaker McCarthy, and ultimately led the charge to have him removed from his leadership position on Tuesday afternoon. This is the first time in American history that the Speaker of the House of Representatives has been voted to be removed from office. Right now, the Republican party is in the process of identifying the next Speaker and should be prepared to vote next week. 

Although we avoided a shutdown this month, there is still a risk it could happen once the short term bill expires. A government shutdown not only has significant implications for climate progress, but also very real negative consequences for everyday people who work for the federal government or receive assistance through federal programs, like WIC. Nearly 20% of the population in Washington DC is employed by the federal government, ranging from Congressional staffers, to administration officials, to service workers who keep the Smithsonians, Capitol Visitors Center and other federal buildings operating. The impacts of a shutdown are felt by communities across the country, but are felt particularly acutely for Washingtonians

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Appropriations + Budget

The short term CR continues current levels of funding for 45 days, giving Congress a bit more time to pass a robust long term budget. The bill did not include aid to Ukraine, but it passed without any poison pills and included funding for disaster relief. 

The fight to pass a long term budget continues, and the next 45 days are likely going to get messy. As you may recall, House GOP Appropriations bill proposals included some really horrific cuts (including attacking IRA funding, and reducing funding for low income schools by a whopping 80%). President Biden and Leader Schumer both said the house proposals wouldn’t pass, so there is a lot of work ahead to find an agreeable solution.

Casting a shadow over the appropriations process is the Speaker of the House vote and replacement process. The House was set to move appropriations bills forward this week, but those votes have been stalled because of the Speaker search. IPL will continue working with partners to identify action opportunities as they arise! 

In the meantime, keep messaging your Members of Congress to protect climate funding in the budget. Specifically, Inflation Reduction Act funding. The final FY24 budget will help shape how successful the IRA can be. Without robust funding to the agencies tasked with carrying out the law’s benefits, the clean energy and climate benefits will fall extremely short and could be lost forever due to the upcoming election. But with robust funding, we could see the full vision of the law fulfilled, which is critical for reaching President Biden’s climate and environmental justice goals.

Farm Bill

The Farm Bill shared the same expiration date as the federal budget on September 30th. However, the timing and consequences of the expiration vary by program. There are two principal expiration dates: September 30, 2023, and December 31, 2023. Most programs will keep running through the end of the year. The Congressional Research Service breaks down what programs are impacted here. Legislative text for the next iteration of the Farm Bill will hopefully be released this Fall, but because of the budget and Speaker of the house debate, the path forward remains unclear. 

IPL is continuing to advocate for a series of marker bills including: 

All of these bills help address conservation needs in the Farm Bill, and support small and medium scale farmers in implementing regenerative agriculture practices that are beneficial for our food systems and our climate goals. Use the link under Action Opportunities to contact your Member of Congress below to advocate for these priorities! 

Action Opportunities

Tell Biden Administration to Enact Strong Fuel Economy Standards 

This year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the opportunity to propose new federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for vehicles sold in 2027 and beyond. CAFE standards are critical in saving drivers money at the pump, which helps insulate them from volatile gas prices. These standards have also saved the US more than two trillion gallons of gasoline since 1975, keeping tons of carbon pollution out of our air. The comment period closes in two weeks– please join us today in calling upon NHTSA to establish robust standards that will help us save consumers thousands of dollars and protect our Shared Home.

Holy Heat Pumps: A Webinar on Heat Pumps for Faith Communities 

Join us on October 25 at 1 pm Eastern to learn how to finance heat pumps at your congregation using federal funds to lower the costs. How we cool and heat our buildings is a significant part of how we address the climate crisis. When it comes to Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, heat pumps are a crucially important technology in the transition away from fossil fuels. This webinar will explain how heat pumps work and how to lower the costs of installation at your congregation with the new government funds available to congregations for the first time.

Call on Congress to Prioritize Climate in the Farm Bill 

We’re joining together with Creation Justice Ministries to urge Congress to pass a Farm Bill that promotes climate- smart practices that benefit all people and protect the environment.

A Farm Bill for both people and the environment could ensure a future where all people have reliable access to healthy food, while prioritizing sustainable farming practices, and dignified treatment for those who work the land.

We’re calling on lawmakers to:

  • invest in climate-smart agriculture, 
  • invest in small and medium-scale farms while supporting the transition away from hazardous industrial farming practices, and 
  • support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (through measures such as the reduction of food waste)

Contact your Members of Congress today! 

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