Federal Checklist - September 2003

Denver Women's Commission
Federal Checklist - September 2003

September 26, 2003
Prepared by Chaer Robert
For Colorado Woman News

Federal Checklist

What has Congress done for you or to you lately? Perhaps the most positive action of this year was a one-time fiscal relief bonus for States. Colorado had one of the worst budget gaps, but most states had to cut services and/or raise taxes and fees in the past two years. Colorado received $146 million in unrestricted fiscal relief, plus $92. million in the form of an enhanced Medicaid match rate for 18 months. This latter money should prevent further cuts in Medicaid, at least until after the 2004 presidential election.

For middle income families with children, the increase of the federal child tax credit from $600 to $1000 brought a welcome federal bonus check. Low-income parents earning between $10,500 and about $20,000 per year were left out of this bonus, even though their inclusion would have only increased the price of the federal tax cut bill by 1%. Families who earn less than $10,500 do not get either the old or expanded child tax credit.

Current federal action has many women's rights advocates worried:

1. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Should the poorest single mothers in this country be required to work more hours per week than the average working mother? Both the percentage of those on welfare required to work and the number of hours per week required are likely to rise under current TANF reauthorization legislation. Working single parents need child care. Will Congress amend the bill to increase child care funding by at least $5. billion? This would begin to meet the need.

2. Reproductive Choice. Congress is poised to make a safe medical procedure illegal-- the ban on the so-called "partial birth abortion". "Partial birth abortion" is not a medical term, nor does its definition clearly apply to only one procedure. President Bush actively supports such a ban. It contains no exception for the health of the mother. Should Congress preempt a decision between you and your doctor?

Presidential nominees to the federal court each seemed to have passed a litmus test of strongly favoring restricting a woman's right to choose. One judge --Miguel Estrada--finally withdrew in the face of Senate opposition, while others, e.g. Charles Pickering Sr., Henry Saad, and Claude Allen continue under consideration. Advocates also fear that one new anti-choice Supreme Court Judge could reverse 30 years of Roe V. Wade

3. Block Grants. The President and the federal government are understandably interested in block grants. These can reduce the federal responsibility and funding over time in key human services such as low-income housing, Head Start, Medicaid, etc. The restructuring of housing and Head Start funding could shift power from local communities to the state. The proposed block grant of Medicaid would try to entice governors into accepting more liability for the poor with medical needs by offering bonus money up front.

4. Medicare and Prescription Drugs. Prescription drugs have a growing role in health maintenance and disease control. Many drugs could save more than they cost because of this. But with projected costs around $300 billion per year for partial drug coverage, the stakes are high. Both parties want to have some progress to showcase to seniors before the 2004 elections. For states, a Medicare drug benefit could relieve a big financial burden of buying drugs for low income seniors who are on both the federal Medicare and the state-federal Medicaid.

5. Work--Family Issues. As women workers increasingly struggle to meet increasing demands on them both as workers and as parents, support is amazingly absent. President Bush eliminated a Labor Department rule allowing states to use unemployment insurance for parental leave. Extending the job protection of family and medical leave to the more than half of workers not covered has not progressed.

6. Marriage. Even as congressional representatives of both parties propose using $200 million to promote marriage (in the TANF reauthorization bill), Colorado's own Rep. Marilyn Musgrave is sponsoring a proposed U.S. constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage or granting of marital status rights to same sex couples.

Contact your federal representatives by phone, fax or email:

U.S. Senator Wayne Allard 970-351-7582 or 202-224-5941 fax: 202-224-6471
U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell 303-224-5852 or 202-224-5852 fax: 202-224-1933

Rep. Diana DeGette 303-844-4988 or 202-225-4431 fax: 202-225-4842
Rep. Mark Udall 303-650-7820 or 202-225-2161 fax:202-226-7840
Rep. Scott McInnis 719-543-8200 or 202-225-4761 fax: 202-226-0622
Rep. Marilyn Musgrave 970-663-3536 or 202-225-4676 fax:202-225-5870
Rep. Joel Hefley 719-520-0055 or 202-225-4422 fax:202-225-1942
Rep. Tom Tancredo 720-283-9772 or 202-225-7882 fax: 202-226-4623
Rep. Bob Beauprez 303-940-5821 or 202-225-2645 fax: 202-225-5278

To email a representative go to http://clerk.house.gov