Marc Ambinder reported in The National Journal today that the White House is targeting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in the budget cuts. Ambinder reports:
It’s the biggest domestic spending cut disclosed so far, and one that will likely generate the most heat from the president’s traditional political allies. Such complaints might satisfy the White House, which has a vested interest in convincing Americans that it is serious about budget discipline.
Thankfully the Obama administration is already drawing heat for this proposed cut from the budget. That heat should be enough to rally a fight to keep LIHEAP from being cut. Among those calling on President Obama not to cut LIHEAP in the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2012, was Senator John Kerry. In a letter to President Obama, Kerry said:
I understand that difficult cuts have to be made, and from Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction to the 1993 deficit reduction act I’ve always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens. I request that the administration preserve LIHEAP funding at least to the Fiscal Year 2010 funding at $5.1 billion when it submits its FY12 budget proposal to Congress.
We simply cannot afford to cut LIHEAP funding during one of the most brutal winters in history. Families across Massachusetts, and the country, depend on these monies to heat their homes and survive the season. It is estimated that over 3 million families that qualify for heating assistance would not receive it if the funding levels are not maintained. Compounding the situation is the increased cost of home heating oil, which is roughly 12 percent higher than last year.
LIHEAP is already strained as it is – I have submitted requests for that last several years to increase the overall funding because the assistance didn’t match the need. Cutting the program now would be devastating to the Northeast that depends on this support. If an increase is not an option we must do everything we can not to leave children and families out in the cold.
I’d like to think this cut won’t happen when Congress votes on the budget. Every time a new budget rolls around, there’s drastic cuts here and there for programs that are critical to those struggling in America. Just take a look back at what our last president cut from the budget. When it comes to LIHEAP, however that usually garners enough bi-partisan support to pass through relatively unscathed from cuts, as Marc Ambinder notes:
LIHEAP has been semi-sacred for most Democrats and many Republicans–a program that carries an emotional resonance as it was designed to keep poor people, particularly older poor people, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. “A lot of people in the Northeast are going to be unhappy,” an administration official briefed on the budget said. That’s one reason why Republican Senators like Scott Brown of Massachusetts plus Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine would probably join Democratic efforts to keep funding levels higher.
Let’s hope this just won’t pass in the budget. The Northeast has seen record cold and record snowfall this winter. It’s simply unthinkable to cut LIHEAP funds, and my bet is this cut via the Obama administration was a bone for the GOP…