If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve likely heard the heartening news that the federal government will soon reopen and the federal debt limit will be raised. Under the agreement currently knocking around Congress, it appears that a relatively clean Continuing Resolution, or “CR,” and a debt ceiling deal will move forward as early as tonight.
Here’s a quick recap of the details as they stand now:
- A clean CR means that discretionary government funding (those funds that Congress must appropriate each year that go to programs like Early Head Start, Head Start and child care) will be extended through January 15, 2014, at current funding levels. The sequester will stay in place.
- The federal debt limit will be raised through February 7, 2014, avoiding a default.
- A conference committee tasked with finding long term budget solutions will be convened under House Budget Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray (D-Washington).
- The agreement requires income verification for individuals who receive subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and all other ACA proposals that have been floated throughout negotiations (like, say, complete defunding) have been dropped.
With the very necessary business of keeping the federal government running and preventing default on our national debt taken care of for the short-term, this agreement seems to set the stage for negotiating longer-term policy changes and new investments (read: the federal early learning plan) in the coming months – December 15, January 15, February 15 – the date is certainly not yet carved in stone.
This is great news, and it gives us all a chance to redouble our efforts to ensure early learning’s seat at the bargaining table when a broader deal is struck. We’ve got more time to cultivate relationships with influencers and deploy them in meetings with the local legislators. We’ve got the opportunity to place more op-eds in the local media outlets that members of Congress read each day. We can schedule more in-district meetings when district work periods start up again.
So take a quick breather from contacting Congress until the government starts running again, then get ready to dig back in. Our core message to Congress stays the same, and now we have more time to deliver it:
Please make investments in early childhood education your highest priority after addressing the sequester in any fiscal deal that moves forward.
Let’s keep the forward momentum going to make sure that early learning stays at the top of the federal priority list.