So there was a big hearing today on the impact of looming across-the-board domestic funding cuts, held by the Senate appropriations panel that deals with education spending. Now, U.S. Rep. George Miller of California, the top Democrat on the House Education Committee, is hoping his panel will follow suit.
"Congress has a responsibility [under legislation passed last year] to put forward a balanced and responsible fiscal plan for the nation," Miller said. "To avoid the fiscal cliff, choices will have to be made. The stakes are high for workers, families, and children. I ask that our committee convene a hearing as soon as possible to understand the full impact of sequestration on programs within our jurisdiction."
In fact, he sent a letter to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the committee chairman, to that effect. You can read the whole thing here. Kline received the request and will take it under consideration, his spokeswoman, Alexandra Sollberger, said.
Miller, along with a bunch of Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., also participated in a rally on Capitol Hill today urging their colleagues to spare education and other domestic programs.
The rally was organized by Harkin and a bunch of groups representing non-defense discretionary programs, such as health, education, and science. (Some of those groups are part of a coalition that put out this letter.) And it featured some non-education folks who will be effected by across-the-board cuts, including a small business owner and a parent. There were also, of course, education advocates holding signs (best one featured a bandage and the words "Education Cuts Never Heal").
Harkin made it clear that the rally was meant to draw attention to the impact of the cuts on domestic programs. So far most of the talk has been about how defense programs will be squeezed.
"We've heard from defense contractors," he said. "Now it's time to hear from rank-and-file Americans." He doesn't want sequestration to happen, he said, but if it does, the pain should be spread out evenly.
Members of the non-defense discretionary coalition (catchiest coalition name ever?), which has expressed concern about the cuts, represent folks from across the political spectrum. But the lawmakers who spoke at the rally today had a definite Democratic flavor to their remarks. For instance, Harkin introduced Miller as the next chairman of the House education committee. And Miller said that Republicans "have no commitment" to education spending.
Will the education cuts become a campaign issue at the presidential and congressional levels? Should they?