The legislative package that Congress passed this week to avert the “fiscal cliff” puts off for only two months devastating across-the-board budget cuts to federal programs — including programs directly relevant to LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS — putting advocates in the position to continuing fighting for them in the weeks to come.
The deal, known as the Biden-McConnell plan because it was negotiated by Vice President Joseph Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, raises an estimated $620 billion in revenue for the U.S. government.
It continues the Bush-era tax cuts for lower and middle-class income households while eliminating them for individuals making more than $400,000 a year and married couples making more than $450,000.
Immediately following House passage of the bill, Obama delivered a statement at the White House saying passage of the plan fulfills his campaign promise to adjust a tax code that favored the wealthy at the expense of fiscal health for the country — although he had campaigned on letting tax cuts expire households with a lower income of $250,000 a year.
“Thanks to the votes of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans while preventing a middle-class tax hike that could have sent the economy back into recession and obviously had a severe impact on families all across America,” Obama said.
Some spending cuts are also in the plan. The agreement saves $12 billion, half in revenue and half from spending cuts which are divided equally between defense and non-defense programs. But the plan also places a two-month hold on the much larger sequester instituted under the Budget Control Act of 2011 in automatic cuts that were supposed to take effect on Wednesday.
Under the proposed cuts, $1.2 trillion would be cut for the U.S. government across-the-board for starting this year over the course of 10 years. An estimated 8.2 percent in the first year would be cut from discretionary federal programs, including HIV/AIDS and LGBT-related programs.
The cuts could be particularly devastating to individuals with HIV/AIDS who receive medication through AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. Some estimates predict that proposed cuts could lead to up to 12,000 people being placed on waiting list for drugs. Also on the cutting board may be housing provided to low-income people with AIDS.
Carl Schmid, deputy executive director for the AIDS Institute, said HIV/AIDS advocates will have to continue fighting to ensure an alternative plan is proposed that would stave off these massive cuts.