The possibility of Congress enacting proposals for budget cuts and policies that favor the wealthy over the poor are frightening to many of us, including longtime grassroots advocates for ending poverty and hunger. We wonder what are we really about as a nation?
Our participation in a national citizen advocacy organization called RESULTS (www.results.org) has kept us grounded and committed to our mission to “create the public and political will to end poverty and hunger.” RESULTS supports us, and all the RESULTS grassroots volunteers throughout the country, with solid poverty policy research, data, advocacy training, strategic selection of anti-poverty policy direction that will impact the most people, and by urging us to get to know and work with our members of Congress and the media.
We recently returned from the inspiring annual RESULTS International Conference in Washington, D.C., which brought together more than 500 advocates for the end of poverty from the all 50 states in the U.S. and over 20 other countries. Seventy-five of those attending were young people ages 18-30 being mentored by RESULTS to become leaders in advocacy for social justice and ending poverty worldwide by 2035.
Everyone attending spent the final day of the conference on Capitol Hill visiting our respective congressional delegations, with foreign attendees also visiting the World Bank and other global organizations. The seven of us from New Mexico representing RESULTS chapters in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces had the privilege of meeting directly with Democratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and in other offices with staff who received us very graciously.
Our primary U.S. poverty issue was requesting that our senators stand firm against repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, including no cuts or restructuring of Medicaid, and work for bipartisan action to find a fix to stabilize the individual insurance market. The day included witnessing disabled protesters against Medicaid cuts being hauled off the floor of the Hart Senate Office Building by Capitol police. Also as we entered New Mexico Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich’s office, the TV screen was showing the beginning of the voting to determine whether the debate on the health care bills to destroy the ACA would begin in the Senate. As we came out of the meeting with Sen. Heinrich’s staff, the vice president’s vote broke the 50-50 tie on the motion to proceed, and on to the floor went bills to cut affordable health care for millions of Americans.
We thank our Sens. Udall and Heinrich and Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Rep. Lujan Grisham for their steadfast opposition to the disastrous GOP bills to dismantle our health care system and the courageous few GOP senators who chose to vote no, leading to the defeat of all the efforts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act. The fight is probably not yet over, but this was a momentous step. We urge our New Mexico members to work for bipartisan strategies to improve health care for all Americans through strengthening the coverage and stability of the Affordable Care Act.
Even though our senators and Congressman Luján do not need to be persuaded to vote against ACA destruction or against drastic budget cuts to our nation’s other critical antipoverty programs, including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps), it is still important to call with our views. This allows them to say, “I have heard from hundreds of my constituents, and they are opposed to repealing the ACA.” Equally important is to say “thank you” to them for their strong stands against ACA repeal and budget cuts to vital safety net programs critical to the well-being of hundreds of thousands of people living in New Mexico.
Lydia Pendley, MA, MHS, and Gerry Fairbrother, Ph.D., are respectively co-leader and member of RESULTS-Santa Fe. Both are members of Health Action New Mexico, and both had careers in investigating and advancing research and advocacy in public health and health services.