With all the talk of health reform and the enormous stakes that the votes this week will hold for health centers and our future, it might be all too easy to lose focus of the other major effort that health center advocates have underway right now: the push to get signers on our annual appropriations letters. But, as we all know, there are some times that call for multitasking, or as I heard one savvy health center grassroots advocate put it last week, “dual strategies for success.” This is one of those times!
As of this writing, we currently have 158 Members on the Pallone-Granger letter and 39 Senators on the Senate Stabenow-Bond letter. These numbers are well short of our goals of 218 signatures on the House letter and 60 on the Senate letter. As those who’ve been through this drill before know, the more signatures we get on these letters, the better our chances of getting an FY2011 increase. We need more signatures!
I also wanted to take this chance to clear up a couple of “frequently asked questions” we’ve received over the last week. The first relates to whether signing this letter violates the recently passed rule of the House Republican Caucus that bans earmarks. The answer: no. The Health Centers program is a competitively awarded national program that is authorized in the law, it does not meet any definition of earmark, including the one in the House Rules that the Republican Conference rule cites.
The second question is whether or not it is true that appropriators never sign letters. The answer to that one is a little less clear cut. While many appropriators decline to sign any letters to the Appropriations Committee, some in fact do, and several are on this year’s letter. Indeed, in both the House and Senate we have an appropriations committee member as a co-lead on our letters. However, even if your Member of Congress is an appropriator who has a policy of not signing letters, you can and should still seek their support. Every member of the committee will have a means that they use (usually a personal request letter) to communicate their priorities to the Chairman and Ranking Member. You should ask for the Member to make the Health Centers program a part of that priorities letter/wish list.
Our appropriations letter leads have given us another bite at the apple in improving our numbers by extending the House letter deadline until the end of the day tomorrow and the Senate letter until Friday. Let’s take advantage of that extension and get these signatures up over our goal!