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A Quiet Win: How the Budget Deal Might Make a Difference for You and Your Family

December 11, 2013

The announcement of a budget deal on Tuesday was met with modest appreciation in all corners. Quite simply, it doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot. In fact, perhaps its biggest accomplishments are in what it didn’t do: Republicans kept their hands off of Medicare and Social Security, and Democrats decided not to press for the removal of corporate loopholes. All that restraint allowed the deal to come to fruition a whopping three days before the deadline, hopefully preventing another last-minute showdown like the ones we’ve seen in recent years.

There are a few big-ticket items in the deal that will have broad impact. For example, the proposal eliminates $45 billion in forced budget cuts. That means that some of the pain of the “sequester” will be relieved. For the nearly 3 million federal employees scattered across the country (and the world), this comes as a welcome reprieve.

On the other hand, the budget deal is missing one item that is going to hit the wallet of millions of our most vulnerable neighbors. The budget deal fails to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed. Expiring in just a few weeks, the benefits go to folks who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, and have therefore exhausted their state benefits. In a stunning leap of logic, Representative Rand Paul explained to Fox News viewers last weekend that while he supports unemployment benefits for the first 26 weeks, “If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers.” Apparently, being able to pay your rent and utility bills for more than 26 weeks is not in best interest of “these workers.”

Tucked in at the bottom of the deal there’s a quiet little victory for the LGBT community. Back in April, President Obama’s budget proposal called for a change to the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program that would allow federal employees to choose “self plus one” health coverage. Although the provision applies to all federal employees, its inclusion is a boon for LGB employees, particularly for those of us who live in states that don’t recognize the marriages of same-sex partners. With “self plus one” coverage, same-sex domestic partners will be eligible for health coverage to an unprecedented extent.

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