By Erik Wasson - 02/24/11 05:39 PM EST
Describing the House spending bill as an un-American atrocity, the heads of the bipartisan U.S. Conference of Mayors announced Thursday they are launching a major lobbying effort against its cuts.
The effort, going on behind the scenes this week, could culminate in a march on the Capitol in mid-March if the mayors don't get what they are seeking, said conference President Elisabeth Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville, Minn.
“We are going to have a major march and meeting in halls of Congress,” Bill Gluba, the mayor of Davenport, Iowa, said. He said the conference has decided to take the lead in organizing local and civic organizations to come to Washington to protest the cuts in the GOP spending bill.
“The impacts are devastating. … As we stand here knowing what happened in the House, our only hope is in the Senate,” Kautz said.
The group is focusing above all on stopping a 62.5 percent cut to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which House Republicans have included in the spending bill funding the government after March 4. The cut is intended to save $4 billion.
President Obama in his 2012 budget request released last week also called for cuts to the program, which the administration has said is flawed because results are difficult to measure. Obama called only for a 7.5 percent cut that would save $300 million, however.
The mayors said the 2012 fight with Obama will have to wait until another day.
“When you have a bazooka pointed at your head, it is hard to think about what you will have for breakfast tomorrow,” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter explained.
He described the House bill as “un-American” and said it is aimed at hurting the poor, elderly and children.
“You cannot run a country while attacking its own people,” he said.
The conference is a nonpartisan organization, and several Republican mayors stood up to criticize the GOP spending bill.
Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, Ariz., called the bill’s cuts “an atrocity.” He said it will merely shift the costs of combating social ills such as hungry and homeless children to overburdened local governments.
He said the program is highly transparent and that residents will see the effects of the cuts quickly as their cities deteriorate.
“You will truly note the impact of CPBG when it is gone,” he said.
The House bill makes other cuts to programs dear to the mayors. They are opposing cuts to the Home Investment Partnership Program, Tenant Based Rental Assistance, the Public Housing Operating Fund, Section 811 housing for the disabled, brownfield cleanups, energy efficiency block grants, the elimination of high-speed rail funding, cuts to local law enforcement, job training, the arts and water infrastructure, among other.