Groups begin lobbying on non-defense sequestration cuts

Coalitions of labor, religious, small business and social services groups are forming.

Just about everyone on K Street is ramping up their sequestration and fiscal cliff lobbying efforts, not just those concerned about defense cuts.

Health care lobbyists have already been working the Hill. Now, massive coalitions of labor, religious, small business and social service groups are forming, sending letters and setting up meetings decrying across-the-board cuts while also calling for revenue-raising measures.

The Coalition on Human Needs is one such group, which earlier this week sent a letter to every member on the Hill, which was signed by 1,900 organizations. The letter calls for protecting low-income Americans and decries cuts to the government workforce, education and programs such as Head Start and food stamps. They also push for an expiration of Bush-era tax cuts on American households making more than $250,000 a year, and for some -- but not across-the-board -- cuts to defense spending.

"Putting the most vulnerable people at risk is the wrong response to our nation's fiscal situation," the letter states. "Automatic cuts to domestic programs that are scheduled to take effect in January 2013 under the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act will inflict devastating harm."

The Coalition's executive director Deborah Weinstein tells the Alley that groups concerned about non-defense cuts generally understand that a solely piecemeal approach won't be an effective lobbying strategy.

"I think people do get it, that they're not very likely to prevail by saying, 'Save me, and I don't care about anybody else,'" she said. "We need revenues. In the absence of revenues, it's not going to be possible to save services."

Weinstein said they've already been hitting the Hill, and setting up group lobby visits -- mostly on the Senate side for now. But come lame duck, such groups will face an uphill battle to be heard above the fray.

"There is no question that there are very, very powerful forces who want to fight the defense cuts, for instance, and we know we have to work very hard to be heard," she said. "When we've been going into offices, we've been told they've been hearing a lot from military contractors and the like."

While the coalition isn't planning on putting out any ads, it's worth noting that they're not just small social service organizations with shoestring budgets; they've got some heavy-hitter signers, such as the AFL-CIO, too.