WASHINGTON -- This weekend is Mother's Day, and right around this time last year, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was rounding up a group of lawmakers to spend the weekend in Afghanistan to thank military moms for their service. But the trip won't be happening this year, thanks to sequestration.
"Every year for the past few years, on Mother’s Day, I’ve taken a delegation to Afghanistan or Iraq ... to say 'thank you' to our moms and, by the way, our grandmothers who are serving there," Pelosi said Thursday during her weekly briefing. "I won’t be going this particular weekend because we don't have, you know, under sequestration we don't have [congressional delegation trips]."
Obviously, a canceled trip isn't anywhere near as serious as some of the other effects of sequestration. The across-the-board $85 billion in cuts mean that Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers food to the elderly, has to slash as many as 19 million meals this year. Cuts to Head Start, the federal preschool educational, health and nutritional program for disadvantaged children, mean hundreds of low-income parents will have to make major life adjustments to accommodate being dropped from the program. Sequestration will also cause many Medicare patients to be referred to hospitals for cancer treatments, where costs are significantly higher.
Still, nixing the congressional trip means lawmakers won't be visiting with troops overseas and won't be able to meet with Afghanistan officials to discuss the kinds of issues they did last year, including regional security, the status of USAID efforts and women's issues in Afghanistan. Pelosi's delegation last year included Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and former Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).
"I hope to go sometime soon, and some members will have an opportunity to go in to bring our best wishes to our men and women who are serving there," Pelosi added. "It is something really beautiful to behold. The roles that women are assuming in the military and the fact that now they can be in combat means that they can rise to the heights of our military service."