The Stakes in THIS Election Could NOT be Higher!

 

The Federal budget deficit may be down, but because of all the various deficits, the debt has continued to rise under President Obama but at a much lesser rate. Evidence continues to show that the Great Recession, President Bush’s tax cuts, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain most of the deficits that have occurred on Obama’s watch.  However, Republicans continue to blame President Obama for ALL our budgetary woes, figuring if they say that enough folks will begin to believe that and once again, put them back in the driver’s seat.

AT ISSUE

On April 10, 2014, the House passed budget resolution HConRes96 for fiscal year 2015 [Vote 177: 219(R) – 205 (12R + 193D)].  That resolution has not yet been taken up in the Senate as a budget already covering fiscal year 2015 was authorized within the Bipartisan Budget Act passed in December 2013.

HConRes96 was introduced by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Titled “The Path to Prosperity,” this $3.7T budget blueprint outlines a House Republican wet dream for spending and tax priorities which they believe will produce a balanced budget by 2024. Overall, Ryan’s plan would cut roughly $5.1 trillion from federal spending over the next decade, with nearly $3 trillion coming from repealing the health care law, voucherizing Medicare and block-granting Medicaid along with a few other safety net programs.

HConRes96 incorporates Republican ideology with respect to spending and tax reform, imposing significant reductions to safety net programs that will affect more than just seniors.  The Republican’s tax reform act would have only two tax brackets for individuals at 10% and 25%, with the corporate tax rate at 25%. What’s unclear is whether any corporate loopholes were closed and whether even more corporations will have a net-zero effective tax rate as a result of the reduction in the corporate tax rate. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) claims the reform provisions would allow 95% of taxpayers to avoid itemizing, and instead claim a larger standard deduction. Really?  With this plan in place, taxpayers would no longer be able to claim deductions for state and local income taxes, the maximum allowable deduction for mortgage interest deductions would be lowered to $500,000 over 4 phases, and charitable deductions would be subject to a 2% of “adjusted gross income” floor for taxpayers who might attempt to claim such deductions.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE FY2015 HOUSE BUDGET RESOLUTION

Total
Spending
Discretionary Spending
(Base Outlays)
Projected
Deficit
FY 2015 House Bgt Resolution   $3.7T $1.014T $380B
Current Policy (FY 2015) $3.8T $1.027T $485B

Budgets are a statement of priorities and clearly, Republican priorities are not in helping Americans or in maintaining our nation’s infrastructure.  Take a look:

  • The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) set limits or “caps” on annual discretionary funding through 2021, imposing separate caps for defense and non-defense funding. In addition, the BCA mandated automatic further reductions — called “sequestration” — after Congress failed to adopt a more comprehensive deficit-reduction plan by January 2012.  HConRes96 abides by the overall spending limits established in the BCA for FY 2015, but not in its “equal-part split provision” between military and non-military spending. Accordingly, their imposed austerity formula would reduce the discretionary budget to $310B below sequester levels through 2024.
    • Results in a net $791B DECREASE for non-defense budgets (infrastructure, education, transportation, etc.)
    • Results in a net $483B INCREASE in defense budgets (war, weapons, etc.)
    • Reduces overall discretionary spending by $5.1 trillion over ten years
  • Repeals the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act which would eliminate provisions for the Health Insurance Marketplace, reopen the Medicare donut hole, remove provisions that allow children to remain on their parent’s policy until age 26, and allow the Insurance companies to return to their onerous practice of denying coverage claiming “pre-existing” conditions as well as not raking in excessive profits by premium overcharges (just to name a few key provisions).
  • Eliminates the Corporation for National and Community Service [It’s core programs — Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and the Social Innovation Fund, would thus, be eliminated.]
  • Makes use of “dynamic scoring” (a time intensive process) for the first time—the macroeconomic effects of which are highly uncertain since just some (not all) of the channels through which proposed policies would affect the economy were considered.
  • Assumes an additional $175 billion in deficit reduction from a “fiscal dividend”

Sequestration
The HConRes96 budget plan matches the total FY 2015 discretionary spending cap established in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, which set separate caps for defense and non-defense discretionary spending. For fiscal years 2016-2024, the plan reduces total discretionary spending caps $310B below the sequester levels, entirely derived from cuts to non-defense programs. Additionally, the plan repeats a maneuver seen in previous budgets to shift $483 billion of sequester cuts from defense items to non-defense ones, thereby restoring defense budgets to pre-sequester levels. Non-defense discretionary spending would remain $1.15 trillion below pre-sequester levels.

Taxes
HConRes96 calls for comprehensive tax reform to simplify the tax code and thus lower rates for individuals and businesses. Basically, they intend to reduce revenues remitted to the government anticipating that growth will be spurred on.  That premise hasn’t worked since it was introduced by St. Reagan as a sure-fire method to fix all our nation’s ills, but no matter, they plan to

  • Replace the current individual income tax structure with two rates: 10% and 25%,
  • Reduce the corporate tax rate to 25% (no mention of closing tax loopholes), and
  • Repeal the alternative minimum tax (AMT) which was originally designed to keep wealthy taxpayers from using loopholes to avoid paying taxes.

Entitlement / Mandatory Spending Reform
HConRes96 calls for a number of changes to entitlement programs that predominantly serve low-income populations and seniors.

Medicaid

HConRes96, if enacted would convert the Medicaid program into a “block grant program.”  But that Medicaid expansion that provided millions with access to healthcare — that would be rolled back and not funded via their fixed-value block grant program.  Republicans claim much of Medicaid spending is wrought with waste and fraud because the federal bureaucracy can’t provide adequate oversight.  Thus they believe that by “block granting” funds to each state, it would give them more flexibility to tailor their Medicaid programs to “empower recipients to get off the aid rolls and back on the payroll.”

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP (food stamps)

HConRes96, if enacted would convert the SNAP program into a “block grant program” as well.  Once again, Republicans believe SNAP suffers from a flawed structure that promotes fraud and abuse.  Thus, they believe that if States receive more money if they enroll more
people in the program—so their incentive is to get people onto the rolls.  To remedy that perceived problem, this budget would require that eligibility be indexed to inflation, that time limits be imposed on eligibility and that eligibility must be conditioned on work requirements (no exception is noted in Rep. Ryan’s Path to Prosperity explanation for HConRes96 as to those who may be physically disabled and incapable of “working”).

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

HConRes96 rescinds any authority the administration thinks it has to provide for waivers of the work requirement of the TANF program. It assumes that the Republican majority under President Clinton were correct in requiring robust work requirements for the TANF program—which  they believe led to the largest sustained reduction in child poverty since the onset of the “Great Society.” Again, NO exceptions are noted with respect to those individuals who may be physically disabled and incapable of “robust work requirements.”

Medicare

For all the Republican disdain regarding the Affordable Care Act Health Care Exchanges, their proposal as to how Seniors should access health care would be through “Medicare Exchanges.”  Currently, administrative costs are low as there is no “profit motive” incorporated into the costs to serve our senior population.  But should the Republicans prove successful in turning over Medicare to the private sector insurance companies, the cost to serve will rise, some seniors will be forced out of the market and die because they can’t afford the premiums, the co-pays and/or the medications, and denial of services will once again become the norm that many will fight and die fighting.

While their proposal won’t affect those currently receiving Medicare, it will establish a 2-tier system, where those born in 1959 or later will be given a choice of private plans competing alongside a traditional fee-for-service option.  Once they make a choice, a voucherized premium support payment would be provided directly to the insurance provider to either pay for or to offset the premium cost of the chosen plan.

Social Security

While Rep. Ryan’s HConRes96 budget doesn’t call for direct privatization of Social Security like his past budget, this budget does call for the Administration and Congress to submit proposals to provide long-term solutions for the solvency of Social Security.

Health Care

HConRes96 would extend the Republican’s YOYO (You’re On Your Own) philosophy by repealing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of long-term spending reductions and savings.  They intend to replace that by enacting medical-liability reform.  In other words, by drastically limiting any compensation you might be able to get should some incompetent surgeon ruin the remainder of your life.  And then the ironies of all ironies, they propose to stomp the crap out of State’s rights argument by enacting legislation that allows anybody and everybody to buy any inadequate policy they want across any state line.


The priorities outlined in Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget are not what is valued by the American People at large.  We value education for our children and jobs so we can support those same children.  We believe the income inequity between the uber-rich and the rest of us needs to be addressed and that all of us deserve a fair and equitable wage for our labors. We believe that we should all share in the cost to maintain our nation’s infrastructure regardless of one’s placement on the social ladder or that corporations need to contribute to maintenance of the infrastructure they’ve come to depend upon to bring their goods to market. We do not believe that every response to something perceived by some to affect our “national (corporate) security should be met my military force, but more frequently should be met instead with diplomacy and compromise.  And, yes, we believe that we deserve access to affordable health care at reasonable costs regardless of our ages.

Your vote in this mid-term election is critical.  If Rep. Ryan’s priorities for America don’t represent YOUR priorities for yourself and your family, then you need to make every effort to make it to the polls this election and cast your ballot accordingly.  CD2’s Rep. Mark Amodei has voted lock-step with the GOP on everything they’ve brought to the floor or that they’ve tried to kill in conference committee.  If you don’t agree with the priorities set forth by the GOP leadership, then you need to cast your vote to send Mr. Amodei packing by casting your vote for Kristen Spees instead.

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Paul Ryan Envisions New, State-Based Castigation Opportunities

Rep. Paul Ryan has released yet another “plan” to fix poverty and the Safety Net.  He’s release a new discussion draft, “Expanding Opportunity in America.” This latest draft proposes a new “pilot project” which he asserts will strengthen the safety net.  He also proposes a number of reforms to the EITC, education, criminal justice, and ‘regressive’ regulation.

Upon releasing the discussion draft, Chairman Ryan made the following statement:  “Hardworking taxpayers deserve a break in this country. Too many Americans are working harder and harder to get ahead, and yet they’re falling further and further behind. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, we can all agree: America deserves better.   “So with this discussion draft, I want to start a conversation. I want to talk about how we can expand opportunity in America. I don’t have all the answers; nobody does. But by working together, we can build a healthy economy and help working families get ahead.”

I can agree that we need much better than Rep. Ryan, who is now proposing state-led pilot programs.  Under his latest rendition, he proposes to consolidate funding for 11 federal programs, including food stamps, housing vouchers, heating aid, child-care assistance and welfare payments into an “opportunity” grant that would be managed at the state level by those opting into his grand experiment.  Participating states could then “experiment” with various methods for delivering services, as long as they meet certain standards defined by Rep. Ryan and his GOP cohorts.  Something tells me execution of this approach will go about as well as executions of death row prisoners have performed of late by Republican governors. As Rep. Ryan envisions our Safety Net should be handled, a “life plan” contract would be developed for each recipient by case managers working for non-profit or for-profit organizations.  I guess he’s proposing to get around “big government” by having private contractors administer any services to be received (the first step in siphoning off monies from those block granted funds, like Haliburton did in Iraq).  At a minimum, each “life plan” contract would be required to include, at a minimum:

  • A contract outlining specific and measurable benchmarks for success
  • A timeline for meeting those benchmarks
  • Sanctions for breaking the terms of the contract
  • Incentives for exceeding the terms of the contract
  • Time limits for remaining on cash assistance
  • A commandment that to receive any benefits at all — “thou shalt work”

Holy crap!  The GOP may talk “small government” — but they certainly don’t walk that talk.  His grandiose plan is going to take some serious bureaucracy, albeit a huge state-level network of private contractors, to get that done.  Just think about it.  It’s like having to hire a whole bunch of parole officers, oops, I mean case managers, who would need to monitor things like parenting skills, substance abuse, finances, living situation, and relationships with friends and family members. Plus—they would need to have authority to castigate those whom might not be in conformance with their “life plan.”  What I see is “overseers” and shaming for the recipients, but I don’t see—is oversight for the castigators. I also don’t see assurances of consistency from state to state, or across audiences of recipients within a state. Ryan claims that states, being closest to the recipients of these programs really do know best what their citizens need.  Really?  Just like they really know who should vote and who shouldn’t?  How long before “Jim Crow-like” permutations begin spreading through the disparate “life plan” contracts being imposed on certain citizens based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, etc.?  How long would it take before governors like Sam Brownback of Kansas, or Rick Scott of Florida, or Pat McCrory of North Carolina can find ways to channel those grant dollars into the pockets of rich and powerful individuals and corporations across their states instead into programs helping the truly needy? Those funds they’ll be doling out are our Federal tax dollars that, as it is now, are disparately disbursed to States, with Red State taking a larger portion of that bucket of available dollars. If the GOP truly believes those programs should be State-based programs, owned and managed by the States, then they should have the intestinal fortitude to propose eliminating those programs entirely from the Federal budget and tell the States they’ll just need to increase their taxes to fund what they’re willing to provide. Modifying National programs which have been created over time to help those in need in such a way as to victimize and unjustly punish them for seeking help, is flatly contrary to our Nation’s established moral principles.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s well past time to end Mr. Ryan’s tenure as House Budget Committee Chairman.  I’ve had enough, thank you! Know Thine Enemy — Other References:

 

The Ryan Budget Is a Broken Record of Failed Trickle-Down Economics

By Anna Chu and Harry Stein

For the past three years, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been trotting out the same conservative, top-down policies that have failed the nation’s middle- and working-class families, seniors, and the economy. The House Republican budget is built around the tenet that nearly everyone else must sacrifice in order to continue to give billions of dollars in tax breaks to millionaires, big corporations, and Big Oil. At every turn, the House Republican budget reveals its vision of an economy and government that only works for the wealthiest individuals and special corporate interests at the cost of everyone else.

Now for the fourth consecutive year, the House Republican budget proposes dismantling traditional Medicare and slashing investments that drive our economy, all while cutting taxes for the rich and protecting taxpayer subsidies for big businesses and oil companies. The American people have seen this before, and we know how it ends—with millionaires, big corporations, and Big Oil as the only ones who are better off. Everyone else gets left behind, and our economy only gets weaker. Read more.

Paul Ryan’s Budget Makes Wild New Claims About Obamacare

— BY IGOR VOLSKY, ThinkProgressPaul Ryan

CREDIT: AP

As Obama administration moves closer to meeting it original goal of enrolling 7 million people in the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance marketplaces, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has released a budget that repeals the law and asks Congress to “pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.”

And while this new Fiscal Year 2015 budget borrows heavily from previous versions, the April 1st release is far more critical of Obamacare. In a possible preview of the GOP’s election-year rhetoric, this year, Ryan warns — in almost apocalyptic terms — that the law “will undermine the private insurance” and “the competitive forces of the marketplace.” He even argues that it would “eventually lead to a single-payer system.” Here is a comparison between last year’s blueprint and Tuesday’s release:

Fiscal Year 2014: Repeal the health-care law’s exchange subsidies

The new law couples these subsidies with a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and bureaucratic controls on the types of insurance that may legally be offered. Taken together, these provisions will weaken the private-insurance market. Exchange subsidies take the health-care market in the wrong direction, breaking what’s working at a time when policymakers need to fix what’s broken. Government mandates will drive out all but the largest insurance companies. Punitive tax penalties will force individuals to purchase coverage whether they want it or not. Further, the law does not condone any policy that would require entities or individuals to finance activities or make health decisions that violate their religious beliefs.

This budget repeals the President’s onerous health-care law. Instead of putting health-care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, Congress should pursue patient-centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.

Fiscal Year 2015: Repeal the Exchange Subsidies Created by the New Health-Care Law.

The new law couples these subsidies with a mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance and bureaucratic controls on the types of insurance that may legally be offered. Taken together, these provisions will undermine the private insurance market, which serves as the backbone of the current U.S. health-care system. Exchange subsidies will undermine the competitive forces of the marketplace. Government mandates will drive out all but the largest insurance companies. Punitive tax penalties will force individuals to purchase coverage whether they choose to or not. Further, this budget does not condone any policy that would require entities or individuals to finance activities or make health decisions that violate their religious beliefs. This budget provides for the repeal of the President’s onerous health-care law for this and many other reasons.

Left in place, the health law will create pressures that will eventually lead to a single-payer system in which the federal government determines how much health care Americans need and what kind of care they can receive. This budget recommends repealing the architecture of this new law, which puts health- care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats, and instead allowing Congress to pursue patient centered health-care reforms that actually bring down the cost of care by empowering consumers.

Interestingly, while Ryan goes to great lengths to criticize the ACA’s “government mandates” and the supposed decision to leave “health- care decisions into the hands of bureaucrats,” he praises this very same kind of government-control elsewhere in the budget.

For instance, in discussing his plan to allow future retirees the choice of private insurance through his “premium support” proposal, Ryan promises that “the Medicare program and its benefits will remain as they are, without change.” For future retirees, Ryan proposes an Obamacare-like exchange that will feature private insurers providing Medicare-like plans. However, Ryan tasks the government with policing the plans private insurers offer “to avoid cherry-picking, and to ensure that Medicare’s sickest and highest-cost beneficiaries receive coverage.” Just four pages earlier, Ryan criticizes such government intervention in the exchanges.

Republicans have already voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in full or in part at least 51 times and on Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) doubled down on his commitment to hold more repeal votes. “House Republicans will continue to work to repeal this law and protect families and small businesses from its harmful consequences,” he said. “We will also continue our work to replace this fundamentally-flawed law with patient-centered solutions focused on lowering health care costs and protecting jobs.” House leadership has also pledged to introduce a unified alternative to the health care law, although they have not provided a timeline for drafting or debating that measure.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

RADICAL REPUBLICAN BUDGET: ROBIN HOOD IN REVERSE

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee today is continuing the drumbeat against House Republicans who voted for the radical Republican budget, releasing a new web video to highlight the chasm between mainstream Americans’ priorities and House Republicans’ radical approach. In the video – “Radical Republican Budget: Robin Hood in Reverse” – Republicans describe the budget as the best way to communicate their “governing philosophy.” The video goes on to show the GOP Doctrine for Governance in clear terms: higher taxes for the middle class, bigger medical bills for seniors on Medicare, more expensive student loans and a tax break for millionaires.

Under the Republican doctrine for governance, the Ryan budget, middle class Americans could pay $3,000 more in taxes and the Medicare guarantee, paid for with deductions from every dollar earned by working Americans ….  will END. Thus, their governance philosophy will take that money to fund other things like a $245,000 tax for millionaires, and  force seniors to pay more for their care — if they can find an insurance company to cover it and if they can find a doctor to provide it.  And, while the middle class would be paying more in taxes, folks like Mitt Romney, whose tax liability is imposed primarily by capital gains taxes, would see their tax liabilities plummet with Ryan’s slash to capital gains taxes.  Valuing making money off the fruits of others’ labors, without having to exert an ounce of labor yourself, is not an “American” value.

Radical Republican Budget: Robin Hood in Reverse

“Republicans themselves tell us that their budget is the best way to communicate their ‘governing philosophy’ and that’s exactly what they did – more for millionaires and corporate special interests, less for the middle class and seniors,” said Emily Bittner of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Americans rejected the philosophy of this radical Republican budget in the last election because it ends the Medicare guarantee for seniors and asks the middle class to pay more – all while cutting taxes for millionaires and corporate special interests. It might be the Republicans’ governing philosophy, but it isn’t the right philosophy for America’s middle class.”

Ryan’s Path to Poverty budget is the third in a series, all espousing their out of touch governance doctrine.  The GOP hasn’t learned that their “philosophy” isn’t what Americans want.  Instead, thick-headed GOP members of the House  are continuing to push philosophies the American people don’t want.  Bound to their millionaire donors and determined to implement their demands, the GOP intends — to impose their revolutionary doctrine — to convert America into a Plutocracy ruled over by the uber-rich — using budgets — without firing a single bullet. 

Here’s their “philosophy”  documents introduced since 2008 along with their platform.  Read/compare a few to see what you think — and if you’d like you can compare the actual budget numbers here.

 

2012-GOP-Platform GOP Growth Opportunity Rpt 2009-GOP-Road-to-Recovery 2010-GOP-Better-Solutions
GOP 2012 Platform GOP Growth Opportunities 2009 Road to Recovery 2010-Better Solutions
2010-Pledge-to-America Path to Poverty v1.0 Path to Poverty v2.0 Path to Poverty v3.0
2010-Pledge to America P2P v1.0 P2P v2.0 P2P v3.0

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Govt Shutdown Averted As Can Gets Kicked 6 Months Down The Road

The budgeting process for our Federal Government is a convoluted process that doesn’t come close to matching any budgeting process in the private sector.  Since Congress hasn’t actually agreed upon spending and taxing policies, which they can use to create a budget, some means to fund government operations and services must be used.  That’s where a continuing resolution comes in.

A continuing resolution is a type of appropriations legislation used by Congress (providing they can agree on the continuing resolution) to fund government agencies if a budget (appropriations) bill hasn’t passed both Houses and been signed into law by the end of a Congressional fiscal year (October 1st – September 30 each year).

Two budget bills were voted on this week in Congress … both along partisan lines.  The Republican bill in the House was passed with only Republican votes and is pretty much DOA in the Senate.  The Democratic bill in the Senate passed with votes from Democrats and Independents, but no Republicans. Similarly, the Senate bill is pretty much DOA in the House.  Each bill takes different approaches in building a budget to fund governmental functions and services.

Rep. Paul Ryan’s Budget (HCONRES25)  seeks $4.6 trillion in savings over the next 10 years without raising new taxes. It aims to reach a small surplus by 2023 through deep cuts to health care and social programs that aid the poor. It passed the House on a purely partisan vote with NO Democratic support and 10 Republican defections:

3/15/2013 Introduced in House
3/15/2013 The House Committee on The Budget reported an original measure, H. Rept. 113-17, by Mr. Ryan (WI).
3/21/2013 Passed/agreed to in House: On agreeing to the resolution Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 221 – 207 (Roll no. 88). Rep. Amodei is listed as “not voting”: Heck, Horsford and Titus all voted in against passage.
3/22/2013 Received in the Senate. Placed on Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders. Calendar No. 33.
HOUSE VOTE #88 YEAS NAYS PRES NV
REPUBLICAN 221 10 0 1
DEMOCRATIC 0 197 0 3
INDEPENDENT 0 0 0 0
TOTALS 221 207 4

Senator Patty Murray’s budget (SCONRES8) in the Senate aims to reduce deficits by $1.85 trillion over 10 years through an equal mix of tax increases and spending cuts.  Again, this budget was also passed along partisan lines with four Democratic defections: Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Hagan (NC) and Pryor (AR). Upon passage in the Senate, Sen. Murray (Senate Budget Cmtee Chair) stated, “While it is clear that the policies, values, and priorities of the Senate budget are very different than those articulated in the House budget, I know the American people are expecting us to work together to end the gridlock and find common ground, and I plan to continue doing exactly that.”

3/15/2013 Introduced in Senate
3/15/2013 Committee on the Budget. Original measure reported to Senate by Senator Murray under authority of the order of the Senate of 03/14/2013. Without written report.
3/23/2013 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Resolution agreed to in Senate with amendments by Yea-Nay Vote. 50 – 49. Record Vote Number: 92.  NOTE:  Reid voted Yea / Heller voted against passage
SENATE #92 TOTALS     DEMOCRAT     REPUBLICAN     INDEPENDENT
  YEA 50 48 0 2
  NAY 49 4 45 0
NOT VOTING 1 1 0 0

Given that Rep. Ryan’s Path to Poverty Version 3.0 budget bill went down in flames as soon as it hit the Senate door, and the Senate’s bill didn’t fair any better in the House, another continuing resolution  to authorize modified levels of spending for the next six months was needed — or as they like to refer to it in Washington — kicking the can down the road for yet another six months.  The Continuing Resolution bill is HR933, the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.

HR933 was originally introduced as Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.  Since the Senate can’t “originate” an appropriations bill, and since HR933 was an appropriations bill already passed by the House (the only chamber authorized to “originate” appropriations), the Senate commandeered that bill, replaced it’s contents with a continuing resolution, and sent it back to the House for concurrence.  If the Senate were to have created a bill on it’s own, approved it and sent it to the House, it would have been blue-slipped and automatically rejected upon Constitutional grounds.

3/4/2013 Introduced in House
3/6/2013 Passed/agreed to in House: On passage Passed by the Yeas and Nays: 267 – 151 (Roll no. 62).
3/20/2013 Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment replacing its contents and an amendment to re-Title the bill by Yea-Nay Vote. 73 – 26. Record Vote Number: 44.  NOTE:  Reid voted Yea / Heller voted against passage (for shutdown)
3/21/2013 Resolving differences — House actions: On motion that the House agree to the Senate amendments Agreed to by the Yeas and Nays: 318 – 109 (Roll no. 89).  NOTE:  Rep. Amodei is listed as “not voting”: Heck, Horsford and Titus all voted in favor of passage.
SENATE VOTE #44 TOTALS     DEMOCRAT     REPUBLICAN     INDEPENDENT
  YEA 73 51 20 2
  NAY 26 1 25 0
NOT VOTING 1 1 0 0
HOUSE VOTE #89 TOTALS     REPUBLICAN     DEMOCRAT INDEPENDENT
  YEA 318 203 115 0
  NAY 109 27 82 0
NOT VOTING 4 1 3 0

It now goes to the President for signature and thus, another kick of the budgetary can.

Budgets are technically, a statement of priorities, as are continuing resolutions.  And, various tidbits and provisos of each party’s policy stances toward governance manage to slip in budgetary bills. Overall, 112 amendments were offered to the HR933. Transparency relative to all 112 amendments is sorely lacking, as most are listed on THOMAS as “Purpose will be available when the amendment is proposed for consideration. See Congressional Record for text.”  It’s clear we need to revisit the issue of “transparency” with our legislators.

Here are a few of the amendments I found that failed:

  • SA 30 introduced by Sen. Cruz (R-TX): To prohibit the use of funds to carry out the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • SA 66 introduced by Sen. Coburn (R-OK): To temporarily freeze the hiring of nonessential Federal employees.
  • SA 69 introduced by Sen. Coburn (R-OK): To prohibit Urban Area Security Initiative grant recipients from funding projects that do not improve homeland security.
  • SA 93 introduced by Sen. Coburn R-OK): To transfer appropriations from the National Heritage Partnership Program to fund the resumption of public tours of the White House and visitor services and maintenance at national parks and monuments.
  • SA 115 introduced by Sen. Toomey (R-PA): To increase by $25,000,000 the amount appropriated for Operation and Maintenance for the Department of Defense for programs, projects, and activities in the continental United States, and to provide an offset.

Here are a few of the amendments I found that passed:

  • SA 72 introduced by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK): To require the continuation of tuition assistance programs for members of the Armed Forces for the remainder of fiscal year 2013.
  • SA 29 introduced by Sen. Inhofe (R-OK): To prohibit the expenditure of Federal funds to enforce the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rule of the Environmental Protection Agency against farmers.
  • SA 65 introduced by Sen. Coburn (R-OK): To prohibit the use of funds to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, except for research projects that the Director of the National Science Foundation certifies as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.

Here a a few other items that were slipped in to this bill that you might find a bit interesting.

Veteran’s Benefits

Given the GOP’s advertisement of their “autopsy” and their need to be a kinder, gentler, more inclusive party of something other than Greedy Old Patriarchs, plus, given their “support for the troops” and their “Jobs, Job, Jobs” mantra … section 8014 of the bill is a bit counter-intuitive.  Although—it does parallel their tiered benefits approach to Medicare (those older than 55 get the current program, those younger, well they’d get a declining value voucher). Under this proviso, it appears that if you re-enlisted before 10/1/1987 and have this in your enlistment contract, you get it … everyone else … so sad, too bad. The VA can buy your books and pay your tuition, but the government won’t pay you any wages or benefits … but hey … you’re still on the hook for your enlistment.  Good luck supporting yourself and oh, by the way, hope you don’t get sick while you’re at school learning something that you’ll later apply back on the job during the rest of your enlistment.

Sec. 8014. None of the funds appropriated by this Act shall be available for the basic pay and allowances of any member of the Army participating as a full-time student and receiving benefits paid by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs from the Department of Defense Education Benefits Fund when time spent as a full-time student is credited toward completion of a service commitment: Provided, That this section shall not apply to those members who have reenlisted with this option prior to October 1, 1987: Provided further, That this section applies only to active components of the Army.

The Long Defunct ACORN organization

Sec. 510. None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) or its subsidiaries or successors.

Good grief!  ACORN was a collection of community-based organizations that advocated for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues. The Gang Of Predators (GOP) killed that organization using totally and bogusly false allegations!  It filed for Chapter 7 liquidation on November 2, 2010, effectively closing the organization. The GOP danced with glee … so if they’re trying to become a kinder, gentler, caring GOP, what’s with the paranoia … and the continued assault on any organization that helps the poor?

Restrictions Placed on the ATF — Gives away a KEY requirement for Control of Gun Violence to the NRA

One of the reasons we’ve not been able to get a handle on how to control gun violence is that we have not data from which we can effectively draw conclusions.  That’s because, gun vendors are not required to keep any records whatsoever of gun sales for use in analyzing patterns.  Similarly, police units are prohibited from keeping permanent records associated with background checks and trace data.  In passing the continuing resolution … proviso language included in the bill perpetuate the lack of analysis data.

(b) For fiscal year 2013 and thereafter, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shall include in all such data releases, language similar to the following that would make clear that trace data cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime:

(1) Firearm traces are designed to assist law enforcement authorities in conducting investigations by tracking the sale and possession of specific firearms. Law enforcement agencies may request firearms traces for any reason, and those reasons are not necessarily reported to the Federal Government. Not all firearms used in crime are traced and not all firearms traced are used in crime.

(2) Firearms selected for tracing are not chosen for purposes of determining which types, makes, or models of firearms are used for illicit purposes. The firearms selected do not constitute a random sample and should not be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or any subset of that universe. Firearms are normally traced to the first retail seller, and sources reported for firearms traced do not necessarily represent the sources or methods by which firearms in general are acquired for use in crime.

Too Big to Jail

Ever wonder  why the Attorney General never seeks an indictment and doesn’t prosecute government contractors for the waste, fraud and abuse they regularly commit?  Could it be that if they took some of their egregiously fraudful government contractors to court and actually managed to convict them — well, they wouldn’t be able to let them continue to reap their fraudulent schemes and line all those congressional campaign coffers?

SEC. 540. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract, memorandum of understanding, or cooperative agreement with, make a grant to, or provide a loan or loan guarantee to, any corporation that was convicted of a felony criminal violation under any Federal law within the preceding 24 months, where the awarding agency is aware of the conviction, unless an agency has considered suspension or debarment of the corporation and has made a determination that this further action is not necessary to protect the interests of the Government.

Sec. 8126. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to enter into a contract with any person or other entity listed in the Excluded Parties List System (EPLS)/System for Award Management (SAM) as having been convicted of fraud against the Federal Government.

Those are just a few “policy” or “values”  items I noted as a read through bill, as passed.  You may find others if you take the time to read through the bill.  But, as I said earlier, budgets are a statement of “policy” and “values.”  Those activities and services deemed important by the powers that be (regardless of what ordinary Americans value) are funded, plain and simple.  Watch, read, learn over this next term, and in the 2014 primaries, cast your vote based on the VALUES you espouse for a candidate you believe will uphold them.

A Tale of Two Budgets

Our lawmakers need to work harder on solutions than sound bites.

By Ryan Alexander

Ryan Alexander

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.

In a single week, the House and Senate Budget Committee chairs unveiled their budgets for the 2014 fiscal year. According to Democrats, Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget was an unmitigated disaster that would destroy Medicare and slash spending in draconian ways. To Republicans, Sen. Patty Murray’s (D-WA) budget was rife with new taxes and massive debt increases that threaten to send the economy into a death spiral.

What a bunch of hooey.

In reality, both packages are political markers that are more about public messaging than laying out a plan to finance government next year or setting the budgetary game plan for the next decade. And they seem even more out of context because they came out ahead of President Barack Obama’s upcoming budget request. It’s already a month overdue and still another couple weeks away.

Instead of providing the short and mid-term road map for the country’s future, the two budget proposals map out paths to each party’s promised land that don’t converge. In fact, they don’t even agree on the same baseline: the predicted level of spending that savings or cost increases are measured against.

Ryan’s proposal assumes the increase in payments to doctors under Medicare will expire (it won’t), and counts the decrease in war spending as savings (it shouldn’t do that either). It banks the across-the-board sequester cuts that started March 1, and then calls for protecting the Pentagon budget from sequestration, repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), mandating revenue-neutral tax reform (with no specifics), increasing means testing in Medicare, and nipping farm subsidies (a paltry $31 billion).

Even according to Ryan’s own plan, his much ballyhooed and derided voucher system for Medicare wouldn’t start until 2024 — leaving it outside the budget window. Against this highly questionable baseline, Ryan claims his budget would shrink the deficit by $4.6 trillion over a decade.

alexander-ryanbudget-DonkeyHotey

Murray’s proposal assumes the increase in payments to doctors under Medicare will not expire, that the sequester-level cuts will be waived, notes the decrease in war spending (and draws it down more rapidly) but appropriately doesn’t count this as savings. From there, the proposal calls for additional revenue by eliminating tax breaks but is silent as to which ones they target. It also cuts some military spending, but these reductions are only half as steep as the current round of sequestration cuts. It calls for small cuts in non-Pentagon spending and health care related savings. And farm subsidies savings are even more meager at $23 billion. Against her baseline, Murray claims her budget would bring on $1.9 trillion in deficit reduction.

So that’s what the budgets say they are going to do, but only if we follow the roads each has laid out. So it’s the first year that really counts, and it’s extremely unlikely that we’re going to see a House-Senate joint budget resolution emerge from these two proposals. But lawmakers should still seek any overlaps and work to build those into any final deal.

That deal — if there is one in the end — will be the phoenix that rises up out of the ashes of these two budget resolutions and Obama’s budget request. I agree with most observers that the sequester cuts are here to stay (at least until they are replaced by something), but that’s just discretionary spending. Other fundamental changes are needed if we are going to make Medicare and Social Security more sustainable. There must be some comprehensive tax reform that yields additional revenue.

Most importantly, the political theater must stop. Our lawmakers need to work harder on solutions than sound bites.


Ryan Alexander is president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan federal budget watchdog. http://www.taxpayer.net
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org) Paul Ryan photo credit to DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Yes Indeedee, It’s Confirmed: GOP ‘IS’ Out of Touch

GOP Report Shows Party is Out of Touch With Americans on Threats to Democracy: Money in Politics and Voter Suppression

The Republican National Committee released a report on Monday reviewing its losses in the 2012 election cycle and laying out a roadmap for the future of the party.  People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker released the following statement:

“This report highlights what we already knew: that the Republican party is out of touch with America. Instead of addressing the party’s anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-worker policies that voters resoundingly rejected in 2012, today’s report calls for a complete gutting of campaign finance reform – in essence calling for even more big money to be poured into our elections.  If the Republican party were listening to Americans, they would know that the country supports finding systemic solutions to the problem of unregulated money in our political system.  The answer is certainly not to gut the regulations we already have in place.  Instead, we need to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and related cases so that we can create more effective regulations to get big money out of our democracy.

“The GOP report’s recommendations on voting rights also underscore a continuing focus on keeping certain voters from the polls.  After an election cycle overflowing with examples of discriminatory voter suppression efforts aimed at historically disenfranchised communities, the report recommends an ongoing focus on so-called  ‘ballot security training initiatives.’  This is simply another phrase for the same voter intimidation tactics used in the name of preventing supposed ‘voter fraud.’  It’s baffling that the GOP thinks it can improve its image with people of color while still working to block their access to the ballot box.

“This report is yet another example that the GOP’s ‘soul-searching’ hasn’t gotten them very far.  It’s time to refocus our efforts on getting the big money out of elections and the voters into the voting booth.”

Ready to go?

Just exactly how much lipstick have they purchased?  Maybeline and Revlon combined couldn’t make enough lipstick to take care of that pachyderm.

Yesterday— the Republican National Committee released its wide-ranging “autopsy” report called the “Growth And Opportunity Project Report.” In it, the party admits to several shortcomings that contributed to the party’s wide losses in the 2012 election. A portion of the report includes market research from voter focus groups around the country. Not surprisingly, when asked to describe Republicans, respondents said that the party was “scary,” “narrow-minded,” “out of touch,” and full of “stuffy old men.”  What’s most interesting is that the report failed to quantify just how out of touch their party has become on a number of issues, from climate change, to marriage equality, to universal background checks, to women’s rights, to the minimum wage, and more.

The GOP thinks they merely have a messaging problem … and just need to change a few words they used to talk about things.  HAH! Now that’s a joke and a half.  Maybe they should look at their 2012 Platform. Better yet, maybe they should look at what is happening in State Legislatures and what members of their party have introduced in the Congress:

  • Restricting access to or insurance reimbursement of costs associated with an abortion;
  • Restricting time frames in which a woman could seek an abortion to 12-weeks and in on case, to 6-weeks from conception;
  • Mandating the use of transvaginal ultrasounds and other medically unnecessary procedures as a means to shame women;
  • Gleefully and gloatingly defunding Planned Parenthood;
  • Attempting to elevate “religious” rights above all others to allow zealots to assert their religious rights to deny all types of service and/or medications should it offend “their” personal religious beliefs, making their beliefs superior to yours;
  • Continually attempting to repeal Obamacare and providing NO replacement;
  • Promoting continued systemic discrimination against the LGBT community, as a whole, via marriage inequality espoused throughout our Nation’s income tax and estate tax structures;
  • Attempting to enact one voter suppression tactic after another to disenfranchise voters as well as restricting early voting opportunities;
  • Continually filibustering one bill after another, even those introduced by Republicans;
  • Blocking Consumer Financial Protection and making multiple attempts to repeal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform;
  • Promoting racial profiling as a means of harassment to convince Hispanics to “self-deport’ ;
  • Promoting Personhood for embryos and essentially demoting women’s status to nothing more than an incubator;
  • Replacing Democracy with Dictatorships (Overseers);
  • Promoting fatherhood visitation rights for rapists.

I’m sure I’ve missed of few other big issues we’ve had to overcome … but need I go on?  There’s a politically incorrect term we frequently used when I was in the Navy to define that kind of behavior.  The term stars with “cluster.”  The GOPs (Grouchy Old Patriarchs) problem is much more than a “messaging” problem.  It’s a policy problem and we should cheer them on  in pursuit of their messaging delusion.  It will most certainly shorten their path to minor party status.  We may have a few challenges to overcome in the short run, but we’ll all be much better off in the long run.

Don’t believe me?  See for yourself,  take your pick, click a pic or two.  Read/compare a few — then compare the numbers.

2012-GOP-Platform GOP Growth Opportunity Rpt 2009-GOP-Path-to-Recovery 2010-GOP-Better-Solutions
GOP 2012 Platform GOP Growth Opportunites 2009 Path to Recovery 2010-Better Solutions
2010-Pledge-to-America Path to Poverty v1.0 Path to Poverty v2.0 Path to Poverty v3.0
2010-Pledge to America P2P v1.0 P2P v2.0 P2P v3.0

This Week on the Hill …

It’s budget week in Congress!  The House will most likely end up passing the budget proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan.

In the House

  • The Ryan Budget: Reduces the deficit by $5.7 trillion over ten years than the current baseline, and cuts individual and corporate taxes. It also repeals the 2010 healthcare law. – https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/hconres25Republicans in the House will most likely end up passing Ryan’s Path to Poverty version 3.0 budget. Before approving Ryan’s budget, however, the House is expected to vote on a few other budget alternatives. Republican Leadership in the House will determine which other budgets upon which they’ll allow debate early in the week.  Typically, the majority party will allow votes on budgets from the minority party (in this case, the Democrats), the Progressive Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican Study Committee.

In the Senate

  • The Senate Budget for FY 2014: The Senate is hoping to start work on a Democratic budget that reduces the deficit by about $700 billion over ten years compared to the current baseline. It also increases revenues by nearly $1 trillion, which has drawn fierce opposition from Senate Republicans. –https://www.popvox.com/bills/us/113/x112
  • The Continuing Resolution: Before the Senate can start on the budget, however, it will first look to pass a continuing spending resolution for 2013. The Senate started work on its version of the resolution, which is based on the House-passed HR 933, but still needs to work out a deal on dozens of remaining amendments.

Will ‘Compromise’ Mean Sacrificing Our Social Safety Net?

— by Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton

Disturbing reports that the White House is already caving on Social Security and Medicare — telling Republicans it’s willing to cut yearly inflation adjustments to Social Security (thereby stranding seniors who must already pay 20-40% of their incomes for drugs and healthcare, whose prices are surging faster than inflation); and means-test Medicare (thereby greasing the way for it to become akin to Medicaid, a program for the poor). Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders are on board.

But these so-called entitlement programs aren’t entitlements; people have paid into them their whole working lives. They’re the nation’s key programs of social insurance — and they’re wildly popular. Democrats are and should be the protectors of these programs, not the first proponents of reducing them. Republicans, meanwhile, won’t give an inch on closing giant tax loopholes for the rich (such as Mitt Romney’s “carried interest” boondoggle) or raising capital gains on the rich or capping the mortgage interest deduction for the wealthy or adopting a wealth tax or a tax on financial transactions. Why do Democrats always negotiate with themselves? Please send a message to the White House:  Stop giving away the store!

Read more from Robert Reich here.