Tag Archives: House

Congress gears up for the debt discussion – no, not that one. The other one.

The people in our government are buttheads and here is the reason why: both the Republicans and the Democrats have announced their party’s negotiators for the upcoming talks over the nation’s debt limit and they are pretty much a handpicked selection of people guaranteed to NOT come to an agreement. The Republicans have picked Eric Cantor and Jon Kyl. Please note that the invitation was for four congressional Republicans but the GOP decided to waste the time of only two. The Democrats chose Max Baucus and Daniel Inouye from the Senate and James Clyburn and Chris Van Hollen from the House. Of those, only Van Hollen seems to make any sense, having taken part in the 2011 budget negotiations that ended just last week. Basically, this is going to turn into a staring match where nothing gets done. Much like the negotiations for this year’s federal budget went.

Paul Ryan, the architect of the Republican budget that protects tax breaks for the wealthy and turns Medicare into a voucher system, is not finding a lot of support for his proposal. House Republicans voted 235-4 in favor of the plan but touching entitlement programs is incredibly unpopular with the public. Ryan was booed when talking about his proposed budget plan when holding a town hall meeting in his southern Wisconsin congressional district. Only Obama’s call to raise tax rates on the wealthiest Americans enjoys solid support. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 72% of Americans wanted Congress to raise taxes on wealthy Americans making more than $250,000 a year.

Americans would prefer to keep Medicare just the way it is and also oppose cuts in Medicaid and the defense budget. More than half of those polled say they are against small, across-the-board tax increases combined with modest reductions in Medicare and Social Security benefits. Basically, Americans want the government to sort itself out without having themselves pay any more money. Better yet, to reduce what we are paying in taxes now. (You do realize that it doesn’t work that way, right? Basic math there, Bobo.)

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Budget bill moves through Senate and on to Obama. Up next: the debt ceiling.

Both the House and the Senate passed the budget bill yesterday, with the Senate voting 81-19. Fifteen Republican senators, three Democrats, and one independent voted against the measure. Now the legislation moves on to President Obama’s desk to be signed into law. But the fight over the 2011 budget may have weakened John Boehner when many of his own party abandoned him when voting in the House on the measure took place yesterday afternoon. Without Democrat help, the bill may never have passed. But don’t be fooled into thinking anybody is having fuzzy feelings for the opposite party, 108 of the no votes came from House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.Now Capitol Hill turns its attention to raising the national debt limit but the king of the Republicans may be doing so with a weaker hand. Boehner’s little GOP kingdom has become disenchanted with him. The federal debt ceiling, currently just under $14.3 trillion, is projected to be breached by mid-May and the Treasury Department’s accounting tricks will only last until early July. Conservatives and tea party members are demanding that their leaders shrink the government and are howling at the suggestion of raising the debt ceiling. But they may end up having no choice. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and others have warned of dire consequences to the global financial markets if the debt limit is not extended and the government begins defaulting on its loans.

With debate over the debt limit intensifying, Republicans are discussing attaching some tough statutory language to the bill that would allow the ceiling to be increased only if Congress institutes broad spending cuts in federal agency budgets and in entitlement programs such as Medicare. Those proposals might unify House Republicans for an initial passage of the debt ceiling, but they might also fail in the Democratic controlled Senate. Such an outcome would send Boehner back to the bargaining table with Obama and Reid. This past week’s reaction to the spending bill from GOP conservatives may leave the White House assuming Boehner will not be able to deliver a majority on his own, prompting Obama’s side to not give in to as many of the speaker’s demands.

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The House passes new budget bill but nobody is happy about it. As usual.

What is going on in our government? The House passed the budget bill that had been created last Friday but House Speaker John Boehner had to turn to Democratic support to get it done. The vote was 260 to 167 (it takes 217 ‘yes’ votes to pass a bill) but 59 Republicans broke with their party to vote against the measure. In turn, 81 Democrats voted for the deal. The budget deal, which makes $38 billion in federal spending cuts, has been criticized by some conservative Republicans as being inadequate in addressing the government’s ballooning debt. Of the 59 GOP defections, 27 were freshmen members, most that had been elected with Tea Party backing. The Senate is poised to vote later today and Obama will certainly sign it into law.

The 2011 spending measure produces its $38 billion in cuts to domestic accounts by including almost $18 billion changes to benefit programs, like children’s health care, highway funding and a fund for crime victims. “This bill is nothing more than a Tea Party checklist targeting programs that help the most vulnerable,” said liberal Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., ticking off cuts to food aid for the poor, grants to local police departments and help for children of inmates. “It’s shameful, a moral disgrace.” Obama, however, was able to ease cuts to favored programs like medical research, family planning programs and education, while largely ridding the bill of conservative policy initiatives to block last year’s health care law and new environmental regulations.

Later today, Republicans dominating the House will launch debate on a 10-year blueprint that promises to cut the long-term budget plan Obama laid out in February by more than $6 trillion. The GOP measure, a non-binding blueprint that sets a theoretical framework for future legislation, would also sharply cut Medicaid and transform it into a block grant program runs by the states. It doesn’t touch Social Security, however, or immediately cut Medicare.

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Government shutdown averted! — Kind of…

So, the shutdown of the government was averted just in the nick of time. The Cherry Blossom Festival went on in DC over the weekend despite fears that the parades would be canceled and, except for a car pulling a balloon that burst into flames and had to be towed away, everything went off grandly. Our dear Federal rats (and I call them rats because they acted just like rats would when they realize the ship they are on is sinking – stupidly and desperately) were able to seal a deal just an hour before midnight. Well, sort of. What actually happened was that Congress approved a short-term spending measure to keep the government from shutting down until next week. The final agreement will not in fact be voted upon until Thursday. (Just enough time for someone to change their minds.)

The proposed measure would cut $37.8 billion from the federal budget through the end of September, a little more than half of the $61 billion the Republicans were originally playing for. The Democrats wanted to cut billions less but agreed to the larger figure when the GOP agreed to drop demands to take federal funds away from the group Planned Parenthood. The cuts, if passed, would add up to the largest budget reduction for federal agencies in U.S. history. But it’s clear that the Republicans have the power in this situation. They have managed to upset what is still a predominantly Democratic held government. Remember, the Democrats still hold the majority in the Senate.

Some Tea Party conservatives have expressed their displeasure with the smaller figure and said GOP leaders should have held out for the $61 billion worth of cuts. The Republicans now have set their sights on the 2012 budget and, from the looks of it, are planning to propose even more cuts. (They’ll eventually just slash themselves out of existence. Won’t that be nice!) This is the first test of their strength since taking over the House and it looks like they may have come out on the top of the pile.

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The government will keep on running but running to where is the question…

You know, I’ve been trying for weeks to find a good Republican blog or newsfeed since everything I’ve seen so far is bashing the GOP and is generally anti-Republican at the moment. It may seem like the Republicans are hell-bent on attacking the government with a sharp pair of scissors but the GOP is not completely happy with what is going on either. To quote an analogy from the First Read NBC News site, “It may be hard to understand why a person might jump off a cliff, unless you understand they’re being chased by a tiger.” The bulk of the Republicans are being driven by the Tea Party and those core Republicans that are being herded are just as concerned about spending cuts as everyone else. The Republican Party is like a nesting doll and the more layers you pull off the doll, the crazier it gets.

The more popular ways of generating new revenue are placing a surtax on federal income taxes for those who make more than $1 million per a year, eliminating spending on earmarks, eliminating funding for weapons systems the Defense Department says aren’t necessary, and eliminating tax credits for the oil and gas industries. Over 70% of people polled say that those are acceptable ways to reduce the federal budget deficit, with a whopping 81% supporting the tax on high incomes. Unsurprisingly, cutting funding for Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and education were less popular.

Obama signed the stop-gap measure to keep the government up and running for another two weeks yesterday. Now the White House looks eager to find the same type of compromise that was accomplished during the lame-duck session on taxes last year (that would be the continuation of the Bush tax cuts everybody is crying over right now). Vice President Biden will be the one to negotiate with the Republicans on a long-term solution for the deficit and to keep the government running. But the GOP leaders insist the Senate Democrats come up with their own plan first. At the moment we are not hearing a lot about a plan from the Democrats or how they wish to counter the $61 billion in cuts created by the House Republicans. Republicans are scheduled to meet with Biden and other officials today at 4pm ET to begin talks.

First Thoughts: Chased by a tiger

Congress: Ready to compromise?

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The government still limping along.

The House on Tuesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18 and cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that President Obama has already marked for elimination.

The measure, which passed the House on a 335 to 91 vote, now goes to the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that the measure is likely to be approved in the Senate within the next 48 hours. If Congress does not pass a funding resolution by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down, but the apparent agreement between the two chambers seems likely to avert that possibility in the short-term.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18, sending the bill on to President Obama for his signature. The bill passed on a 91 to 9 vote, one day after it was approved by the House. Obama must sign the bill by Friday or else the federal government will be forced to shut down.

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Job creation and spending cut debate turns into abortion war in the House.

There are two big issues flooding the news sites these days; the mess in the Middle East and our own economic difficulties. And by ‘difficulties,’ I mean the complete melt down of our governmental body and the total disregard of any moral or ethical guidelines. Over time, the Republicans have gained a reputation for being narcissistic, self-serving snakes looking to only help the rich and fat-cats of America. Today, they are showing that the GOP hasn’t changed a bit and hasn’t learned any new tricks. Now they are using the public’s demand for action against the rising deficit to target the same programs they always have, including an old and tired argument against abortions and pro-life/pro-choice issues.

The Republican war on abortions just shows how very out of touch the GOP is with America. It also shows that the Grand Old Party is still just a bunch of narrow-minded, ignorant men. The House turned the discussion on spending cuts into a heated argument over social issues last week as lawmakers took to the floor for nearly 3 hours to debate an amendment that would block federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The measure was proposed by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana.) and would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding through programs such as Medicaid and Maternal and Child Health Block Grants.

In addition, the government funding resolution proposed by House Republicans last week would eliminate the entire Title X program. Title X is a $327 million program founded in 1970 that covers family planning and reproductive health and whose funds by law can be spent on family planning and contraception but not on abortion services. The changes to the spending plan that the Republicans are seeking would deny funding for Planned Parenthood, who also provide cancer screenings, HIV counseling, contraception, and testing for STD’s. Striping their funding would actually worsen the situation, including higher bills for taxpayers footing Medicaid and welfare costs for poor children and woman denied health services they cannot receive any other way.

House debate on defunding Planned Parenthood stretches on for nearly three hours – Washington Post

House Votes to Strip Planned Parenthood of Federal Funding – ABC News

Mike Pence’s war on Planned Parenthood – Politico

Side effects of the GOP’s war on family planning – Washington Post

Acts of Outrage, Indifference, and Arrogance – Huffington Post

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The continued fight over health care reform.

“On a vote of 51 to 47, the Senate defeated a GOP effort to repeal President Obama’s health-care overhaul. While the outcome was expected, not a single Democrat voted to continue with repeal, underscoring the great hurdle that Republican efforts to revise the health-care law face in the Senate.” – from the Washington Post.

Of course, we all knew the Republican controlled House would get nowhere with a repeal of the health care reform. This was expected. Unfortunately, this means the GOP will resort to chipping away at the reform piece by piece. If they can’t get rid of it in one fell swoop, than they will eat away at the base until the whole thing collapses. Two federal judges have ruled the legislation as unconstitutional, saying that Congress cannot force individuals to buy health insurance. This is almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court, which could decide the law’s fate by the spring of 2012. I fully expect the 2012 presidential race to ring with cries of ‘Repeal ObamaCare’!

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The 112th Congress opens and Republicans hit the gate running.

Well, the Senate and the House came to order yesterday and the 112th Congress has begun. This time with reduced Democrat numbers in the Senate and a Republican controlled House. The Democrats now lack the numbers to overrule a filibuster by seven members in the Senate. This spurred both sides to draw up a new set of rules in hopes of creating a new bipartisanship in our government, hoping not to be trapped by the same childishness that stemmed the last two years.

Despite their so-called good intentions, the House intends to pass the health care repeal next week without committee hearings or permitting Democrats a chance to seek changes. According to new Speaker of the House John Boehner, they’ve litigated the health care issue enough over the past year. This is mostly for show, since the bill will likely die in the Senate. The Republican’s first move in the House is to show their displeasure with the health care reform and to waste everybody’s time. They have also decided to ignore estimates from the Congressional Budget Office that the health care bill as it was originally passed would cut spending by $143 billion over the next decade.

The Republicans have pledged to vote at least once a week on bills that cut spending. The first spending cut vote is set for today and involves a 5% reduction in the amount ticketed for lawmakers’ and committees’ offices and leadership staff. It’s estimated the bill could save $35 million over the next nine months. (Oh look! A New Year’s resolution! Did you know that in the first week of January 25% of people who made resolutions have already failed to stick with them? This has about as much success of working as your boss staying away from the donuts.) As of this morning, the Republicans are already saying that their pledge to cut $100 billion from the budget in this year alone won’t be kept. (That was fast.) But, naysayers have to concede that with several months of the budget year already gone -it began back in October 2010- it wouldn’t be prudent to crunch $100 billion worth of cuts into the remaining fiscal year.

It remains to be seen whether we will see the true governmental bipartisanship that we need to grow and thrive between the Republicans and the Democrats or if we’re in for another few years of kiddie games.

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Republicans pledge to make spending cuts but won’t say to which programs.

The Republicans don’t take over the majority in the House of Representatives until tomorrow but people are already talking about the budget cuts the GOP will make. Before the election the Republicans pledged to cut $100 billion from domestic spending. They haven’t specified which programs would bear the brunt of the cuts, only what would escape it: the military, domestic security, and veterans. This leaves federal programs for things like education, transportation, law enforcement, and medical research wide open for attack. The cuts would be deep, roughly 20% on average, causing many economists to argue that immediate federal spending cuts of this size would threaten the economy’s recovery and offset any stimulus from the tax cut deal the Republicans and Obama reached just weeks ago.

(I find it odd that people would think the tax cuts would do any good. We’ve had those cuts for years, since before the recession started. Nothing changed about them, they were just extended. Why do you think they would make any difference? They aren’t new. It’s just more of the same.)

House Republicans Outline Budget Cuts – NYTimes.com

John A. Boehner, incoming House speaker.

But it might not be so easy for the Republican controlled House to make those cuts since the Democrats retain the majority in the Senate and Obama still holds veto power over bills making those reductions. Many think the Republicans should be broadening their scope to include big items, like Medicare and Social Security. Unfortunately, I don’t see that going over well with the American people. My parents’ generation is nearing the time of their lives where they will begin to draw on those programs and there are a lot of Baby Boomers headed in the same direction, putting even more strain on the cache. The Republicans might meet real opposition with their spending cuts.

I don’t know how this will play out if the GOP makes a move for programs that the American people are willing to defend. There could be cuts to subsidies for farmers and for local governments, who are counting on federal money to meet their own budgets. Cuts for education could mean the loss of grants for students and 40,000 fewer teachers and school aides. Small business programs, meaning Main Street USA, are also a target I feel should worry. In the end, I see this ending in a standoff between the Republican House and the Democratic Senate. It will be interesting to see who blinks first.

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