Good News on Highway Bill Front; More Issues Elsewhere

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by and is filed under Blog

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Our voices are finally being heard – sort of.  When we started voicing opposition to the highway bill there were few conservatives speaking out against it, and even fewer members of the House who were willing to oppose it.  Now, there is so much opposition to the bill that John Boehner was forced to delay the vote on the highway bill, which was previously scheduled for today:

Boehner (R-Ohio) told his conference Wednesday morning that it was “more important that we do it right than that we do it fast” in explaining his decision, a clear signal GOP leaders lack the votes to win approval of the package.

“Given the volume of amendments and the need for a full, fair, open and transparent process, we may not finish energy/infrastructure this week,” Boehner told his conference, according to a source in the room. “If we need more time to debate and consider amendments, that’s perfectly fine with me. It’s more important that we do it right than that we do it fast.”

The bottom line is that Boehner and McCarthy are lacking the votes.  They plan to suspend consideration of the bill until after next week’s President’s Day recess.

But there is another issue regarding the offsets of the bill.  CQ is reporting that “lawmakers needed time to examine their options for offsetting the bill’s cost, because a proposal involving federal employee pensions is also being used in a package (HR 3630) that would extend a Social Security payroll tax cut and other expiring provisions.”  According to media reports of the tentative ‘extenders’ deal, $15 billion in savings from pension reform will go towards the $50 billion deficit created by a 10-month extension of unemployment benefits and Medicare doc fix.  It’s sad that there is such a dearth of items they are willing to cut that they need to recycle the same offsets for multiple bills.

It’s also sad that they plan to pay for a new 10-month deficit with offsets over 10 years.  Additionally they will use $15 billion in revenues from sales of radio spectrum licenses to broadcasters.  Part of our opposition to the highway bill was that the proposed offsets would be used to create new deficits instead of paying for existing ones.  If there is a way for the government to receive more revenue from spectrum sales, then why are they waiting for the extenders package to do so?  They should already be using that revenue to pay off existing debt.  Also, using offsetting revenues for deficits violates the GOP CUTGO rule that requires all increases in spending to be offset by other spending cuts.

The entire rationale for cutting the payroll tax cut lose and passing a clean extension was so Republicans could negotiate hard on the spending part of the package.  It appears that they plan to offset the costs with weak payfors, while doing very little to reform the fundamental problems with unemployment benefits and Medicare.  We need to watch this carefully as the day progresses.

We must also watch the Senate action on their version of the highway bill, S. 1813, which is even worse than the House bill.  Rand Paul is blocking Reid’s unanimous consent to proceed with the bill.  Senator Paul is demanding that we stop sending foreign aid to Egypt, a country that is illegally detaining American citizens. Please call your senators and request that they stand with Rand Paul in blocking the highway bill, along with aid to Egypt.

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