Get ready for another weak ground out into a double play in the upcoming budget battle.
Shortly before the August recess, we reported that Republicans planned to pass a clean 6-month CR which funds Obamacare and appropriates $1.047 trillion in spending – commensurate with Obama’s request instead of the House budget. The idea behind the “deferment” strategy was twofold; to delay the major battles to 2013 in the hopes of winning back the Senate and to preclude the need for the lame duck session, when wayward members would use the must-pass budget bill to pass extraneous bad legislation.
At the time, we weighed both the pros and cons of this strategy. Now we learn that some of our concerns have come to fruition, as the proposed CR is neither clean nor will it prevent the lame duck session. Here are some things to consider.
- Welfare Reform: Earlier this week, we pointed out that Republicans have an opportunity to force Obama’s hand on his gutting of welfare work requirements. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is set to expire September 30. Even with control over just one-half of……etc, Republicans can force Obama’s hand by simply refusing to pass a TANF reauthorization without an agreement to reinstate the work requirements. They can pass a reauthorization with a provision banning Obama’s state waivers of the work requirements, ship it off to the Senate and dare Reid and Obama to rail against an 80/20 issue. This would literally provide us with an opportunity to contrast a paycheck president vs. a food stamp president.
Instead, House Republicans have cooked up a ‘dirty’ CR that contains a ‘clean’ extension of TANF without the work requirement provision. This will allow Democrats in the Senate to pass the CR, while concurrently consummating Obama’s violation of welfare reform without engaging in a standalone fight on the issue.
But fear not, House Republicans plan a cover vote next week on a resolution of disapproval of Obama’s HHS waiver. That would be fine if they wouldn’t be approving it this week. We’ve seen this rodeo a million times before. They punt on their only consequential opportunity to force an issue, while opting for a vacuous gesture that won’t go anywhere, especially without a parallel commitment from McConnell to bring up the resolution in the Senate. This resolution vote provides House Republicans with a worthless talking point. They can make believe they are fighting against the Obama Administration’s waive of work requirements, when they are actually surrendering the policy at a time when they have the power to undo the waiver.
- Extra Spending: This is the first CR in history that actually slightly increases spending as opposed to “continuing” current levels. To begin with, the agreement for this CR is a funding level of $1.047 trillion, not the current level of $1.043 trillion. Moreover, as we pointed out a few weeks ago, CBO is now projecting that discretionary spending will only reach $1.039 trillion in FY 2013 based on the current budget. As the housing market begins to recover, CBO is predicting that FHA receipts from premiums for loan guarantees will increase, netting much of that extra revenue and offsetting up to $8 billion in spending. Yet, amazingly, instead of pocketing the savings and calling it a day at $1.039 trillion, both sides have agreed to plus up the rest of the spending accounts by 0.6% in order to “comply” with the $1.047 topline number. You read the correctly. Once they agreed to spend more money, they are incapable of saving it even when CBO shows that their budget could result in $8 billion less than expected. Leave no spending behind!
- Disaster Relief: This is an old trick that has already been used during this Congress. This bill contains $6.4 billion in unpaid for disaster spending over and beyond the abovementioned spending cap.
- Lame Duck: Not surprisingly, despite passing a CR funding government until March 27 2013, Congress still plans to come back for the lame duck session, when outgoing “suicide bombers” are willing to vote for terrible legislation. The whole point of this strategy was to eliminate the lame duck session and prevent tacking on bad bills to the CR. Now we are tacking on a bad bill to the CR….and still incurring the dangers of the lame duck session!
The House plans to vote on this bill some time this Thursday. Please call your Republican members and tell them to abide by their promise to cut spending. More importantly, ask them if they are willing to stand up to Obama on welfare reform.
Some people are saying that Republicans should close up shop if they can’t win in this environment. More aptly said, they should close up shop if they are unwilling to embrace a fight against Obama on an 80/20 issue – one that cuts to core of the election.