Defund Obamacare Now!

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Obamacare

The most important legislative goal for conservatives is to fully repeal Obamacare.  If we’ve learned anything from past experiences, it’s that no government entitlement program is ever repealed once the dependency takes root.  Once Obamacare is implemented, any discussion of enacting entitlement reform will be moot.  It will be too late.  That’s why we must act before we run out of time.

By now, we are all intimately acquainted with the bromide that “Republican’s only control one-half of one-third of government.”  Nonetheless, we must remember that, in the realm of appropriations, they control the most consequential body of government, the House of Representatives.  While Republicans will need control over all branches of government in order to statutorily repeal Obamacare, they can defund the law before the end of the fiscal year by merely sticking to their budget and refusing to negotiate with the Democrat Senate, which has not passed a budget in over 1000 days.

At present, the Republicans’ FY 2013 budget contains no funding for Obamacare or for its implementation.  Next week, the House will consider the Financial Services bill, H.R. 6020, which funds the IRS.  Obama’s request for an additional $1 billion to fund Obamacare has rightfully been denied by the committee-passed bill.  In addition, as noted in The Hill, the bill “prohibits the IRS from receiving transfers from the Department of Health and Human Services to implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

This is a good move.  Undoubtedly, the HHS-Labor bill will also defund the Obamacare exchanges.  But the real question is this: will Republicans cave to pressure at the end of the fiscal year and agree to fund Obamacare, like they did last year?  Is this just window dressing to placate conservatives?

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Question for GOP: Will You Vote to Fund Obamacare

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Obamacare

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Obamacare almost in its entirety, there will be copious pages of commentary written about the legal arguments, the precedents for the future, and the politics of the Supreme Court.  None of that matters for us and our community of liberty-minded activists.  The most salient question is where do we go from here?  Are we willing to let this travesty stand?

There is nothing we can do about the Supreme Court.  Justices, even those who are political conservative, will buy into quirky legal rationale and exhibit unique jurisprudence.  What we must do now is focus on the elected branches of government.

When Republicans took over the House last year, they promised to repeal Obamacare.  They also promised that in the likely scenario that their repeal bill is blocked in the Senate, they would refuse to fund Obamacare in the annual appropriations bills that fund the various agencies that oversee Obamacare.  They passed the “Ryan budget,” which defunded Obamacare.  But then as the clock wound down to midnight, September 30, and the threat of a government shutdown scared them to death, they caved and agreed to an omnibus bill that included funding for Obamacare.

That must change now.

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GOP Appropriators Reinstate Rural Air Subsidies

Monday, June 25th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Issues

Last week, The Madison Project rolled out a new website with the Madison Performance Index to illustrate just how many conservative districts are represented by big-government Republicans.  Our esteemed Chairman, Jim Ryun, wrote in our inaugural op-ed that many red state Republicans “work in tandem with local parochial interests to ensure that the people of some of our most conservative districts are only represented by supporters of big-government dependency and special-interest politics in the future.”

A great example of this red state dependency mentality is the Essential Air Service, a rural pork program that subsidizes airlines to provide service to communities where such service, due to geography and population, would otherwise be unprofitable.  Everyone knows that there are advantages and disadvantages to living outside of population centers.  On the one hand, you get to live in serenity on a large plot of land for relatively cheap – free of worries from congestion, pollution, and crime.  On the other hand, you need to drive long distances to the nearest airport.  That is a live decision that someone makes when deciding where to live.

Unfortunately, rural politicians in both parties have used taxpayer dollars to subsidies flights to tiny airports that are nothing more than a runway.   Some airports, including White Pine County Airport in Ely, Nevada, enjoy a subsidy to the tune of $3,720 per passenger!  Republicans promised to cut this wasteful program, but ultimately agreed to continue funding the program in the last FAA Reauthorization bill in February.  Now, they plan to increase its funding. This, from Fox News:

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Why are Republicans Supporting Dodd-Frank?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Economy

If Obamacare is the worst piece of legislation passed by Obama and the Democrats, Dodd-Frank is clearly close behind on the list.  This pernicious bill, sponsored by the instigators of the financial and housing crises, will permanently alter our financial markets for the worst just as Obamacare will kill the healthcare sector if it’s not repealed.  I’ve met many small business owners who are contemplating a different career because of the crushing burdens from the new financial regulations.

Dodd Frank created the Financial Stability Oversight Council to enshrine “too big to fail” as a permanent government policy.  This institution would vitiate the bankruptcy process and allow the federal government to take over any entity that it deems vital to the rest of the economy.  Dodd-Frank also vested the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) with the power to make infinite and officious regulations that distort the derivatives market.  Nobody knows how badly the market will be distorted as a result of these regulations, but we’ll probably be debating new programs in ten years from now to fix the problems created by the CFTC.

One of the worst aspects of the Dodd-Frank regime is the creation of the unaccountable Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  It enjoys unchecked and unparalleled regulatory powers over consumer financial products and services.  These zealous bureaucrats will limit consumer choice and create superfluous and onerous obstacles to obtaining credit.  Most egregiously, the Dodd-Frank law gave the CFPB autonomy from the annual appropriations process by housing it within the Federal Reserve.

It’s quite peculiar that there hasn’t been a wholesale effort to repeal Dodd-Frank or at least significant parts of the law.  Nonetheless, House Republicans instituted some minimum limitations in their version of the FY 2013 Financial Services Appropriations bill.  The extra funding for CFTC regulations was stripped out and the CFPB would be subjected to the annual appropriations process.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their fellow Republicans across the dome.

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Energy-Water Appropriations Bill Vote Roundup

Friday, June 8th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Issues

This week, the House debated and passed the FY13 Energy-Water appropriations bill, which primarily funds the Energy Department and agencies within the Department of Interior.  While House leadership claims to support a balanced budget, they are not willing to eliminate the requisite number of programs needed to achieve that goal.  As conservatives, we believe that the entire Department of Energy – except for the nuclear and defense programs – is wasteful or harmful, and should be eliminated.  Yet, this bill would actually slightly raise spending levels from last year by $88 million.

Conservatives (and in one instance, even Dennis Kucinich) used the open amendment process to offer further cuts to energy programs.  Most of these cuts are relatively small, but they portend a broader significance.  It’s hard to imagine a majority of these members supporting larger entitlement reforms if they lack the gumption to vote for small cuts in discretionary programs.  Moreover, some of these programs, while relatively small in their cost to taxpayers, are quite destructive in their distortion of the energy market.

In an ongoing effort to open up the process to the public and share the voting tallies, here is a list of some of those amendments along with the roll call votes:

Green Energy  

  • Chaffetz amendment that would reduce funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy activities by $74 million. [roll call #310]
  • McClintock amendment to cut $1.5 billion from green energy programs. [roll call #311]
  • McClintock-Kucinich amendment that blocks funding for section 1703 loan guarantee program.  We’ve had enough Solyndras, and evidently, even Dennis Kucinich gets the message. [roll call #328]
  • Landry (R-LA) amendment prohibiting funding for DOE media campaigns promoting green energy and an agenda directed “to decrease oil consumption in the United States during the 10-year period.” The amendment actually passed by voice vote, but we must ensure that it is not jettisoned from the final spending agreement at the end of the fiscal year. Read More

Legislative Alert: Abolish the Economic Development Administration

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Economy, Issues

Today, the House began debate on the first of the 12 annual appropriations bills; the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill (H.R. 5326).  So far, Republican leaders have agreed to abide by their pledge to bring these bills to the floor under an open rule.  This allows conservative members to offer amendments to cut more spending and eliminate wasteful and unconstitutional programs.  It’s the votes on these amendments that often separate the conservatives from the statists.

The underlying bill appropriates $52.94 billion for the Justice and Commerce Departments, NASA, and some other related agencies.  This is a $1.6 billion cut from last year’s spending, and is in line with the individual spending allocations established in the Ryan budget.  This is a good start, but as is that case with all these spending bills, there’s a lot more to cut.  After all, with the exception of the Census Bureau, we should be eliminating the Commerce Department altogether.

The most important amendment that has been proposed so far is Mike Pompeo’s amendment #37 to abolish the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The EDA is a failed Great Society program that serves as a stimulus/pork slush fund for special interest communities under the guise of assistance to economically distressed areas of the country.  It’s nothing more than a fund for corporate welfare and a way of picking winners and losers in the market.  It has been as successful in creating jobs as Obama’s stimulus.  Senator DeMint wrote a great piece on the EDA last year.

Anyone who claims to oppose earmarks and stimulus must oppose the EDA.  While the underlying bill cuts funding to the EDA, it still appropriates $219 million for FY2012.  Call your members and ask them to support the Pompeo amendment to end the EDA.  If we can’t close down this failed agency, we will certainly never eliminate any major agency or full department.

We’re waiting to see if other members will step forward with some more prudent amendments, such as one to abolish the Legal Services Corp.  We’ll keep you posted on how the amendment process plays out.

It’s these spending bills that grant us the opportunity to truly reduce the size of government.  Then, we must force leadership to stick with the House bills and refrain from abandoning them for omnibus bills negotiated with the Senate, which refuses to pass a budget.  The time for talk of balanced budgets and spending cuts is over.  Now is the time for action.

Sign Letter for Open Appropriations Process in the House

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt

Every elected Republican came to Washington promising to slash spending and balance the budget.  Yet, when it comes time for the most direct way to enact those spending cuts; namely, the annual appropriations bills, most of them are missing in action.

In an ideal world, Republicans should hold the upper hand in negotiations over spending bills. They enjoy complete control over the House, while Harry Reid only has a tenuous hold on the Senate at just 53 seats.  Unfortunately, as we chronicled extensively here at Red State, House and Senate GOP leaders agreed to jettison the Ryan budget halfway through the process in favor of Harry Reid’s minibus and omnibus bills, which vitiated every worthy goal of that budget.

There were two consequences of that betrayal.  First, House Republicans were denied the opportunity to vote on all 12 appropriations bills individually.  Second, because the bills were shunted off to conference straight from the Senate, House conservatives were denied an open floor process to offer conservative amendments cutting more spending or eliminating harmful and wasteful programs.  It is these bills that offer us the opportunity to truly cut spending, at least on the discretionary side, yet that opportunity was completed surrendered to Harry Reid.  The net effect was that not a single penny of discretionary spending was cut from the previous year’s budget and not a single program was eliminated.

As we noted earlier this week, Republicans are on track for more of the same this year.  Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans already disregarded the House budget in favor of Obama’s spending levels, while statist House appropriators are signaling they wish to do the same.  In order to preempt a repeat of last year’s insanity, Tom McClintock has drafted a letter to House leadership requesting adherence to their promise of an open amendment process on all 12 bills individually:

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Is the Ryan Budget a Joke?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Elections

Last April, House Republicans released the Ryan budget for FY 2012 with much fanfare and promise.  The budget resolution was approved almost unanimously among the members of the conference, and they spent the subsequent spring months working on individual appropriations bills that reflected the goals and the spending levels established in that budget blueprint.

Later that year, Republicans summarily jettisoned the Ryan budget for the debt ceiling deal, the minibus, and the megabus.  Ultimately, they wound up spending more than the previous year on the discretionary side, and failed to enact any of the transformational change on entitlements and welfare as prescribed in the Ryan budget.  They also agreed to fund Obamacare and every other program that was defunded in the Ryan budget.

Fast forward to April 2012, and we are experiencing deja vu with the FY 2013 Ryan budget, albeit at a quicker pace.  Ryan introduced a watered-down version of last year’s budget, both in terms of entitlement reform and discretionary spending.  On the discretionary side, he set the topline spending at $1.028 trillion, just $15 billion below last year’s level, but $95 billion above the pre-Obama levels.  Yet, this is too harsh for the Republican establishment because it is $19 billion below the level set by the debt ceiling deal – a bill they should be ashamed of supporting in the first place.  Now it turns out that the entire budget was a joke.  This, from Roll Call:

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Mitch McConnell Does it Again

Friday, April 20th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt

There’s got to be some way to create a legislative scorecard on committee votes.

Last month, House Republicans almost unanimously passed the “Ryan” budget resolution for FY 2013.  It established the topline discretionary spending level at $1.028 trillion, just $15 billion below last year’s levels and $19 billion below the cap set in the Budget [Out of] Control Act.  To put that in perspective, the discretionary spending level was as low as $933 billion in 2008 – pre-Obama.  We’re not exactly going back to the last century here.

Yet, even these modest cuts were too much for Obama.  Earlier this week, he threatened to veto any appropriations bill that reflects the spending figures in the Ryan budget as opposed to those working with the $1.047 cap of the BCA.  We would all expect Mitch McConnell to side with the House Republicans and the impregnable Ryan budget over Obama and Reid, right?

Wrong!

Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up an overall spending bill that sets the discretionary caps pursuant to the BCA – just like Obama demanded.  The vote? 27-2!  This from, CQ:

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House GOP Appropriators Continue to Grow Government

Thursday, April 19th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Issues

[Note: This post is being bumped and modified from yesterday to illuminate an ongoing theme we will continue to push: the problem of red state statists]

It’s time we invoke a new rule when discussing the federal budget:  don’t focus on spending cuts; focus on limiting the size of government.  All too often we get caught up in dollar figures of various government programs and agencies, instead of focusing on their imperative to exist in the first place.

The first step in approaching a spending bill is to determine if the given venture is constitutionally sound.  If the answer is no, there’s nothing more to debate.  The second step is to determine if that venture, which is constitutionally sound, is helpful or harmful.  Needless to say, if it is harmful to the public then it should be scuttled.  Finally, once the constitutional rationale and the imperative for the venture are established, we can discuss the funding level of that venture.

The case in point is the Energy-Water appropriations bill, which funds the Department of Energy and parts of the Department of Interior.  There is no reason for the DOE to exist.  Period.  The nuclear program could easily be transferred to another part of the federal government, while we eliminate all of the wasteful programs that have not only failed to increase our energy supply, but encumbered its growth over the past few decades.  Now that Republicans have focused so much attention on merely trimming the DOE budget, it turns out that they failed to cut anything!

CQ reports that the Energy-Water bill passed out of the Energy-Water Appropriations subcommittee yesterday by voice vote actually appropriates $32.1 billion, an $88 million increase above fiscal 2012 levels.  But here is the most egregious part of the bill:

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