Scorecard of Amendment Votes on CJS Appropriations Bill

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Blog

Last week, the House conducted a marathon session voting on amendments to the annual Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  As always, there were a number of votes on spending cut amendments.  In addition, there was a rare gun control amendment snuck into the bill.  An amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) dumped another $20 million into state grants for beefing up background checks on gun purchases.  This will essentially give a green light to blue states to continue their overzealous regulation of firearms.  Sadly, it passed with a majority Democrat support.

As always, we have put together a color-coded scorecard to track the way Republican members voted on key amendments.  You can view the spreadsheet here.

Below the fold is a brief summary of the amendments scored in the spreadsheet from the Republican Study Committee:

1)      Pompeo (R-KS):  Eliminates funding for the Economic Development Administration (EDA).  The underlying bill funds EDA at $248 million.  According to the amendment sponsor, “the Administration uses the EDA as a vehicle to spend taxpayer money on its own personal pork-barrel projects.”  The GAO has said that EDA grants “did not have a significant effect” on project success, and the EDA IG has found that up to 29 percent of grant money has been wasted.

The EDA has not been authorized since 2008.  The RSC budget proposed to eliminate this program.  Conservative Support:  American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity, and Club for Growth (Key Vote).  Many outside groups have supported eliminating the EDA, including: Cato, Citizens Against Government Waste, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, and National Taxpayers Union.

2)      Thompson (D-CA):  Increases funding for National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Initiative grants by $19.5 million.  These funds are meant to provide federal grants to states to upgrade criminal and mental health records for NICS, as authorized by the NICS Improvement Amendments Act of 2007.  NICS is already funded at $58.5 million, a level that is already $3.5 million above the President’s budget request.

This increase is offset by reducing Commerce Departmental Administration by $1 million, Justice Information Sharing Technology by $3 million, Federal Prison System Buildings and facilities by $5.5 million, and National Science Foundation Agency Operation and Awards Management by $10 million.

3)      Cicilline (D-RI):  Increases funding by $8.5 million for DOJ State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance and reduces NASA Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration by $8.5 million.  This funding is meant to support Project Safe Neighborhoods, a grant program that is meant to reduce gun and gang crime.

4)      Smith (R-TX):  Would reduce National Science Foundation (NSF) Social-Behavioral-Economic (SBE) Directorate by $15.35 million and refocus those funds on science and technology NSF research directorates.  This would freeze the SBE Directorate at the current FY14 level.

This amendment is consistent with the goal of prioritizing NSF research that is in H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) Act, which was approved by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee yesterday.

The underlying legislation funds the NSF at $7.404 billion, $149 million above the President’s request, $232 million above the FY14 enacted level, and $409 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14.  The NSF has not been authorized since 2013.  The RSC budget called for reducing funding for the NSF due to the number of wasteful grants funded by the NSF.

5)      Scott (R-GA):  Would eliminate funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).  In the underlying legislation, the LSC is appropriated $350 million, $80 million below the President’s request, $15 million below the FY14 enacted level, and $50 million above the level proposed by the House Appropriations Committee for FY14.

The LSC has not been authorized since 1980.  The RSC Budget calls for the elimination of the LSC, explaining “the LSC has evolved into an organization that also takes part in the advocacy of political causes and lobbying.  Coupling the misuse of taxpayer funds with the redundancy of free legal services provided by states and other organizations eliminates the need for this federally funded entity.”  Several outside groups have advocated eliminating the LSC, including Heritage, Citizens Against Government Waste, and Cato.

6)      Blackburn (R-TN):  Would reduce the bill across the board (other than the FBI) by one percent ($400 million).

Will Paul Ryan Fight for his Budget?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Economy, Taxes

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his budget proposal for FY 2015 yesterday, and as expected, it is quite similar to the budget blueprints from previous years.  Let me first say that this budget would be superior to the status quo a million times over.  Medicaid and Food Stamps would be block granted to the states and Medicare would be subject to at least some optional free market reforms at the end of the budget frame.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would be eliminated.  And most importantly, it defunds the Obamacare programs.

If Republicans would only fight for this budget during the debt ceiling fisticuffs, many conservatives would be more than satisfied.

But that is the point.  Given the fact that Republican have no intention to fight for even some major components of this budget when the deadline looms in September, why put out a half-baked proposal?  If this is just designed to be a messaging document that is tossed in the trash at the end of the fiscal year, why not place our ideal proposal on paper?

Ultimately, Ryan accepts the entire fiscal cliff ($618 billion) and Obamacare tax increases (roughly $1 trillion), working off the [optimistic] CBO 10-year revenue projections of $40.6 trillion.  Yet, even with the optimistic revenue projections and tax increases, the budget still runs deficits because not enough government programs are phased out or reformed, especially in the Department of Education and some of the other bloated bureaucracies.

As you can see, this year’s budget proposal is essentially the same as the FY 2014 document.  It’s just that entitlement spending will grow every year, engendering a $1.2 trillion increase in this year’s budget.  Even in the near term, this budget actually spends more, increasing spending in 2015 to $3.664 trillion ($166 billion more than what as projected in last year’s budget).

FY 2015

Outlays $42,636

Revenue $40,630

FY 2014

Outlays: $41.466 trillion

Revenues: $40.241 trillion

Hence, although the budget comes close to balancing in 10 years from now, much of that is achieved by accepting the current tax baseline.  Republicans should be able to show how the budget balances within a conservative framework of the tax code.  Granted that this budget would easily balance if we implement Medicare premium support before 2014, but that is the point.  If we plan to leave traditional fee-for-service Medicare in place and make premium support optional, why not begin the free market option earlier?

Moreover, there is a difference between balancing a budget and limiting government.  Balancing a budget is all about accounting.  You can coalesce enough small cuts across many programs and come up with a big number, without ever eliminating many of the 2228 federal government assistance programs.  I’m not sure how many of them would be abolished under this budget, although as mentioned earlier, solid reforms are imposed on Medicaid and Food Stamps.

Even as it relates to cutting raw dollars and cents, spending would increase, on average, 3.5 percent a year until 2024.  In other words, the federal government will still grow faster than the private economy.

Overall, this would be a great start if Republicans planned to fight for this document throughout the appropriations season.  They should announce upfront that they have no plans to pass a CR or omnibus bill this year and force Democrats to go to conference on each of the 12 appropriations bills through regular order.  That way, we can fight Obamacare in the HHS bill without fear of the Democrats holding the rest of government hostage.  Yet, that demand has not been made.  And sadly, we know from past experience that Ryan will be the first one to ditch his own budget when the going gets tough in September.

One other important point: if Ryan gets his way on amnesty, all of the supposed savings from welfare reform will be rendered null and void.

Cross-posted at RedState.com

How to Lie Your Way Through a Primary

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 and is filed under Blog, Elections, Immigration, Issues, Obamacare

The defeat of former Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) in their respective primaries in 2010 has engendered a new paradigm in GOP politics.  No longer do liberal Republicans run honestly on their records in the primaries.  That would create a recipe for instant defeat.  Instead, they lie their way through the primaries, painting themselves as conservative heroes, and often tainting their conservative challengers as unreliable conservatives. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was the first to pioneer this strategy in 2012.  Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has followed this strategy to a tee.  The two most recent examples are Reps. Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Renee Ellmers (R-NC).

Simpson is close to being unseated by Bryan Smith in Idaho’s Second District.  In an act of desperation, he went up on broadcast television with an ad that touts his support for a balanced budget amendment, spending cuts, repealing TARP, and defunding Obamacare.  Meanwhile, he tosses the meaningless, yet derogatory, label of “personal injury lawyer” at his opponent.

To anyone who knows Simpson’s record, this is possibly the most dishonest ad ever run during a campaign cycle.  He obfuscates all of the consequential votes he’s taken that have actually been signed into law, such as massive spending increases, debt ceiling increases, and funding for Obamacare, and replaces them with vacuous show votes that he knew at-the-time would never pass.  Most egregiously, he has the impertinence to say that he voted to repeal the Wall Street bailout while failing to mention that he voted for the original bailout that was signed into law!

Nobody who has followed Simpson’s career – supporter or opponent – believes he is a conservative.  Even the American “Conservative” Union gave Simpson a failing grade of 46% last year.  Yet, he has the superior firepower to completely lie to his constituents about his voting record while co-opting the conservative message – a message he has been repudiating for years.

Next up is Renee Ellmers running for reelection in North Carolina’s Second Congressional district.  As we noted a few weeks ago, Ellmers is one of the most ardent supporters of leadership and a passionate supporter of amnesty and open borders.  After a major dustup with Laura Ingraham over immigration, her liberal allies sense that she might be vulnerable to Frank Roche in the May 6 primary.  Breitbart is reporting that FWD, which is funded by Mark Zuckerberg and run by McConnell acolytes, is up with ads promoting Ellmers as……tough on the border and against amnesty!

“Renee Ellmers is a conservative fighter for North Carolina,” a narrator reads in the television version of the ad, while pictures of Ellmers move across the screen. It continues:

“Ellmers voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment to cut the debt and stop the wasteful spending in Washington. She’s protecting Fort Bragg and Pope Airfield from massive defense cuts and working hard to secure the border and fix our broken immigration system once and for all. No amnesty, period.”

The ad then lists the D.C. phone number for Ellmers’ congressional office and advises viewers to “call Congresswoman Ellmers and tell her to keep fighting for conservative solutions.”

Folks, you can’t make this up!

One would think that with Ellmers proudly supporting “a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented” and with the polling for such a proposition supposedly skyrocketing to majority support, they would eagerly and honestly promote her real beliefs.  Yet, they know that their views don’t sell at the ballot box, so they have to co-opt our views – even as they fight to the death against our solutions.  That is why they are touting Ellmers as against amnesty and that is why Mike Simpson is running against TARP.

Undoubtedly, many establishment Republicans will win reelection. We cannot change the entire political class in one election cycle.  However, not a single one will win reelection running on their true beliefs.  They will overwhelm us with their liberal campaign cash, ironically, promoting positions that are antithetical to their actions in Washington.

This just goes to show that, despite their unlimited resources, the members of the political class are a bunch of cowards.  They lack the courage to come out of the closet and propagate their big government views during the primaries.

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Putting 2013 in Perspective

Friday, December 20th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues

2013 has been a rough year for conservatives.

This year began with the passage of the $620 billion tax hike, along with $332 billion in stimulus spending.  It ended with Republicans in both houses helping pass a bill that raises taxes, raises spending, makes it easier to raise taxes in the future, destroys our leverage for two years, screws disabled veterans, and paves the road for amnesty.

Worst of all, despite Harry Reid’s egregious assault on the filibuster, Republicans obsequiously gave him the votes for all of the end-of-year votes needed to adjourn for Christmas.  Despite the fact that Harry Reid has completely shut down the amendment process Republicans were all too eager to give him 60 votes on every piece of legislation this month.  Between the unified Democrat front and the lack of leadership among Senate Republicans, 2013 has turned out to be the year of the Democrat supermajority.

Republicans have helped Democrats pass tax increases, debt ceiling increases, funding for Obamacare, the unconstitutional Violence Against Women Act, an internet sales tax, amnesty, special rights for sundry sexual identities (ENDA), a massive farm bill, and some radical nominees.

In October, when House Republicans stood strong in the effort to defund Obamacare, Senate Republicans openly scoffed at them and joined with Senate Democrats to sabotage the fight.

Senate Republicans were so amiable to Harry Reid’s every whim that he decided to go for the kill at the end of the year.  He pulled the nuclear option and abolished the filibuster on almost all presidential nominees.  Republicans responded by working with him to pass the raw budget deal and the NDAA.

We thought the House was much better than the Senate, but amazingly, only 62 Republicans voted against a deal that was so easy to oppose.

In theory, one can accept the establishment’s argument about this year’s failures.  With only control of the House of Representatives, we shouldn’t have high expectations.  But if we win back more control in 2014 and 2016, things will change.

However, in order to accept that excuse one would have to buy into the lie that the schism within the party is only over strategy, not ideology.  What lays waste to that notion is the inexplicable, yet inexorable, push for amnesty legislation on the part of the GOP establishment.

Along with Cantor’s vocal action on the Dream Act and Boehner’s hiring of a new pro-amnesty immigration staffer, we now have confirmation from Paul Ryan that the budget deal will indeed clear the lane for amnesty next year.

Let’s engage in a thought exercise for a moment – one which is predicated on the assumption that Republican leaders share our values but are merely hamstrung by control of just one branch of government.  GOP leadership contends that we cannot block and tackle bad pieces of legislation and pernicious government programs with their current scope of power in Washington.  Yet, somehow, we are to believe that Republicans can actively pass new immigration reform built upon conservative principles with Barack Obama in the White House?

To paraphrase Speaker Boehner, ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

Even if you are sympathetic to some form of amnesty under the right circumstances, if you had any shred of conservatism in your soul you would wait until we have someone in the White House who can be trusted to faithfully execute the law and not seek a political victory.

So why would Republicans push amnesty above every other priority?  Why not work on something more unifying, such as repealing the ethanol mandate, an endeavor which has bipartisan support?

Sadly, it is quite evident that these people do not share our values.  Immigration is just one issue, but it exposes the great establishment lie that the entire intra-party squabble revolves around strategy.  It revolves around core values.  Our core values are liberty, free markets, a strong civil society, strong national sovereignty, and following the Constitution as it was originally conceived.  Their values are money and power. When the two competing ideals overlap, they will be happy to join us.  But when those two goals clash, which they often do, they will give voice to the other side – either passively or vocally.

If we don’t rebuild the party from the bottom-up, no degree of electoral success during the 2014 and 2016 general elections will change our current trajectory.

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We’re Back to the “Next Fight”

Monday, December 16th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Debt

The past three years of GOP control in the House have been marked by the rallying cry of fighting “the next time.”  With every budget deadline comes a degree of leverage from which Republicans can extract concessions on reducing the size of government.  Yet with every budget battle, House leadership shirks from the fight and blithely points to the next battle – the debt ceiling – as the consummate opportunity to push for reforms.  After all, a budget battle raises the stakes of a government shutdown.

Then when we reach the debt ceiling, GOP leaders echo the scandalous lies of the Democrats with regards to defaulting on debt.  Default is much more serious than a plain government shutdown, claim the wizards of smart.  But just wait until the next budget battle and we’ll cut trillions in debt, not just billions.

Finally, in October, Republicans made it clear they would never hold up a debt ceiling or a budget bill.  At least that was the message telegraphed to the Democrats.  Yet, amazingly, Paul Ryan is still playing the game.  After punting on two years’ worth of budget leverage points, Ryan is feeling the pressure to put on a brave face about his promises for transformational reforms.  As such, he is rallying the troops on the next debt ceiling fight:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Sunday said Republicans will insist on more concessions for raising the debt limit in early 2014, indicating that the fiscal ceasefire he brokered in a budget deal may not last long.

“We don’t want nothing out of this debt limit,” Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We are going to decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt-limit fight.”

The two-year budget agreement Ryan negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) did not increase the nation’s borrowing authority, which officials project will next be exhausted sometime in the spring.

“One step at a time,” Ryan said. “Patty Murray and I knew we weren’t going to solve every problem, like the debt limit problem.”

House and Senate Republicans will discuss their debt-limit strategy at separate party retreats in January, Ryan said.

Sorry, Paul.  You already gave up your leverage.  Democrats know that you are scared to death of brinkmanship, and will never have an incentive to come to the bargaining table unless we replace you and your buddies at the head of the dais.

Moreover, the debt ceiling deadline will probably not mature until well into the summer.  Although the debt ceiling law will be reinstated on February 7, Republicans failed to block the Treasury from using extraordinary measures to push off the “crisis date.”  By the time they exhaust their payment shifts, it will be too close to the midterm elections.  Leadership will never take any risks that late in the year.

As an aside, it’s a real shame that Republicans couldn’t block extraordinary measures as one concession from the October fight.  In February, American workers will begin dealing with the initial shock of diminishing take-home pay due to higher withholdings for health insurance.  The outrage over Obamacare will grow from those affected by the private market to the vast majority of workers who will pay more for health insurance in the employer market.  But that opportunity perished in the McConnell surrender bill.

Finally, there is one other reason we will never see Republicans fight on the debt ceiling.  They badly want to pass amnesty.  There is no worse distraction from amnesty than a budget battle.  One of the few positive results of the October showdown after Senate Republicans sabotaged it was that amnesty was killed for the remainder of the year.  The K Street establishment is not about to make that mistake again.

There will be no next time unless we shake up the party in the upcoming primaries.

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Mitch McConnell’s Silence on Bad Budget Deal is Deafening

Friday, December 13th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Issues

Despite the fact that the Ryan-Murray budget deal passed with overwhelming support from House Republicans, surprisingly, it hangs in the balance in the Senate.  Much of the robust showing in the House was a result of Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) strong influence on budgetary issues.

However, in the Senate, many of its members are facing tough primary challenges, and they are looking beyond the personalities.  Even some of the most moderate Republican members like Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bob Corker (R-TN) have announced their opposition to this deal.  After all, the House-passed bill will repeal hard-fought spending cuts and replace them with tax increases and notional spending offsets.

Consequently, this bill is not a done deal in the Senate.  Even if every Democrat votes for the bill, which is not a safe assumption, no Republican aside for Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has committed to supporting it.  It’s not clear how Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will find at least five Republicans to support the bill.

So where is the Republican leader?  Where is Senator Mitch McConnell?  As the highest ranking Republican in the Senate, this is the quintessential moment for him to assert his power and influence and speak with conviction against this rotten deal.  With the outcome of the bill hanging in the balance, and so many members on the fence, now is the time when McConnell can affect the outcome.

His silence is especially jarring given his emphatic statements during the battle over defunding Obamacare on the need to keep the sequester cuts.  He was unwilling to fight Obamacare, but claimed to fully support keeping the sequester cuts.  Well, now that the sequester cuts are about to be partially repealed, but it can still be blocked in the Senate, McConnell needs to step up to the plate.

The contours of this bill were known to the public weeks ago.  It was quite evident that they planned to replace the sequester.  The only point of contention was finding phony offsets to attach to the deal.  McConnell, as the most powerful Republican in the Senate, was certainly aware of the fact that his promise to keep the sequester was being challenged from day one.  Why the silence?

Unfortunately, this is what McConnell does on the most critical pieces of legislation.  It is precisely times like this when we need bold conservative leadership in the Senate, yet this is when McConnell usually engages in his disappearing act.  He was nowhere to be seen in during the debate over Syria and immigration until the very last moment when the outcome was no longer in doubt.  As Politico noted today, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is widely expected to oppose the budget measure, a position that could sway fence-sitting GOP senators. But it appears unlikely that GOP leaders would strong-arm their colleagues and urge them to vote against the measure.”

McConnell loves to tout his clout and influence and the importance of Kentucky being represented by the Senate Leader.  But what good is a leader who waits until the liberals have 60 votes before opposing bad legislation?

Conservatives are starving for new leadership.  We are sick of those who play an insiders’ game of ‘hope yes, and vote no’ with bad legislation.  If Senator McConnell really opposes this bill he should speak out forcefully now and whip against it all weekend.  That is the job of a Republican opposition leader.  If he really supports it he should be man enough to vote for it.

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A Washington Budget Deal: Republican Style

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Economy

Earlier today, Democrats utilized the nuclear option for the first time.  They pushed through the nomination of Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Now, one of the biggest supporters of affordable housing mandates will guard the hen house at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Additionally, Democrats pushed through the nomination of two more liberal judges to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most important court in the country.

Instead of responding by shutting down all bipartisan deals on outstanding legislation (which are still subject to a filibuster), Rep. Paul Ryan, without any protest from leadership, handed Democrats the biggest legislative victory in months.  Let’s examine the ramifications of the deal:

  • Under this agreement Congress would reinstate more than half the sequester for the next two years.  Budget caps would be set at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015; current law is $967 billion & $995 billion respectively.  It’s interesting how establishment Republicans argue that we can’t use the budget process to repeal Obamacare, but we evidently can use it to repeal the sequester.  Paul Ryan said tonight that he is forced to “deal with things the way they are.”  But that is not true.  The default position was that the sequester was the law of the land.  This will set a precedent to reverse that default, paving the road for future tax increases in order to offset the inevitable spending increase.
  • The sequester was one of the few battles in which Republicans successfully overcame liberal demagoguery.  Obama tried to make the sequester as painful as possible by gratuitously shutting down popular services.  It didn’t work.  They claimed the economy would tank.  The economy actually got stronger.  Why would they throw this away?
  • The most important outcome of this bill is the long-term effect on fighting Obamacare.  Rather than work out a one-year deal, Ryan essentially killed our leverage for the next two years.  So even if Obamacare becomes more catastrophic and the public rises up against it, we will not have any leverage to fight it in the budget process for next year.
  • The spending offsets are a joke.  Most of them are very intangible.  The only thing definitive is an increase in airfare taxes to fund the TSA.
  • Mitch McConnell is directly responsible for this.  He likes to say that he supports keeping the sequester, and indeed, he might vote against this deal, but he was the one who cued it up with his sabotage deal in October with Harry Reid.   Hence, McConnell will secure his optimal outcome – all budget confrontation will cease for two years, but he won’t have his fingerprints on the deal, enabling him to keep his legislative scorecard high enough to hoodwink conservatives.  Even as other leaders publicly supported the deal, McConnell said he would not be commenting on it tonight.  Remember, he is the GOP Senate Leader, and has obviously known about the deal for quite some time.
  • And why would Republican leaders want to jettison all budget confrontation for two years?  As we noted yesterday, the only plausible explanation is that they want a clear lane to drive through an amnesty bill without fights over Obamacare moving their prized issue to the back burner.

House conservatives should push for a clean CR until Democrats agree to isolate funding for Obamacare by passing all 12 appropriations bills separately….the way the budget process is supposed to work.

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Emerging Ryan-Murray Deal: More Taxes to Fund Obamacare and Increased Spending

Monday, December 9th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Issues, Obamacare

James Madison was very adamant that the power of the purse be preserved in the body of government that is closest to the people – the House of Representatives – as a way to redress all grievances against harmful government interventions.  We have a law that is woefully unpopular and universally regarded as unworkable, yet Republicans have made it abundantly clear to the Democrats that Obamacare will never be part of the budget negotiations ever again.  We have a president who is illegally usurping the power of Congress on an array of issues, yet Republicans have preemptively abdicated their authority to reassert their power through the budget process.

Consequently, Democrats are on the cusp of getting everything they want in the upcoming budget bill.  When Democrats are fully committed to growing government and Republicans are publicly committed to surrendering their leverage on budget bills, we are left with a one-sided deal.  It’s that simple.

After taking Obamacare off the table, despite the fact that it is demonstrably more of a political liability for Democrats than it was in October, Democrats moved in for the kill on the sequester.  They figured that Republicans were so scared of a budget showdown, they’d give them anything they desire.  Evidently, that even included items that Republicans already have in the big, such as the sequester.  The sequester is already the law of the land, yet Paul Ryan has agreed to abolish the sequester for 2014 and 2015.

At issue is the scheduled sequester cuts for 2014 that will trim back discretionary budget authority from $1.027 trillion to $967 billion.  The emerging deal will likely reinstate most of that spending for the next two years.  Ryan and Murray plan to offset the spending with tax increases on airline tickets.  Air travel is already very expensive because of the cost of fuel (thanks to our anti-energy policies).

In addition to the expensive cost of air travel, passengers are already hit with taxes and fees that jack up the cost of air travel by 30% of the base cost.  Do we really need more airfare taxes in order to fund Obamacare and undo the only spending cuts we’ve ever secured?

The undercurrent of this agreement is the emergence of a dynamic that Republicans want to end all of the budget battles once and for all.  That would explain their eagerness for a two-year repeal of the sequester.  It also coincides with their decision to push off the debt ceiling indefinitely.  Even though the debt ceiling law will be reinstated in February, the Treasury will be able to use “extraordinary measures” to delay the deadline until the summer.

So why is there such a rush to eliminate all of our points of leverage?

Who know?  But The Hill has already posited that the end of budget fights will be used to pave the road for an amnesty bill next year.  This theory is even more plausible given that Paul Ryan is the lead negotiator on the budget, and in light of recent reports that Boehner will push amnesty (thanks to his new staffer) after the filing deadline for primaries passes.

Even if conservatives don’t have the stomach for a full defund fight, the worst thing they can do is enable leadership to permanently obviate their future leverage.  Rather than passing a permanent new appropriations bill for the rest of the year, conservatives should demand another clean short-term CR with one condition attached.  They should write instructions forcing both houses of Congress to pass each of the 12 appropriations bills separately for the next fiscal year (FY 2015).  As we’ve noted before, this will allow us to isolate funding for Obamacare in one or two bills without the rest of government funding getting encumbered in the imbroglio.  At least we will have the opportunity to fight Obamacare next September without the specter of a full government shutdown.

Ultimately, the future of the Republican Party will boil down to the following question: Is their desire to pass amnesty stronger than their will to fight Obamacare?

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GOP Must Shut Down Senate

Monday, December 9th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues

It takes only an inch of snow to shut down Washington, but even the nuclear option cannot get Republicans to shut down the Senate.

Several weeks after Harry Reid changed hundreds of years’ of Senate rules by abolishing the filibuster for all judicial and executive appointments, Republicans have all but forgotten about it.  They could have threatened to block every piece of legislation until the rules are restored, but instead they are fully cooperating with a budget bill to fund Obamacare and increase spending, along with a farm bill to grow government intervention in the agriculture sector.  They might even help Democrats pass a bill that can be used as a vehicle for more gun restrictions.

Needless to say, without any fear of reprisal, Democrats plan to jam through a number of Obama nominees before the end of the year on a party-line vote.

Democrats will attempt to pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most important court in the country, with Obama’s radical nominees.  On Monday evening, the Senate will vote on Patricia Millett.  They might try to push through two other D.C. Circuit nominees, Robert Wilkins and Cornelia Pillard, later in the week.  Republicans had been blocking all D.C Circuit nominees because the court is currently split between Republican and Democrat appointees, and unlike other courts, this one actually has a very light caseload burden.  The addition of three more liberals would be devastating for conservatives because this court has original jurisdiction over many of the constitutional issues arising from political fights in Washington – both in Congress and with Executive overreach.

The Senate will likely vote on the nomination of Congressman Melvin Watt (D-NC) to be the next Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).  Conservatives strongly oppose Watt because during his career serving on the House Financial Services Committee, he has been a consistent advocate for expanding the role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the private housing market.  He worked hand-in-glove with Barney Frank to push the affordable housing agenda, which forced banks to underwrite risky loans to those who could not pay them back.  He helped bring down the housing market, and by extension, the entire economy.

It would be a disaster for Watt to serve as the top regulator of those failed agencies as director of FHFA.  It’s akin to appointing the arsonist as the fire chief.

So what should Republicans do?

They could start by suspending all negotiations on end-of-year legislation, such as the budget deal, farm bill, and extension of Medicare doc fix.  But more importantly, as we’ve noted before, in order for the Senate to function members must agree to unanimous consent on a variety of procedures.  Without a unanimous consent agreement, no standing committee can conduct business after two hours from the time the Senate convenes.  With only two weeks left of this session, Republicans can completely shut down the Senate by denying these UC agreements.

Even after the nuclear option, 45 Senators have the ability to wreak havoc on the majority.  Just one senator has the ability to slow down the Senate.  It’s all up to Mitch McConnell.  He can end the year with a bang or a bust.

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A Second Chance for Republicans

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 and is filed under Blog, Issues, Obamacare

Now that the entire country sees the ten-alarm fire that has set our healthcare system ablaze, Democrats feel compelled to do something.  Their Mr. Fix It plans are akin to an arsonist posing for a photo op with a 2-liter pitcher of water to put out the wildfire.  Will Republicans continue to pose with them in the photo op or will they kick them aside and smother the fire?

There are two clear observations about Obamacare at this point: it cannot be fixed and it will not collapse on its own.  As we are now seeing from the cancelled insurance plans, the industry has been working on revamping the insurance market for three years.  Obamacare has already collapsed the healthcare system.  It can only be rebuilt by completely repealing the law.

Similarly, the law won’t go away by itself.  They will fix the website one day, and the mandates and regulations on insurance will continue to force people into dependency on subsidies and  Medicaid expansion.  Worse, on the actual healthcare side of the equation, scores of doctors will leave the field of medicine due to the onerous burdens that go well beyond the insurance regulations.  Yes, in some sense you can refer to this as a collapse of the system, but that is exactly what Obamacare was designed to do with its inexorable path towards single-payer.

As we’ve said many times, we cannot afford to wait until the website is fixed and the dependency takes root.  It’s tempting for Republicans to just sit back and enjoy the polling data, but polling data will not get rid of the law.  Polls are not elections.  And even 2014 will not save us.  In the best case scenario, we will have 51 seats in the Senate with a unified filibuster-strong Democrat minority that, when coupled with the wayward Republicans, will give Senator Harry Reid a defacto majority.  Moreover, President Obama will still be president.  Waiting until 2017 is simply unacceptable.

In a sane world, Republicans would utilize this time to force the issue on Obamacare using our leverage points, not just to talk about it or help Democrats fix it. One challenge conservatives had with making Obamacare the centerpiece of the October budget showdown (aside for Senate Republicans sabotaging the effort) was that Republicans failed to prep the ground for the fight over the past few years.  In fact, thanks to Mitt Romney, Obamacare was not part of the political discourse for an entire two years.

That has all changed over the past month.  While we were stymied by fellow Republicans during the actual showdown, we did succeed at restarting the national discussion on Obamacare. The ensuing breakdown of the private insurance market has given us tailwinds like never before.  For the first time in Obama’s presidency, even some of the low-information voters have finally realized the failure of Obama and his signature legislation.   Moreover, we know now that the shutdown polling was off base and superficial.

Accordingly, it makes no sense why Obamacare should not be a part of the budget discussions.  Most people have forgotten or don’t know that the budget impasse was not solved last month.  The new budget deadline is January 15 and the new debt ceiling is February 7.  The deadline for reaching a budget conference deal is just two weeks after Thanksgiving.

But, alas, we have no leverage.  Senator Mitch McConnell has made it clear to Senate Democrats that he would never fight any budget or debt ceiling.  They have completely echoed the scandalous Democrat talking points about default.  In fact, they have publicly declared that they will lash out at conservatives who try to fight Obamacare and prevent endless increases or “suspensions” of the debt ceiling.

Consequently, even with Obama’s approval rating sinking into the 30s, and Obamacare as toxic as ever, Democrats have no reason to fear the budget deadlines next year.  The only points of contention are locking in the sequester cuts that were already locked in and extending super-long-term unemployment benefits for yet another year.  When it comes to fighting Obamacare, it’s all hat and no cattle.

At the very minimum, conservatives need to push for two concessions:

  • Even if they already surrendered the budget battle, they must secure an agreement from Democrats to pass all of next year’s 12 appropriations bills in regular order and go to conference on each bill individually.  This will lay the groundwork for fighting Obamacare in one or two bills without having the rest of the government as collateral damage in a shutdown.  That would give us the opportunity, at the very latest, to fight Obamacare right before the mid-term elections without the specter of a full government shutdown.
  • Republicans always said they wouldn’t mind fighting just the debt ceiling because there is no direct government shutdown.  Well, now is the time to start debunking the myth of default and committing to ending this practice of suspending the debt ceiling law.  The debt ceiling fight will coincide with the period of time when American workers begin to receive their first paychecks for 2014.  Most people will incur a large bite out of their pay due to the increased withholdings for higher premiums. This will augment the public disquiet that is already brewing from the destruction of private insurance.

Any Republican who blithely ignores Obamacare when it really counts and when we really have leverage does not deserve your vote.  Obamacare will not collapse on its own.  We must force the fight once and for all – without the full-scale sabotage campaign from the GOP establishment.

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