Dispatches from the Caucus of Capitulation

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Obamacare

At the risk of becoming the official grim reaper of bad tidings from Capitol Hill, I’m compelled to update you on the latest capitulations taking place courtesy of the pale-pastel Republicans.  When Reagan referred to moderate Republicans as purveyors of pale-pastel policies, he meant that those politicians ostensibly agree to the policy premises of the Democrats, albeit with some minor reservations.  Sadly, we are seeing that on a daily basis.

Obamacare

There have been copious pages of ink spilt over recent rumors that Republicans plan to keep or reinstate some of the Obamacare mandates on insurance companies.  As we noted last week, the fact that many in leadership desire to keep the slacker and pre-existing conditions mandates is nothing new.  What is new is this tidbit from pale-pastel politician Steve Stivers (RINO-OH): (Via the WSJ)

Several GOP freshmen say they want to see greater efforts to promote replacement options during this session of Congress. Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio said he was considering introducing legislation in the next few weeks that would require insurance companies to allow consumers to cover adult children on their plans up to the age of 31, charging an additional premium if necessary.But some congressional Republicans have already expressed their opposition to most kinds of federal mandates on insurers.

Hmm, why not make it 50 for that matter?  Why stop at 31?  Seriously, these people have no clue how the free market works, and now it appears that some Republicans want to run to the left of Obama on healthcare.  This is all a symptom of Republicans focusing too much on universal coverage instead of bending the costs down – costs that are artificially inflated by the very policies now being embraced by Republicans.

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Republicans Already Showing Weakness on Keystone Pipeline

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

Well, that didn’t take long.  Just one week into the conference committee on the highway bill, Republicans are showing signs of caving on their insistence that the Keystone pipeline be approved as part of the deal.

Throughout the past few months, we have been chronicling how Republicans have been apathetic to the underlying vices of the highway bill (S. 1813).  They basically told the Democrats in committee that they have every intention of passing the Senate bill; they just want a provision approving the Keystone pipeline as part of the agreement.  As any negotiator that lacks the credulousness of a toddler understands, once you take your bargaining chip off the table, the other side has no reason to give in.  Since Republicans have guaranteed Democrats that the tax and spend highway bill is too big to fail, Democrats will wait them out until they agree to jettison the Keystone provision.  And that is exactly what is happening.

Take a look at these quotes from The Hill:

Republicans are pressing for approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline in a final House-Senate transportation bill but appear unlikely to draw a line in the sand that jeopardizes the infrastructure legislation.

While the proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline is a top GOP and oil-industry priority, Republicans might have incentive to keep the matter unresolved, enabling them to continue using Keystone as a political weapon during the campaign season. […]

“The overall Republican conference position is not to sink the conference report over [Keystone XL], however, as keeping that issue alive through the elections is also acceptable,” an oil industry source told The Hill.

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More Problems With the Highway Bill

Friday, May 11th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

As 50 or so members of both houses sit behind closed doors and map out the entire transportation policy for 50 states, we are still discovering some more pernicious provisions of the bill.  Ken Orski, the author of the weekly Innovation News Briefs, has sent us the following message:

Critics are also paying close attention to changes that were quietly slipped into the Senate bill and approved on the  floor by unanimous consent without debate on March 13, one day before the final passage of the bill.  They include, notably, an amendment affecting the treatment of transportation “enhancements” (Sec. 1113 of MAP-21). This provision shifts the flexibility to decide how to spend the enhancements set-aside money  from the state DOTs to local government agencies, thus substantially modifying an earlier agreement  reached by the leaders of the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee. As the Committee’s chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and its ranking member Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) agreed at the November markup of the bill, it was only a compromise on that contentious issue that allowed the parties to move forward on the entire bill.

Other MAP-21 provisions that have raised questions include a requirement that every new motor vehicle beginning in 2015 be equipped with a recording device designed to store data related to vehicle safety; and authority to revoke passports of tax delinquents (which the bill estimates would raise $743 million  over ten years to help cover the $12 billion shortfall in transportation spending).

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Devolution of Transportation Authority is Solution to Earmark Problem

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 and is filed under Blog

It’s becoming clear that many rank-and-file members of the House Republican Conference are chomping at the bit to resurrect earmarks after a two-year moratorium.  Some are complaining that earmarks cede authority to the executive branch; others are lamenting the lack of “grease” to facilitate passage of statist legislation; still others are trying to push miscellaneous tariff bills, which violate the rules of the earmark ban.

Yesterday, Politico published a reveling account of Republicans who are having a difficult time coping with the earmark ban, particularly as it relates to transportation projects.  Here are some excerpts:

House Republican freshmen are figuring out that it’s hard to hate Washington and need Washington at the same time.

Take New York Rep. Michael Grimm for example, who has lobbied for a revamping of the Bayonne Bridge that connects commuters to New Jersey. Or New York Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, who has said the “federal government can have real and legitimate impact on the economic health of a region by supporting improvements to local infrastructure” — as she pushed the Syracuse Connective Corridor road project. And even Florida Rep. Allen West has touted a $21 million grant to help construct a second runway at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. […]

“When we went around to each of the freshmen to ask them what their main concerns were, a lot of those were more specific things to their district or specific highways or different things like that,” said Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.). […]

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), founder of the Tea Party Caucus, has said earmarks shouldn’t count when they’re for transportation projects. And just last week, the Transportation panel’s top Democrat, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, made a public plea that Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) join him in writing a letter asking Boehner to bring back earmarks.

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A New Highway Bill to Cave City

Monday, April 16th, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt, Taxes

As we’ve noted throughout the past year’s imbroglio over transportation spending, it is clear that complete federal control over transportation spending in a post-interstate highway era (post 1992) is inefficient, costly, anti-federalist, and precludes state and private innovations.  Yet, Congress continues to buckle down on a policy that has failed in recent years, exposing taxpayers to future bailouts and tax increases.  Worst of all, it will preclude states from dealing with their own infrastructure needs in the most efficient way.

On March 13, the Senate passed a massive 18-month $109 billion extension (S. 1813 Boxer-Inhofe stimulus), which creates new deficits, raises taxes, continues to fund 100% of mass transit, continues expensive Davis-Bacon rules, and provides no reforms.  After initially threatening to bring the Senate bill to the House, Boehner agreed to pass a 60-day extension until June 30.  The president signed the extension shortly before the Easter recess.  Now, House leadership wants to pass another “clean” extension until September 30.  But this extension is not so clean; it will be used as a vehicle to go to conference with the Senate over S. 1813, paving the road for a final product that will be heavily weighted towards the Senate bill (because the House has not passed their own detailed long-term bill).

Conservatives must oppose this bill and must demand that we hold off on a House-Senate conference until the full House passes a conservative transportation bill, providing us with the requisite leverage headed into conference.

As it turns out, the Senate bill is even worse than previously thought, yet if we allow the House to go to conference, this is the bill that will be agreed upon.  Here are some more problems with the Senate bill that have been uncovered in recent weeks:

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A Real Solution to the Gridlock Over the Highway Bill

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 and is filed under Blog, Debt

As we approach the March 31 expiration date for surface transportation projects, we can take solace in the fact that the House will not vote on two bad bills; Boehner’s original 5-year $260 billion reauthorization and the Senate’s 2-year $109 billion bill. While we push for a more prudent long-term solution, the House will pass a 90-day stopgap bill to continue spending at current levels until the end of July.

While funding transportation projects with short-term bills is not ideal, it is better than passing a lousy long-term bill that cannot be altered for several years.  Democrats are already launching their cantankerous assaults on the “irresponsible” stopgap bill, but we must remind them of two points that are overlooked in this debate.

First, since when has providing certainty to the transportation industry become a desideratum for Democrats?  The last long-term surface transportation bill expired September 30, 2009.  In other words, Democrats had 15 months of unfettered control of government, yet they failed to pass a long-term bill.  Now that we have an ideological divide over numerous issues, they are suddenly in a rush to pass a long-term bill.  Please spare us the contrived outrage.

Moreover, the fact that Washington gridlock is able to encumber the majority of transportation projects for 50 states just serves to underscore the reason why we should devolve transportation spending to the states.  Since the completion of the Interstate Highway System in 1992, there is simply no reason why states shouldn’t levy their own taxes and manage their own highway projects, leaving the few projects with national scope to the federal government.  If a state wants to fund public transportation, then let them have the debate about higher gasoline taxes on a local level.  At present, there are 28 donor states – states that contribute more money than they receive in transportation funding.  This is utter nonsense.

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22 Republicans Vote for Barbara Boxer’s Tax and Spend Highway Bill

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

As you all know, we have been working hard to defeat the highway bills and advocate for real federalism reforms that will restore responsibility for transportation back to its primary source and save billions in future deficits.  Just a few minutes ago, the Senate passed the highway bill (S.1813) 74-22.  The appalling thing is that 22 Republicans, about half the conference, voted for it.

The $109 billion 2-year reauthorization bill continues to spend 20% of gas tax revenue on mass transit, 10% on highway beautification, and will impel future bailouts in order to achieve solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.  It will also raise taxes in order to fund some of the deficit.  It is simply indefensible for any Republican to vote for it.  All Republicans like to brag about voting against Obamacare and cap and trade, but it’s votes like this that really illuminate those who stand on the side of a limited constitutional federal government.

Now the bill heads to the House, and thanks to Senate Republicans, there will be tremendous pressure on House conservatives to pass the one “workable” bill before the March 31 hard deadline.  Some are asking why we should oppose the Senate bill if we will be forced to pass a stopgap bill, which roughly mimics the funding levels of the Senate bill.  The answer is really quite simple.  It’s better to extend current policies for two months or so than pass a 2-year bill that precludes real transportation and budget reform for two years.

Below the fold is the full tally from the roll call vote [Note that Senator Kiek is recovering from a stroke in Illinois and Orrin Hatch is home in Utah fighting for his career.]:

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A Day’s Work in the House of Lords

Friday, March 9th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

Earlier today, the Senate began voting on a series of 30 amendments to the highway bill (S.1813).  The three important amendments regarding energy subsidies that we referenced earlier (2 bad, 1 good) were postponed until next week.  However, here is a list of other commonsense amendments that were voted down by Democrats.  It is truly sad that at a time when gas prices are at a record high Democrats are willing to place the interests of the eco-radicals ahead of American consumers.  They also showed that, once again, they have no interest in creating jobs or cutting spending:

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Boehner Goes Full Democrat on Highway Bill

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

Yesterday, John Boehner threatened conservatives that if they don’t support his insipid highway bill, he would punish them by bringing the Senate bill to the floor.  Well, today, he executed his temper tantrum and announced that he will indeed bring the tax and spend Boxer/Obama Senate bill to the floor of the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday the House plans to take up the Senate’s highway bill once it clears the upper chamber, conceding that his own last-ditch effort to save a House GOP measure had not succeeded.

“As I told the members yesterday, the current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring their bill up,” Boehner told reporters at his weekly news conference Thursday.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.  We have a Republican-controlled House that offers a big spending highway bill.  Then, when conservative demand that we offer a “Republican” solution, Boehner punishes them by bringing up the Democrat bill.  That’s real leadership, Mr Speaker.  The reason why voters vested you with control of the House was to fight the liberal proposals that emanate from the Senate, not to use them to play hardball with conservatives.

At The Madison Project, we are committed to finding Republican candidates for the House who will oppose John Boehner as Speaker in the 113th Congress.

Senate Republicans and Boehner Unite Against Conservatives

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 and is filed under Blog

Who needs Democrats when so many Republicans are willing to orchestrate their agenda for them?

The Senate is on the precipice of passing Barbara Boxer’s highway bill with overwhelming support.  Mitch McConnell is negotiating a deal with Harry Reid in which Republicans would be granted a vote on some of their choice non-germane amendments.  After Democrats summarily defeat those amendments, Republicans will return the favor by voting for the underlying bill, which overspends its revenue source by 43% and raises taxes to bridge the gap.

The sad thing is that S. 1813 is not just Boxer’s highway bill.  It was supported by every Republican on the committee level, and only 9 Republicans voted against cloture to proceed with the bill on the floor.  In a sane world, McConnell would be negotiating proposals to cut mass transit and eliminate the 10% beautification mandates on the states instead of securing failed votes on non-germane amendments.  Then again, most Republicans in the Senate actually support the idea of federally funded transportation.  They also buy into Obama’s puerile logic that it will create new jobs, instead of spreading around existing ones.

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