…Considering the Extreme Differences Can Anything be Passed?
If balancing the budget by cuts to domestic programs even more severe than the proposed House budget for FY 2012, with no tax increases, a promised but undefined reform of the tax code, repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and a balanced budget in ten years is the ticket then the Senate Republican budget will do fine. If those provisions along with making Medicare a voucher-like program, transforming Medicaid to a block grant program and reforming Social Security then the House Republican budget is the one.
If a budget with $1.8 trillion tax increase over ten years gathered from the most wealthy and some corporate interests, an increase in spending for all departments of government, expansion Medicare and Medicaid spending, but does not balance the budget in ten years, and does not repeal the Affordable Care Act then the President’s budget makes the mark.
The situation is reminiscent of the budget debates that resulted first in a government shutdown and then the compromise budget hammered out by Rep Paul Ryan (R) and Senator Patty Murray (D) in 2012 / 13. Republicans sought a spending cap at around $980 billion on top of the Sequester cuts installed the year before. Democrats sought a cap of around $1.2 trillion and the deal landed about in the middle of those numbers.
But things are different this year; the Republicans control the House and Senate, the economy is growing which gives House and Senate budget writers some confidence that even though they don’t have specific details on how the tax code would be reformed and who would benefit from whatever plan they come up with or reveal, the plan will work because the revenue will be there. In the House and Senate budgets the stated revenue sources may not be guaranteed, and the savings from repealing the Affordable Care Act tax scheme would be eradicated by the loss of revenue from that law. Those budgets stand in contrast to the President’s that pretty much spells out where it is going and how it gets there.
The other thing that’s different this year from the 2012 agreement is that while the budgets of both bodies conflict in almost every spending and policy category with the President’s the points of contention that first have to be worked out are conflicts within the Republican party itself; The Senate budget will not survive the House because it doesn’t include reforms of Social Security and Medicare. Once those matters are settled we are back to the 2012 square one.
The Democrat House budget amendment in the nature of a substitute nearly parallels the Presidents.
Budget are complicated and confusing to sort out. The House, Senate, and Democrat substitute rely heavily on two elements that are unusual this year because of the sheer number of them; deficit-neutral reserve funds (DNRF) and policy statements. Both are something of a wish list but while policy statements pretty much define themselves, Deficit-neutral reserve funds are something else again; There is no money in them. DNRF’s target a specific program or issue under a committee jurisdiction to allow a committee chair, when facing a new program to cut other programs under his jurisdiction so to not increase the deficit. If the program requires a tax hike legislation is required. While the Senate offered no DNRF’s in its resolution Senators added or attempted to add them as amendments.
We’re in for a long haul but the good news is that unlike the last few years this budget is being worked on in the regular order of budget not a few weeks before the congressional session ends.
UPDATE – Friday March 27, 2015 10:00 a.m.
The Senate and House have agreed to their respective Republican budgets and have adjourned until Monday, April 13th. When they return the process of reconciling the two budgets will begin. Once completed authorization and appropriation bills to authorize and fund all government agencies will begin aiming to result in a completed budget process by September 30, 2015.
House Passes ‘Doc Fix’
On a bipartisan basis the House agreed to HR 2, a bill that repeals the sustainable growth rate governing payments to Physicians under Medicare. The repeal removes the threat of a 21% cut that has accumulated over 14 years as Congress, yearly, delayed the small percentage cuts. The bill begins to, as the Affordable Care Act does, shift physician payments towards incentives to make and keep patients well.
The bill extends funding for Child Heath Insurance Program for two years and increases funding to the States for that program.
The Qualifying Individual program to help low-income seniors pay their Medicare premiums is extended permanently and the Transitional Medical Assistance (TMA) program, which helps families on Medicaid maintain their coverage as they transition from welfare to work is extended for one year. The agreement also provides for $7.2 billion in new funding for community health centers over the next two years.
The White House has signaled support of the bill.
President Urged to Send Military Aide to Ukraine
The Resolution concludes “the existence of an independent, democratic, and prosperous Ukraine is in the national interest of the United States”, explains why and suggests, since Congress has already authorized it, use of lethal force to aid Ukraine in its struggles with Russia as well as aid to energy development and diversification.
More about this country here…
Boko Haram Attack Condemned
The attack on The Nigerian town of Baga on January 3, 2015 with assault rifles, grenade launchers, and fire slaughtered innocent civilians resulting in possibly thousands of casualties, mostly women, children and the elderly is condemned as cowardly.
More about this country here…
Vet Budget Reform
Under the bill, HR 216, “the Secretary shall submit to Congress each year, at or about the time that the President’s budget is submitted, a Future-Years Veterans Program reflecting the estimated expenditures and proposed appropriations included in that budget. Any such Future-Years Veterans Program shall cover the fiscal year with respect to which the budget is submitted and at least the four succeeding fiscal years.”
The bill states, “Each quadrennial veterans review shall include a comprehensive examination of the policies and strategies of the United States with respect to veterans, including recommendations regarding the long-term strategy and priorities for programs, services, benefits, and outcomes regarding veterans and guidance on the programs, assets, capabilities, budget, policies, and authorities of the Department.”
Access to Housing for Low-Income Tribes Expanded
“The bill focuses first on the Secretary of HUD’s authority to present to Congress recommendations for waiving environmental review requirements if a recipient is using Federal funds in addition to grants this Act provides, with some conditions, and the Tribe has assumed all environmental review responsibilities then the Tribes compliance is deemed to fully comply. The Secretary must act on the waiver request in 60 days.
In other areas the bill creates a path for a Native American renter to purchase the rental unit and opens to door to private investment for such construction on Tribal Land.
Housing Assistance Qualifications Modified
Under the bill, after the initial review of the family’s income and other considerations, the public housing agency or owner shall not be required to conduct a review of the family’s income for any year for which such family certifies…that 90 percent or more of the income of the family consists of fixed income, and that the sources of such income have not changed since the previous year. A review of each family’s income is required not less than once every 3 years’.