Editorial March 20, 2015

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

A Bit About Budgets

This year’s budget battles are shaping up but, unlike last year and the year before, the first conflict  for the House Republican Budget is between members of that party. But that’s only the beginning as Senate Republicans now reveal their budget which spends less and does not address entitlement ‘reforms’ as the House budget does. The Senate Republican budget foretells one possibility; that the party needs a passable baseline budget that is not extreme in order to get support from Democrats. Because of the divisions in the Republican party over budget items it looks like the divisions within the Party will not muster enough votes for passage.

This is the budget Republicans have been pushing for two years. Now, with more votes in the Senate, their plans are on the table. If the House bill passes it will take this country in a new direction as far as benefits for lower income Americans, Social Security and Medicare, and States will take the reigns on how federal dollars slated for the poor under Medicaid are spent.

All of the budgets in play promises an extensive debate on what is best for the country which is what should be done. It also promises a good bit of vitriolic media attacks, vague promises on how to deal with other budget issues such as the deficit and the public debt and, of course, a multitude of scare tactics that most Americans are hip to and tired of. But then there is that 800 pound sequester in the room that brings across-the-board spending-cut in the Fall. You will recall the sequester came to us in 2012 when Republicans, battling with the White House,  convened a special committee to come up with legislation that met certain spending levels or else the sequester would kick in. The committee produced no such legislation and the sequester kicked in. Congress has since exempted some programs and agencies from the cuts but the sequester is far from played out. Whatever budget makes its way through the politics of the matter would be wise to repeal the sequester.

Hamilton on Congress

Governing By Crisis Isn’t Governing At All

By Lee H. Hamilton

Hamilton

Hamilton

After Congress came a hair’s breadth from shutting down the Department of Homeland Security a few weeks ago, members of the leadership tried to reassure the American people. “We’re certainly not going to shut down the government or default on the national debt,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Congress, he said, would not lurch from crisis to crisis.

I wish I could be so confident. Because if you look at the year ahead, the congressional calendar is littered with opportunities to do just that.
Next month, unless Congress acts, doctors will see a steep cut in Medicare reimbursements. In May, the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money, More…
Foreign Affairs

Pentagon to Congress: ISIS is on the Defensive

John Grady, USNI

John Grady, USNI

To “pivot away from the Middle East is naïve at best,” the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) said as he opened a hearing on developments in the Central Command area of responsibility and the president’s request for a congressional authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL).

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Tuesday the region can be “a breeding ground for terrorists” in failed states such as Yemen and Libya and one facing new dangers if Iran develops a nuclear weapon. More…

Quotes on the Issues
The long haul to a budget agreement began last month with President Obama’s budget and now we have the Senate and House Republican budgets. Budget debates will begin in earnest next week and will include one or two other budgets from some caucuses. To get a glimpse of the nature of the debates to come, here are some questions posed by opposition to the House Republican budget:
  1. How can our country invest in a more competitive economy over the long-term if House Republicans keep in place the sequester caps on non-defense spending this year and cut far below sequester levels in future years?
  2. Why did Republicans again rely on a “magic asterisk” to make it look like your budget will balance in nine years? Do you have any more detail on exactly what policies would achieve the $1.1 trillion in cuts you vaguely refer to as “other mandatory” in your budget?
  3. Your budget resolution pretends to abide by sequester-level spending caps this year, yet it allocates $36 billion more in Overseas Contingency Operations war funding than was requested by the Pentagon. Isn’t this a way of trying to hide the tensions between your party’s dueling factions – the defense hawks and the budget hawks – by pretending you’re sticking to spending caps, when you’re not?
  4. If you repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has achieved the lowest rate of uninsured in four decades, what is your plan to ensure that Americans can still access quality, affordable health care?
  5. If you block grant Medicaid and nutrition assistance programs, how do you know that state governments won’t use the funding to pay for other programs and reduce their own spending on those programs, as the Congressional Budget Office warned of yesterday?
  6. How do you expect seniors to afford increased health care costs if you end the Medicare guarantee?
  7. Why does your budget ignore the hundreds of billions of dollars in lost revenue, as scored by the Joint Committee on Taxation, from the permanent tax extender bills that Republicans have brought to the Floor?
  8. How many fewer children will be able to access programs like Head Start because you cut below sequester spending level caps in future years?
  9. How do you expect more students to afford higher education when you freeze Pell grant funding?
  10. Would any “macroeconomic effects” of your budget be distributed evenly to Americans of all incomes, or would the poor be left out of any gains made, given that they are bearing the burden of your budget proposals?