Editorial May, 2015

Senate History on Page Two…

TheWeekinCongress.com

Editorial

$984 billion, or thereabouts, seems to be the spending House and Senate budget writers are stuck on despite previous agreements on a larger number. $984 billion would be significantly below the 2012 budget agreement but is also below existing sequester levels we are stuck with (with some exemptions) until 2023. Defense faces those severe cuts but this budget works its way around that by shuffling, for example, some Overseas Contingency Spending to the current Military Construction Appropriations.

The ‘governmental social re-engineering’ is most pronounced in this extreme budget in areas such as Social Security, Medicare, and repeal of the Affordable Care Act but, those matters notwithstanding, the bill funds the government on the cheap.

Here’s how the Democrat Whip sized up the bill; “It is built around a centerpiece of using fast-track reconciliation procedures to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  It once again eliminates the Medicare guarantee, turns Medicaid into a capped block grant, reduces Pell Grants, and cuts nutrition assistance.  Though it exempts defense spending from sequestration through an accounting sleight-of-hand, it enshrines sequester level spending for non-defense priorities this year and further disinvests in these priorities by cutting $496 billion below sequester levels over the next decade. “

We agree; this bill almost seems desperate to cut spending down to a balanced budget but finds those cuts in the programs designed to help people get along. The bill from the beginning also fails to address paying for the loss of revenues imminent when the ACA is repealed, and, despite the wisdom to require Pay-as-you-go deficit reducing cuts before funding any new programs the bill will add to the deficit when some things unexpectedly pop up such as emergency spending for hurricane mitigation, extreme drought conditions and all the economic and civic problems that follow. At that point you can’t go back to the poor and tell them they have to give up more benefits to pay for, say, future breaches of the New Orleans levy system nor can you go to New Orleans and tell them there is no money to help.

“…in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.”

And that really is the problem with this budget; it presupposes the conclusion that those receiving government benefits either didn’t earn them or didn’t plan their financial lives so the money is wasted or unnecessary spending, but that is a straw man argument because it hasn’t been a matter of poor planning, it is a matter of your plan not keeping up with the financial devastation many experienced during the recent recession. And many who suffered major financial hits were not poor.

Such is the nature of the straw man argument described by an unknown author as such; This technique has been used throughout history in polemical debate, particularly in arguments about highly charged emotional issues where a fiery, entertaining “battle” and the defeat of an “enemy” may be more valued than critical thinking or understanding both sides of the issue.

Perhaps it’s time for these budget writers to realize that it doesn’t take much to help the poor because small increments measure larger in their lives than they would in lives better off. A twenty dollar increase is significant in a poor man’s budget. So is a twenty dollar cut. ##

Hamilton on Congress

Money and Politics: We Need Change Now!

By Lee H. Hamilton

“When donors contribute heavily, they have a disproportionate influence over the legislator; that’s not “corruption,” but it means that opinions of average citizens are diminished and the views of the big donors are amplified when it comes to policy-making.”

Hamilton

Hamilton

I’ve seen a lot over my decades in politics, and not much alarms me. But I have to be blunt: Money is poisoning our political system.

The people who matter most to a representative democracy — the ordinary voters in whose interests elected politicians are supposed to act — feel as though they’ve become an afterthought in the political process. The tidal wave of money washing over our elections, with no end in sight, is causing Americans to lose faith in the system. In that way, the course we’re on threatens the core values and principles that define us as a nation.

Oddly, many politicians see no problem — except perhaps the inconvenient need to spend a significant portion of every day dialing for dollars. They don’t, however, believe this is corrupting. They don’t believe they’re selling their votes, or even that money influences their behavior. More....


Quotes on the Issues

 

On the Iran Bill

“I think the second thing people may understand is that on the U.N. Security Council sanctions, the White House has the ability, with the other members of the permanent Security Council, to lift those at any time they wish. They can obviously lift the executive sanctions. One of the things that all of us have been concerned about, though, is that Congress put in place the sanctions that really brought them to the table. We want to ensure that Congress has the ability, before those sanctions are lifted, to be able to voice an opinion through a vote.”

Senator Robert Corker (R-TN), Amendment sponsor, April 23, 2015 on the Senate floor.

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““I want to thank President Obama for giving me his time so I understood what he was trying to achieve and how we could work together in order to achieve the objectives of the United States,…I urge my colleagues, when the bill comes for a vote, to vote for it as it was voted out of committee, because it does what all of us want to do: provides a clear opportunity for a review of any agreement, so we can express, if desired, our support or opposition to any agreement and have a clear oversight role with established parameters for compliance.”

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) April 23, 2015, on the Senate floor.

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“…this is fundamentally a negotiation about what Iran must do to get out from under sanctions that Congress has constructed, that Congress has imposed, and that Congress has perfected and approved over the years. If that is the negotiation, there is no way to have an ultimate deal about the unwinding and eventual repeal of a congressional sanctions statute without congressional review. So Congress is necessary to this deal.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) April 23, 2015 on the Senate floor.

ISIS

 

50 ISIS elements control Bashir village, Kirkuk

Iraqi News reports that approximately 50 ISIS elements …dominate the village of Bashir in Kirkuk, noting that they had booby-trapped all the village buildings.

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Agent for ISIS may have been living in Seattle

KIRO Seattle carried the London Channel 4 story that a female agent for ISIS may have been living in Seattle, and there’s evidence she was using social media to recruit young women.

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NATO: No attack on ISIS in Libya despite threat to Italy

WASHINGTON – The Western alliance has no current plans to attack ISIS targets in Libya despite the urging of Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni …

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Military Fears ISIS is Eyeing Drug-Smuggling Routes to Enter U.S.

U.S. News & World Report reports that Nasser Mustapha has heard rumors throughout his native Trinidad of men distributing recruiting videos for the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS …

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Millennials Want to Send Troops to Fight ISIS, Poll Finds

ABC News – Young people today support going to war with ISIS, along with the rest of the country, a new poll found. Fifty-seven percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said ..

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Report: Supporting Syrian Nationalist Opposition Key in Fight Against Extremists

Supporting the Nationalist Opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria is critical to countering the Islamic extremist threat undermining the stability of the region, the author of a new report from the Atlantic Council said Tuesday.

Faysul Itani, speaking at a Washington forum, said a prime reason to do that is that the opposition “draws its support from the Sunni population” in the struggle against Assad.

Titled “Defeating the Jihadists in Syria: Competition Before Confrontation,” Itani’s report argues that the United States should not expect the opposition “to fight three, four, five rivals at once,” even if the eventual force of 15,000 is fully trained and equipped in the coming years. “I wonder what mandate they will be given” when they reach that status of manpower, training and equipping to fight and then govern.

Itani added, “We also need to stop making disparaging remarks about groups we support” in the conflict, now in its fifth year.

The last American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford said, “We certainly didn’t ask [the opposition] to fight the Islamists” when they rose up against Assad. “We told them to quit working with them” in 2012. More…