Archive for the ‘Congress’ Category

GOP can cut spending without delaying debt ceiling

As I write, President Obama is about to announce the gun-control proposals his administration has been drafting since the Sandy Hook school massacre (although some of them almost certainly were on his wish list before he ever entered the White House). We’ll discuss that here after they’ve been made official and we’ve had time to digest them.

In the meantime, and of a more time-sensitive nature, we march on toward next month’s trio of fiscal deadlines: the expiration of temporary funding measures for the federal government, the end of a two-month delay in the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, and the end of the administration’s authority to borrow more money.

That last issue, popularly known as the debt ceiling, has drawn the most attention, with Democrats accusing the GOP of holding the economy hostage by insisting on spending cuts if they are to raise the ceiling. We’ve seen this movie before, in the summer of 2011. It didn’t end all that well.

It did, however, …

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Chambliss: Government shutdown is up to Obama

If you think the 112th Congress was a weak, unproductive bunch, you’re not alone. Saxby Chambliss agrees with you.

“Unfortunately that’s the way it feels inside, not just outside,” Georgia’s senior senator told me over coffee at his Cobb County office Tuesday. “Harry Reid’s leadership [in the Senate] leaves a lot to be desired, and the in-your-face stuff that the president’s thrown at us has gotten a lot of backs up on our side, in both the House and the Senate. You throw the presidential election in there and it just kind of all came together, and nothing got done.”

Readers who are not GOP partisans would probably add House Republicans to Chambliss’ list of Washington’s bad actors. But after spending the past few years working with a handful of his fellow senators to fashion a big, bipartisan deal to reform the federal tax code and reduce spending, to no avail, Chambliss conveyed disdain for the way the Jan. 1 agreement to avoid the so-called fiscal …

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Isakson: Revenue’s been dealt with, on to spending

The fiscal cliff is dead. Long live the fiscal cliff!

If you were unsatisfied with the deal struck last week or just miss the D.C. drama, fear not. We’ll be back at the abyss soon.

In March, the so-called sequester budget cuts stand to kick in; appropriations for federal operations will dry up; and the Treasury will run out of ways to pay the bills without raising the debt ceiling. As Congress faces that unholy trinity, Georgia’s Johnny Isakson will be right in the thick of things.

The second-term GOP senator was named Thursday to the Senate Finance Committee, which handles those big budgetary matters. Having to face those three pressures at once actually gives Isakson “some degree of optimism.”

“Because it is such a confluence of things, maybe we’ll get a macro deal instead of a micro deal,” Isakson said by phone Thursday.

Isakson has yet to attend his first meeting as a Finance member, but he knows where he wants the debate to go. “I think the revenue issue …

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About the hold-up in the Sandy relief bill/pork-fest

Liberals’ new favorite Republican is Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who this week slammed House Republicans for delaying action on a bill with aid for those affected by Hurricane Sandy. (They’ll be back to hating him the next time he goes on an anti-union rant or some such.) As I’ve said before, the real problem lies with those who lard up such bills with extra spending because they know those pet projects have a better chance of passing when attached to such an urgent measure.

Apparently that can be clear even to a politician in the storm-ravaged area, as long as that politician is not a moderate Republican running for re-election in a blue state. From Politicker.com:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who previously declined to slam House Speaker John Boehner over Congress’ stalled Hurricane Sandy aid, took his argument to the next level this morning and suggested federal lawmakers are partially to blame for the delay in the vote on the package because they insert “things …

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Fiscal cliff ‘deal’ represents everything wrong with Washington

Only in Washington, D.C., do people raise taxes and fail to cut spending from what they were just a day earlier and call it the “American Taxpayer Relief Act.”

That more or less summarizes what I think about the itsy bitsy deal struck in the Senate earlier this week to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

I’m not going to rehash all the details of the deal. Nor do I plan to argue about whether we should consider the deal a) a tax cut for most people, because income tax rates were scheduled to go up this year and now will not, possibly resulting in a lower tax bill than many Americans were set to face in 2013 even after payroll taxes rise by 2 percentage points; or b) a tax increase, because the deal does not mean anyone will actually pay less in taxes in 2013 than they did in 2012, and many people will pay more.

It’s a rather stupid debate to have — not least because some of the same people who argue it’s a tax cut because taxes would have gone up anyway are also trying somehow …

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Why the fiscal cliff debate is like a poker hand — and the GOP is losing a lot of chips

Here’s how I see Speaker John Boehner’s failure to pass his own Plan B tax plan in the House last night:

Some people liken these fiscal-cliff negotiations to playing chess or checkers, as one unnamed, senior House Republican did in this excellent write-up of the post-failure mood in the House by National Review’s Robert Costa. Assuming I understand correctly why and how that metaphor is being made, I think it’s inapt because it suggests this debate is proceeding in isolation from everything else Congress has done in the past and will do in the future.

I think it’s much more like one hand in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, with the chips representing political capital. With both poker chips and political capital, having more means you have more leverage — because those who have less than you don’t have as much margin for error. They have to play it a bit safer.

This particular game of poker, in which House Republicans face President Obama and the Senate Democrats, has been going on …

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House GOP offers a familiar ‘Plan B’ for dodging the fiscal cliff

Reports from Washington vary on how close President Obama and Speaker John Boehner are to striking a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. But the emergence of Boehner’s apparent back-up plan in case they don’t reach an agreement caught my eye.

This morning, Boehner said his “Plan B” is for the House to extend all the rates for taxpayers earning $1 million or less per year while raising them on those who make more than that, and leaving the broader discussion for next year. Hmmm … who has suggested just such an approach?

[T]o, to Obama, this clearly is more about good politics than good policy. The House GOP should respond in kind.

It should pass the “Buffett Rule” bill that failed to pass the Senate in April, amended to include an extension of all current tax rates through 2013, as a down payment. While the Buffett Rule is projected to raise $47 billion during the next decade if the current tax rates for high earners are not extended, I’ve seen projections of more …

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‘Emergency’ Sandy relief bill shows Washington’s fiscal folly

Alternate headline: “This is why we’re screwed.” The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have proposed $60.4 billion in spending, some of which may not have anything to do with helping people recover from the superstorm that hit the Northeast this fall. But the entire lot is being rushed through as part of the “emergency” spending package that has to be passed RIGHT NOW according to Democrats — even though, according to the Congressional Budget Office, only about one-third of the money will be spent in the next 21 months.

What else is the dough going for, if not for immediate relief? Jamie Dupree has the full list of items on his AJC.com blog. ABC News reports that millions of dollars are for federal agency spending that is unrelated, or only tangentially related, to Hurricane Sandy. Another $13 billion of it is tabbed to help mitigate future disasters. Those particular mitigation measures may or may not make sense, and it’s hard to know which are worthwhile and which …

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Obama’s asking for it; maybe the GOP should give it to him

It appears more and more likely that Washington’s new favorite drama, the fiscal cliff, will run as long as possible.

Passing new legislation before Christmas to avoid the cliff — the doomsday nickname given to the combination of across-the-board spending cuts set during last year’s debt-ceiling negotiations and the total expiration of income-tax rates that have prevailed since since 2003 — now seems unlikely. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on Wednesday said lawmakers can expect to be in Washington during December’s final days.

The fatal conceit in this debate is that the economy will somehow be well-served, or at least survive, if it takes only a half-dose of what Democrats consider poison (spending cuts) and a half-dose of what the GOP deems deadly (tax increases).

If either party is correct, we are in for a rough 2013 at the very least. If both parties are correct, we could be heading for another recession. The irony is that we’re trying to avoid the fiscal cliff …

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Will wonders never cease: Democrats discover taxes hurt businesses!

How cute: Fifteen Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare back in 2009 are asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to see that the excise tax on medical devices is not implemented for now.

Read their letter here. It ticks all the usual boxes for the kind of anti-tax arguments that Democrats typically reject out of hand:

  • The industry “directly employs over 400,000 people in the United States and is responsible for a total of two million high-skilled manufacturing jobs.”
  • The industry “is also one of the few that enjoys a net trade surplus…”
  • Our economy has a need for “increasing exports, promoting small businesses, and growing high-tech manufacturing jobs for the future…”
  • The slapdash way in which Obamacare was constructed, with major decisions punted to an unaccountable bureaucracy to make (OK, that’s not exactly how the senators put it), has caused “significant uncertainty and confusion for businesses.”
  • Rather than moving forward with another punitive tax on a particular …

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