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“The Budget Blitz”: Boehner And McConnell Get A Move On To Approve A Deal Before Conservatives Can Counter-Mobilize

Well, you have to credit John Boehner and Mitch McConnell with some chutzpah. On the very eve of Paul Ryan’s planned accession to the House Speakership via a deal with House conservatives to treat their views with more respect and avoid deals with Democrats, the GOP leadership is unveiling the largest bipartisan budget deal since 2011, a measure that would preempt any debt default or government shutdown threat until well after the 2016 elections. Moreover, even as Ryan pledges renewed fealty to the Hastert Rule and promises not to behave imperiously towards other Republicans, this deal was negotiated semi-secretly and will be sprung on Congress for a quick vote, perhaps as early as tomorrow, and is projected to get through both chambers via a minority of Republicans voting with most Democrats. It would indeed make it easier for Ryan to keep his promises because it would take the most contentious issues right off the table.

A lot of the details of the deal are unknown or hazy at this point, but it’s clear the main objective was to set aside sequestration and give Democrats some domestic spending increases and Republicans more defense spending. In that and other respects it resembles the budget deal Ryan himself cut with Patty Murray in December of 2013, not long after the last government shutdown, which constitutes one of the grievances conservatives harbor against the Wisconsin Ayn Rand acolyte.

I suspect the air today will be filled with squawking about this deal, and it could also prove to be a big fat target for the GOP presidential candidates who are debating economic and fiscal policy in Colorado tomorrow night. So yeah, Boehner and McConnell had best get a move on to get the deal approved before conservatives can counter-mobilize, and Paul Ryan should probably remember some pressing appointments back home in his district.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“It’s Worth Taking Seriously”: Washington Is Ignoring Obama’s Budget. You Shouldn’t

Mere hours after the White House released President Obama’s budget, Washington had reached a consensus about it: It’s “irrelevant.”

As this argument goes, the House and Senate have already agreed on a fiscal policy plan—the agreement from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray that Congress passed in the fall. Ryan-Murray lays out the basic parameters of what the government will take in and spend, not just for 2014 but also for 2015. Neither party wants to revisit that pact. And to the extent Obama is proposing new ideas for the long term, like pouring money into early childhood education, the Republicans simply aren’t interested in passing them. That would seem to render Obama’s new budget an exercise in pure political symbolism, and maybe empty symbolism at that.

I take a different view—and not simply because I’m nerdy enough to think of reading 200-plus pages of figures and charts as an opportunity, rather than a burden. For one thing, some of Obama’s budget proposals could still become legislation—not as sweeping initiatives, for sure, but as scaled-down pilots or add-ons to other pieces of legislation. It’s already happened once, in the Ryan-Murray spending agreement. Mostly that pact was about restoring some of the funding that various federal agencies had lost, because of budget sequestration. But the Administration and its Capitol Hill allies managed to squeeze out a little extra funding for early childhood programs. One reason: Obama’s call for a massive, $75 billion investment in the previous year’s budget put the issue onto the agenda.

The Administration may have another chance to scrounge up new funding for early childhood this year, now that leaders in both parties have expressed interest in reauthorizing and improving the Child Care and Development Block Grant, which is the federal government’s biggest program for financing day care. And that’s not the only pending legislation that could give the Administration and its allies a chance to fight for funds. Congress could take up a major highway bill, since the existing federal law expires in September. That’s an opportunity to drum up support for infrastructure projects, which include ports that need dredging as well as roads that need building.

“We can’t simply throw up our hands and not pass a highway bill,” one senior administration official said on Tuesday. And while this particular Congress has shown an unusual proclivity for doing nothing, thanks mostly to Republican intransigence, the two parties seem to have some of the same topics on their minds. Both Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio has expressed interest in expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, so that childless adults can get benefits closer to the ones that families already receive. Obama’s budget calls for the same thing. House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has talked about closing corporate tax loopholes, bolstering tax breaks for the working poor, and even throwing a little funding at infrastructure. Obama’s budget includes versions of all of these.

The parties are still far apart—very, very far apart—on the specifics. Republicans and Democrats have fundamental disagreements about how to fund highway creation and maintenance, with one side supporting new taxes and the other favoring tax cuts. (You can guess who wants what.) The Republican EITC proposals would give more money to childless adults by giving less money to families; Obama’s proposal would increase funding across the board. But particularly when it comes to some of the provisions of Camp’s tax plan, a senior administration official said on Tuesday, “there’s basis for a serious conversation.”

Of course, Camp isn’t the problem. It’s the House Republican leaders, who are in no rush to put his plan—or anybody else’s plan—on the agenda if they can avoid it. That’s partly because an election is coming up. Republicans figure they will pick up seats in the midterms, giving them more leverage over any fiscal negotiations taking place. But a budget unlikely to generate legislation can still have meaning, as a statement of priorities. In this case, the Obama budget is a preview of the agenda Democrats will adopt whenever full-scale fiscal negotiations start up again—which, as Bob Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, is likely to happen sometime in 2015:

2014 likely won’t be a year of significant budgetary action beyond the appropriations bills. But 2015 may well be. Policymakers likely will seek to negotiate another budget deal to ease the scheduled sequestration budget cuts for 2016 and beyond and also may consider tax reform and other measures.  Both the new Obama budget and the budget proposal that House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan will unveil in a few weeks will offer dueling frameworks for a year-long debate on where fiscal and program policy should go, in advance of larger decisions next year.

That’s precisely the sort of information voters should have in November, when they decide which parties control the two houses of Congress.

The stakes in the fall may not be nearly as big as they were in 2008, when Obama was promising to reform health care and stop climate change—or in 2010, when Republicans were vowing to roll back Obama’s accomplishments and, then, roll back parts of the Great Society and New Deal. But those were unusually grandiose times. The difference between Democratic and Republican visions of government are still large—and in 2015, when the current spending agreement runs out, lawmakers will have to reconcile them. Obama’s budget is one vision for how to do that, which makes it worth taking seriously.

 

By: Jonathan Cohn, The New Republic, March 4, 2014

March 6, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Federal Budget, Fiscal Policy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Voting For Default”: Paul Ryan’s Embarrassing Debt Ceiling Vote

After Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) decided to put a clean debt ceiling bill up for a vote yesterday evening, he had a new challenge: finding enough Republican votes to go along with the Democrats to pass it.

Although Boehner doesn’t normally vote, he did this time. He then asked others in the Republican leadership to follow his lead.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) both did so, along with lead deputy whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

He hoped some of his committee chairmen would step up as well. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) all gave their support.

One name absent from that list: Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

Ryan’s vote against the debt ceiling bill was particularly disappointing.

In recent months, Ryan has transitioned from a stubborn ideologue to a pragmatic leader, most notably in his willingness to broker a budget deal that relaxed sequestration. Just yesterday, he criticized the vast majority in the Congress for looking to undo the changes to military pensions that were included in that budget agreement. (A bill undoing the cuts passed 326-90 in the House.) Despite facing numerous bipartisan opposition, Ryan has stuck by those cuts.

He also undoubtedly understands how catastrophic it would be for the United States to default. He understood that leadership was concerned about the bill passing and were looking for leaders in the House to vote for it.

In addition, raising the debt ceiling authorizes the spending that he personally negotiated in the Murray-Ryan budget. Ryan knows this isn’t new spending. It’s not a blank check. This just allows us to actually pay our bills.

For Ryan, this was likely all about politics. He may still have his eye on a 2016 presidential run (though I don’t think he does) and if not, he certainly will consider it in the future. If the deciding vote came down to him, I have no doubt that he would have voted in the affirmative. Once he realized he didn’t need to support the bill, he took the easy way out and opposed it.

This should be embarrassing for Ryan. For someone who prides himself on being serious, he voted for a possible U.S. default instead of authorizing paying for spending that he personally negotiated. Sometimes, leaders need to take tough votes for the sake of their caucus and the country. Both the Republican Party and the United States needed yesterday’s bill to pass. That’s why Boehner, McCarthy and the 26 other Republicans voted for it. They knew it wouldn’t play well with their constituents, but they did it anyway.

Ryan should have been a part of that group.

 

By: Danny Vinik, Business Insider, February 13, 2014

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Paul Ryan | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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