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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sandy Bill Loaded With Pork Spending While Fiscal Cliff Still Looms

Today in Washington, D.C. - Dec. 18, 2012
At 11:30 AM, Vice President Joe Biden swore in Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, following the passing yesterday of the second longest serving Senator in history, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii.  The President Pro Tempore is Constitutionally the third in line in succession to being President if a disaster were to strike.

Today, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R. 1, the vehicle for a supplemental appropriations bill for relief from Hurricane Sandy. Votes on amendments are possible today.

The House passed the following two bills yesterday:
H.R. 4606 (286-10) — "To authorize the issuance of right-of-way permits for natural gas pipelines in Glacier National Park, and for other purposes."
S. 3193 (306-0) — "To make technical corrections to the legal description of certain land to be held in trust for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, and for other purposes."

Washington Post reports:President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner moved close to agreement Monday on a plan to avert the year-end “fiscal cliff,” but they had yet to clear several critical hurdles, including winning the support of wary House Republicans.  . . .  Obama laid out a counteroffer that included significant concessions on taxes, reducing the amount of new revenue he is seeking to $1.2 trillion over the next decade and limiting the hike in tax rates to households earning more than $400,000 a year. Obama had previously sought $1.4 trillion in new revenue, with tax increases on income over $250,000. . . .Obama also gave ground on a key Republican demand — applying a less-generous measure of inflation across the federal government. That change would save about $225 billion over the next decade, with more than half the savings coming from smaller cost-of-living increases for Social Security beneficiaries.

In addition, Obama increased his overall offer on spending cuts and dropped his demand for extending the payroll tax holiday . . . But he is still seeking $80 billion in new spending on infrastructure and unemployment benefits and an increase in the federal government’s borrowing limit large enough to avert any new fight over the issue for two years.

Boehner has offered a one-year debt-limit increase, and the fresh stimulus spending remains a sticking point, according to senior Republican aides, who also complained that the overall deal remains too tilted toward new taxes.  'Any movement away from the unrealistic offers the President has made previously is a step in the right direction, but a proposal that includes $1.3 trillion in revenue for only $930 billion in spending cuts cannot be considered balanced . .  .  We hope to continue discussions with the President so we can reach an agreement that is truly balanced and begins to solve our spending problem,' Boehner spokesman Michael A. Steel said . . .

Talks over the fiscal cliff have accelerated since Boehner made an offer Friday to raise tax rates on income over $1 million and to delay a fight over the government’s borrowing limit in exchange for significant cuts to health and retirement programs. . . .
And, this morning, at a press conference with Republican leaders, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said Republicans will continue to work with the White House to find a balanced solution to the “fiscal cliff” that cuts spending. But in the meantime, Boehner said, the House will soon vote to protect as many American taxpayers as possible from the tax hikes scheduled to hit on January 1:“Our hope continues to be to reach an agreement with the president on a ‘balanced’ approach that averts the fiscal cliff. What we’ve offered meets the definition of balance, but the president is not there yet. The White House offer yesterday was essentially $1.3 trillion in new revenues for only $850 billion in net spending reductions. That’s not balanced in my opinion.

“So at the same time that we’re going to continue to talk with the president, we’re going to also move Plan B. I think we all know that every income tax filer in America is going to pay higher rates come January 1 unless Congress acts. So I believe it’s important that we protect as many American taxpayers as we can. Our Plan B would protect American taxpayers who make $1 million or less, and have all of their current rates extended.

“I continue to have hope that we can reach a broader agreement with the White House that would reduce spending as well as have revenues on the table. I think it’d be better for our country. But at this point, having a backup plan that makes sure that as few American taxpayers are affected by this increase as possible – moving down that path is the right course of action for us.”
NOTE: The House passed a bipartisan bill in August to stop all of the tax hikes on families and small businesses. Survey after survey has shown a majority of the American people prefer the balanced solution to the fiscal cliff offered by Republicans which calls for spending cuts and tax reform.

Regarding the Fiscal Cliff negotiations and taxing those over $1,000,000 verses $250,000, John Stanton, Bussfeed, noted today that, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may not like Speaker John Boehner’s plan to raise taxes on millionaires as part of a fiscal cliff deal, but that doesn’t mean his Democratic colleagues don’t. In fact, over the last two years 11 Senate Democrats — Sens. Chuck Schumer, Kent Conrad, Mark Begich, Barbara Boxer, Tom Carper, Bob Casey, Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill, Bill Nelson, Jim Webb and Robert Menendez — have all publicly backed increasing tax rates on millionaires in one form or another."

Reuters reports, “The U.S. Senate on Monday began debating a $60.4 billion aid bill to rebuild communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy amid criticism by conservative groups who said the measure was loaded with wasteful, non-disaster spending. The Democratic-controlled Senate is looking to pass the disaster aid bill this week. But Republicans, wary of its huge price tag in the midst of tense debt and deficit negotiations in Washington, are likely to try to ratchet back some of its provisions through amendments. . . . The conservative Club for Growth urged senators to vote against the Sandy relief bill, saying that it contained a lot of ‘immaterial’ spending. ‘When a natural disaster occurs, there is a textbook response by Congress - they cobble together an overpriced bill that isn't paid for, there's no accountability or oversight, and it's filled with pork. This proposal is no different,’ the group said in an email to senators.”

The story notes, “Among spending items in the Senate bill drawing the ire of Washington conservatives is one seeking $150 million for fishery disasters in Alaska and Mississippi - thousands of miles from the Sandy damage. The bill also includes a request of $50 million for the National Park Service's historic preservation fund and nearly $9 million to replace vehicles and other equipment used by the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.”

“Even some local New Jersey politicians criticized the bill,” Reuters writes, “‘A full 5 percent of the appropriation request is earmarked for the replacement of federal assets, rather than rebuilding and aid efforts in the tri-state area,’ New Jersey State Senator Joe Pennacchio, a Republican, said in a statement, referring to New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.”

Further, the Reuters piece explains, “Some lawmakers are also questioning the bill's inclusion of infrastructure upgrades aimed at mitigating damage from future storms. For example, $5.5 billion would be allocated to the Federal Transit Administration to make transportation systems more resilient in high winds and floods, including efforts to keep tunnels from flooding. Republicans also questioned the need to push through the full $60.4 billion at once, given that the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only about $9 billion in aid will be disbursed in 2013.”

The Los Angeles Times adds, “The bill has recently come under fire by Republicans for including a number of expenditures outside the New Jersey-New York City area so drastically affected by the storm, including $150 million to help fisheries in Alaska, New England and the Gulf of Mexico, $41 million to repair military bases hit by the storm and $4 million for the FBI to replace laboratory and office equipment.”

Expressing his distaste for how Democrats crafted this bill, Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl summarized the situation well: “‘At $60 billion? In this time when we’re trying to solve the deficit problem? Can I verbalize that stinky look on my face?’ Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said Friday. ‘I can’t predict what my colleagues will do. But that’s an awful big bite to swallow when the amount of money that’s set aside for this is about $5 billion and they’re asking for $60 billion.’”

Tags: U.S. Senate, US House, President Obama, fiscal cliff negotiations, pork, spending, Sandy Bill To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 12:26 PM - Post Link


Anonymous Josie Atkinson said...

No sanity left!


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