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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, January 22, 2013

Washington Brew: Entitlements, Spending And Debt

Politico: "President Obama Dodges 'Hard Choices' On Entitlements"; McConnell On Spending And Debt: ‘If We Don’t Get A Handle On That, Nothing Else Matters'

Today in Washington D.C. - Jan 22, 2012
With the president sworn in on Sunday and inaugurated on Monday, the Senate returned today.  the House has been back in session for a couple of days last week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he expects to take up the bill approved by the House  (H.R. 219 ) eight days ago that provided supplemental appropriations for Hurricane Sandy disaster relief later in the week.  Why are the Democrats waiting?  The House has made it easy. Sen. Reid should forget pursuing more pork and get this bill to the floor and approved and on to the President for signature.

Today, the House passed H.R. 307 (395-29) "To reauthorize certain programs under the Public Health Service Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act with respect to public health security and all-hazards preparedness and response, and for other purposes."

Previously, on Jan 14, the House passed H.R. 219 (403-0)— "To improve and streamline disaster assistance for Hurricane Sandy, and for other purposes."

Then on Jan 15, the House passed HR 152 supplemental appropriation with a bit of of give and take as detailed below:H. Res. 23 (367-52) "Providing for consideration of the bill (H.R. 152) making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes."
Mulvaney (SC), McClintock (CA), Duncan (SC), Lummis (WY) Amendment - Offsets the $17 billion in emergency in the Rogers’ amendment with a 1.63% across the board cut to all regular discretionary appropriations for FY2013. – REJECTED 162 - 258
Rogers (KY) Substitute Amendment - Provides $17 billion in emergency funding to address the immediate needs of victims and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. – ADOPTED 327 - 91
Runyan (NJ) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Clarifies that the fisheries disaster money in the Frelinghuysen amendment is intended for states that were impacted both by Hurricane Sandy and suffered a fisheries disaster in 2012. – ADOPTED BY VOICE
Blumenauer (OR), Campbell (CA) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Clarifies that Corps of Engineers cost-share provisions in this legislation only apply to funds provided by this bill. – ADOPTED BY VOICE
Velázquez (NY) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment (Revised) - Increases the Community Development Fund appropriation amount by $25 million offset by reductions elsewhere in the bill. – WITHDRAWN
Huelskamp (KS) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Requires FEMA to disclose all disaster relief grants, not just those over $1 million. – ADOPTED BY VOICE
Velázquez (NY) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment (Revised) - Increases the funding to the National Cemetery Administration by $1 million for the purposes of repairing veterans’ cemeteries damaged by Hurricane Sandy. – ADOPTED BY VOICE
Flores (TX) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Strikes $150 million to stop funding for the President's Executive Order 13547 regarding ocean zoning. – ADOPTED 221 - 197
Broun (GA) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Strikes $13,000,000 in funding to “accelerate the National Weather Service ground readiness project.” – REJECTED 206 - 214
Duncan (SC) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Strikes the additional $1M for Legal Services Corporation (LSC). – REJECTED 202 - 217
Fleming (LA) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Cuts $9,800,000 from the Fish & Wildlife Service for rebuilding seawalls and buildings on uninhabited islands in the Steward McKinney National Wildlife Refuge in Connecticut. – ADOPTED 216 - 205
Benishek (MI) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment - Strikes the proviso on line 20, restoring the requirement that local investments are required in Historic Preservation Grants. – REJECTED 208 – 212
Bishop (UT) Amendment to Frelinghuysen Amendment (Revised) - Prohibits the Secretaries of the Interior or Agriculture from acquiring any more federal land using funds provided under this emergency supplemental appropriations bill for Hurricane Sandy relief. – ADOPTED 223 - 198
Frelinghuysen (NJ) Amendment (Revised) - Provides an additional $33.677 billion in total spending to cover current and anticipated needs of the victims and communities affected by Hurricane Sandy. This funding is in addition to the substitute amendment submitted by Chairman Rogers (KY). – ADOPTED 228 - 192
Final Passage of H.R. 152 (241-180) — "Making supplemental appropriations for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, and for other purposes."
Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Inauguration Day is also a time for new beginnings, a chance to learn from the mistakes and missed opportunities of the past as we re-engage in some vitally important debates about our future. Too often over the past four years, political considerations have trumped the need to put our country on a sound financial footing and a path to prosperity. . . . And we should start with spending and debt; because if we don’t get a handle on that, nothing else matters. If we don’t work together to strengthen our entitlement programs, they will go bankrupt. . . . And if we don’t work together to control the debt, then the cost of our interest payments alone will eventually crowd out funding for things we all agree on — from defense, to infrastructure and assistance for those who need it most. In short, the debate we’re now engaged in over the growing federal debt is about much more than numbers on a page. It’s about the cost of inaction in terms of promises broken, jobs lost, and dreams deferred. And that’s why there’s simply no more time to waste.”

Unfortunately, in his Inaugural Address, President Obama said little to nothing about the way forward in reining in this country’s excessive spending and debt and reforming entitlement programs. The AP noted, “In keeping with the objective of inaugural addresses, Obama chose to draw attention to the aspirations he hopes will define him rather than the conflicts that have characterized his relations with a divided Congress. He conceded that ‘outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time,’ but forged ahead with a call for training more math and science teachers, for building roads and even for funding more research labs. If there was a way to reconcile such spending with demands to stabilize the nation's debt, he didn't mention it.”

And in a story titled, “President Obama dodges ‘hard choices’ on entitlements,” Politico writes, “President Barack Obama insisted four years ago that the nation must make ‘hard decisions’ to preserve entitlement programs. But on Monday, the ‘hard choices’ he spoke of on health care and the deficit came with a major caveat: He’s not willing to give up much
. . . . His inaugural address promised an ambitious progressive agenda — and laid bare Obama’s deeply conflicted relationship with entitlement reform. . . . The president has never precisely defined what hard choices he would be willing to make on Medicare and Social Security. It’s not even clear what he would do if he had the power to remake the programs on his own, without worrying about opposition from Republicans or Democrats.

“And though Obama has talked about shared sacrifice from both parties, he has not gotten to the point in deficit negotiations at which he’s had to pressure rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers to cross their red line on the sacred issues . . . . Unless Obama seizes the opportunity in the next few months, entitlement reform will hang over his second term, lurking like a legacy-killer if he hands off the task to the next president, deficit hawks warn. ‘Either you get a handle on health care and Social Security solvency or he will have a failed presidency,’ said Alan Simpson, co-chairman of the president’s fiscal commission and a former Republican senator from Wyoming. ‘It is that simple. I don’t think he ran for reelection to have a failed presidency.’”

As Leader McConnell said, “Over the past four years, while the President focused on re-election and too many Senate Democrats focused on avoiding tough decisions, the debt grew by more than six trillion dollars. We saw the President blast House Republicans for doing their job and passing a budget while Senate Democrats didn’t even propose one. And rather than work with us to save existing entitlements, we saw the President team up with Democrats in Congress to force through a brand new entitlement that will make it even harder to cover the cost of programs that we already have. In short, Democrats have put off all the hard stuff until now. And our problems have only gotten worse. But that was the first term. . . . We can do better. I know my constituents expect better than what they’ve been getting from Congress in recent years. So should we.”

Tags: Washington, D.C. White House, Congress, entitlements, spending, debt, 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 5:24 PM - Post Link


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