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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)

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Budget Bill Is A Big Compromise with Some Key Conservative Victories And Some Loses

Today in Washington, DC - Dec 17, 2015:

The House  reconvened at 9 AM today and continued discussion on a Budget Bill.

Today the House took up and passed this morning H.R. 2029 (240-185) - making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes; providing for proceedings during the period from December 19, 2015, through January 4, 2016; and for other purposes."

Speaker Ryan said in a statement concerning passage of H.R. 2029, “Today, the House took a pivotal step towards rewriting our broken tax code by ending Washington's days of extending tax policies one year at a time. This package of permanent extenders will shield families from a tax hike and provide businesses with greater economic certainty to grow and prosper, which means higher wages and more full-time jobs for American workers. It also includes several bipartisan reforms to rein in the IRS, such as firing employees who target taxpayers based on their personal religious or political beliefs. As I’ve said before, comprehensive tax reform is essential to restoring a more confident America, and that’s why it will be central to our bold, pro-growth agenda in 2016. I commend Chairman Brady and the entire Ways and Means Committee for their work on this important measure.”

Yesterday the House passed:
H.R.2297 (425-0) - Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015
H.R. 2820 Concurred 421-0 with Senate amendment. - H.R.2820 - Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act of 2015
H.R. 3654 (w/o objection - "To require a report on United States strategy to combat terrorist use of social media, and for other purposes."
H.R. 3750 (421-2) — "To waive the passport fees for first responders proceeding abroad to aid a foreign country suffering from a natural disaster."
H.R. 3878 (Voice Vote as amended) — "To enhance cybersecurity information sharing and coordination at ports in the United States, and for other purposes."
H.R. 4239 (423-0 — "To require intelligence community reporting on foreign fighter flows to and from terrorist safe havens abroad, and for other purposes."
H.R. 4246 (419-1) — "To exempt for an additional 4-year period, from the application of the means-test presumption of abuse under chapter 7, qualifying members of reserve components of the Armed Forces and members of the National Guard who, after September 11, 2001, are called to active duty or to perform a homeland defense activity for not less than 90 days."
S. 1090 (420-1) — "To amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide eligibility for broadcasting facilities to receive certain disaster assistance, and for other purposes."

The Senate reconvened at 11 AM today.

The Senate is expected today to pass H.R. 3594 which extends the federal Perkins Loan program for two years.

Republican senators met this morning to discuss the agreements reached on appropriations for Fiscal Year 2016 and on a package of tax relief provisions.

The House is expected to vote on the tax relief measure on Thursday and the appropriations package on Friday. If both are passed, the Senate could consider them on Friday.

Americans for Limited Government is calling attention to a provision in the omnibus spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2016 that will quadruple the number of H2-B visas for low-skilled workers ALG President Rick Manning said, "At a time of heightened security concerns over terrorism and immigration in the wake of Paris and San Bernardino, Congress is considering an omnibus spending bill that includes as a provision quadrupling the number of H2-B visas for low-skilled workers. This is as irresponsible on the security front as it is politically deaf, dumb, and blind. House Republicans cannot possibly vote to keep the gates wide open, in the process making America less secure, while also throwing Americans workers under the bus. Now is the time for House members to stand up for sanity, and reject the special interests who are selling America's future down the river."

"Paul Ryan may not have the votes to pass the omnibus, with Nancy Pelosi and Democrats balking over the lifting of the oil export ban. It is ironic that Republicans' one major concession from Democrats is the reason why Ryan's first deal as Speaker is now falling apart at the seams.

"Republican leaders in both houses of Congress should pass a six-week continuing resolution, and this time work with Republicans to put a government funding bill on the President's desk that reflects the majority's priorities. With Democrats balking at a bill that in actuality gave them the most concessions, rank and file Republicans should refuse to bail out President Obama by funding the remainder of his radical agenda.

"A six-week continuing resolution that extends well past Christmas will provide the time necessary to have a sober and honest conversation about the direction of our nation. Speaker Ryan has made a big deal out of talking up restoring Congress' Article One prerogatives. Now, by rejecting this one-sided funding bill, House Republicans will give their new Speaker a mulligan after his first attempt went way out of bounds."

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed the agreement on a final appropriations bill to fund the government through next year. He explained that while it’s not the one most conservative Republicans would have written on their own, given that has to be signed by President Obama, it contains many positive provisions worth supporting.

McConnell said, “It would enact permanent tax relief for American families and small businesses. That will lead to more jobs, more opportunity, and more economic growth here in America.

“Another way this legislation will help support jobs and grow the economy is by permanently eliminating a relic from the 1970s. This 40-year energy ban has cost our economy jobs and it strengthens oil exporters like Iran and Russia.

“It’s no secret that Russia views its energy resources as a foreign policy tool. It’s no secret that Iran views its energy resources as a component of national power — nor is it a secret that President Obama recently granted the Iranian regime permission to export those resources. Many think it’s time the American people were treated at least as fairly as Iran.

“This critical energy reform would help strengthen America’s jobs and America’s safety. But it’s only a small part of how the overall bill would support our national security. . . .

“We know this legislation would, at a time of new and evolving terror threats, bring badly needed reform to the Visa Waiver Program. We know it would bolster the FBI’s ability to confront terror within our borders.

“We know this legislation would prevent the transfer of dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo’s secure detention center into our communities.”

He continued, “Its provisions will help advance other important conservative priorities too, like strengthening the First Amendment and helping protect families from a health law that attacks the Middle Class.”

Indeed, The New York Times reports, “In a big package of tax and spending legislation that Congress is likely to approve this week, Republicans have forced President Obama to swallow three changes that undermine his signature health care law< including a two-year delay of a tax on high-cost insurance plans provided by employers to workers.. . .

“The legislation will also suspend a tax on medical devices for two years. The device tax, which took effect in 2013, will be suspended through 2017. Congress also agreed to suspend for one year a tax on health insurance providers. The tax applies to insurance purchased by individuals, families and many businesses, as well as to private plans that manage care for millions of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.”

Politico adds, “The year-end budget deal didn’t repeal the Cadillac tax but delayed it for two years, raising doubt about whether it will ever take effect since every major presidential candidate opposes it. That change, along with several others that eliminate or delay Obamacare financing, constitute the biggest legislative changes yet to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement since its 2010 passage.

“The changes take an ax to the economic underpinnings of the law and create new headaches for Democrats as they try to protect Obamacare after 2016. Republicans, meanwhile, can brag about how they shut off the spigots that pay for the law.”

And according to The Hill, “ObamaCare advocates are growing fearful that several key taxes frozen in Wednesday’s budget deal will never go into effect. The pair of budget deals negotiated by congressional leaders would halt or delay three ObamaCare taxes, forcing the president to make his biggest concession yet since his healthcare law was passed. . . .

“‘The fear for advocates of the tax is that once Congress starts delaying it, it won’t last,’ said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation and former Clinton administration health adviser.

“Most significantly, the legislation would again push back the Cadillac tax on employer healthcare benefits — a measure at the center of the Obama administration's efforts to contain healthcare costs.

“In total, those changes would take a $35 billion bite out of the law’s revenue stream, according to analyses released by congressional budget scorekeepers on Wednesday.”

Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner discussed another important provision in the bill: “The spending bill released by Congress overnight dealt a victory to Obamacare opponents, blocking a bailout of insurers reporting losses through the healthcare program.

“Payments to insurers through a once-obscure provision within the law known as the risk corridors have become a major issue as insurers have been losing money by participating in President Obama's healthcare law, forcing some to contemplate exiting the market.

“In plain English, the text means that HHS cannot use money from its general funds to subsidize insurer losses. The only money available will be whatever gets collected from insurers beating expectations. Without being able to depend on the federal backstop, insurers are more likely to respond to losses by proposing higher insurance premiums.”

On some other key provisions of the legislation, Lachlan Markay of the Washington Free Beacon, writes, “First Amendment advocates are heaping praise on a tentative spending deal agreed to by congressional leaders this week, saying it heads off Obama administration attempts to restrict spending on political speech through administrative or executive action.

The ‘omnibus’ spending bill, hammered out in negotiations between congressional leaders this week, would block proposals to restrict political speech by nonprofit groups and to force companies to disclose more information about their political spending.

“It would also prevent the implementation of new taxes on contributions to charities and other tax-exempt groups, prevent the federal government from forcing political spending disclosure by federal contractors, and explicitly prohibit IRS employees from conducting business using private email accounts. . . .

“If the legislation passes, it will mark a major victory for political free speech advocates, according to Phil Kerpen, president of the group American Commitment, which has organized grassroots campaigns to prevent federal restrictions on free speech by nonprofit groups. ‘The deal is phenomenal on First Amendment issues," Kerpen said in an email. >Nobody got everything they wanted on economic policy in this deal, but these First Amendment victories will allow advocates to keep fighting without the government limiting political speech.’

The Washington Post elaborates, “The omnibus legislation would prohibit the Internal Revenue Service from using any federal funds in the coming fiscal year to revise or issue new rules governing the political spending of tax-exempt advocacy groups. The measure would effectively halt a two-year-long attempt by the IRS to set a clear limit on how much money such nonprofit groups, set up under Section 501(c)(4) of the tax code, can spend on politics. . . .

“This week’s budget deal also includes language that would prevent the Securities and Exchange Commission from advancing a regulation that would require public corporations to disclose their political donations, a rule Democrats have been prodding the agency to implement.”

On Second Amendment concerns, The Hill writes, “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has come up empty in her efforts to eliminate a budget rider that has halted nearly all government research into gun violence for 17 years. The . . . spending bill unveiled early Wednesday morning keeps in place the controversial amendment, which Pelosi had told gun control groups was a priority in the budget talks. . . . The top House Democrat added the gun research ban to her list of demands for GOP leaders during budget negotiations — the only gun-related provision that she made part of the budget talks . . . .”

Leader McConnell concluded today, “[H]ere’s the bottom line in my view. This is legislation worth supporting.

“It doesn’t mean this is the legislation I would’ve written on my own. It doesn’t mean this is the legislation Speaker Ryan would’ve written on his own either. It’s not perfect and we certainly didn’t get everything that we wanted.

“But it makes strides in defending our nation at a time of global unrest. It advances conservative priorities in several areas and enacts significant reform in several areas, on everything from tax relief to energy policy to cybersecurity.”

Tags: Budget Bill, Big Compromise, Omnibus,  Ronald Reagon, Government is the problem,To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. and "Like" Facebook Page - Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 1:00 PM - Post Link


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