Will Republicans Be Obama Enablers?
This is a critical time for President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans. Republicans in the House and Senate need to make a political and policy choice in the next few months: Are they going to be Obama enablers or fighters?
If they choose the path of Obama enablers, then they will increase the debt limit, implement the recommendations of the President???s debt commission, and stand down on a full repeal of ObamaCare. Sen. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) has a plan to pay the interest on the federal debt if the debt limit increase isn???t passed by the end of March.
The President???s debt commission recommended steep hikes in taxes to balance the budget and it???s rumored that Senators Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.), Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.) and Mike Crapo (R.-Idaho) are working on a plan similar to the President???s. If the bipartisan ???solution??? to the debt includes tax hikes, then Republicans will have breached the trust of the American people to stop the expansion of the federal government.
ObamaCare needs to be repealed ASAP, and if Republicans don???t pursue funding riders to stop implementation of the plan, conservatives should tell them to man up. These three issues will be a big test for congressional Republicans.
If they choose to be Obama fighters, however, then they will balance the budget, defund elements of ObamaCare and make the tax cuts permanent. Conservatives want to balance the budget with no tax increases, and Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee???s version of the Balanced Budget Amendment forces Congress to pass any increased taxes by a two-thirds majority. Congress should attack ObamaCare at every appropriations opportunity and should propose that not another cent of the taxpayer money be used to fund this big-government scheme. Conservatives also want to force a vote on real tax reform that includes making tax cuts permanent.
Are congressional Republicans going to be Obama enablers or conservatives? We???ll find out over the next few months.
The President???s Budget
The President???s budget is out this week. Last week, President Obama met with congressional Republicans and promised cuts to federal spending and the deficit. Yet, according to White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the President???s plan is expected to include increases in some government spending that the GOP opposes.
Word has leaked of a proposal to force states to increase taxes on businesses to pay for shortfalls in state unemployment insurance. Also, the budget plan is expected to contain the President???s idea, as mapped out in the State of the Union, for a new stimulus plan. Republicans, independents and Democrats should all oppose any increase in government spending or increase in taxes.
Socialist Trade Adjustment Assistance
The House failed to pass an extension of Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) last week. The program gives money to people who supposedly lose jobs as a result of free trade. This program costs taxpayers $2.4 billion a year. Anybody who loses a job has access to unemployment benefits, but this program seems to give disproportional aid to individuals who can claim to have lost a job because of free trade.
Free-trade members of Congress have used this socialist program to get approval of free-trade agreements in the past. It is expected that a new extension will be married to the Columbia Free Trade measure and/or an extension of Andean Trade Preferences. Conservatives should just say no to this terrible program.
A Bloated Continuing Resolution
Congress must by March 4 pass a bill to fund the federal government to the end of the year. The conservative Republican Study Committee wants Republicans to keep the Pledge to America and cut $100 billion this year. Some more moderate members have pushed a lower number.
If the House ends up passing a $100 billion in cuts, the fight moves to a Senate controlled by Democrats. It will be interesting to see what final number comes from the Senate and if the President will threaten a veto. Watch this battle play out this week on the House floor and in Senate press conferences.
Patriot Act Extension
An extension of certain provisions of the Patriot Act failed last week in the House under Suspension Calendar rules requiring a two-thirds vote. Under regular rules An extension will most likely pass the House and Senate this week, and be signed into law, but Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) has pledged to fight an extension , touching off an extended debate between the national-security and civil-liberty wings of the conservative movement.