Conservatives Pushing Massive Cuts to Federal Spending
Congress appears to be on the verge of historic cuts to federal spending.
They‚??re part of the debate over a long-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government until Sept. 30. The House passed a record $61 billion in cuts and eliminated federal funding for ObamaCare, abortion and environmental global warming regulations. The Senate is expected to commence an extended debate on the House-passed CR this or next week. The priorities of big-spending liberals in the Senate are expected to clash with the fiscally conservative leaders in the Republican-controlled House.
Expect President Obama to oppose many of the cuts. This fight is expected to continue right up until the government would shut down (March 18, if they can‚??t cut a deal). This fight may determine the government-spending path for the next two years.
The debate on the long-term CR has been put off. Congress had to pass a short-term CR to keep the government running to March 18. That CR purported to make $4 billion in cuts to spending, including $2.7 billion worth of earmarks. This short-term CR cut $2.7 billion in ‚??funding that was made available in fiscal year 2010 that would have gone to earmarked programs and projects.‚?Ě
The good news is that the programs that fund earmarks are being cut, and outside estimates on total earmarks in FY 2010 would even make this number higher. The bad news is that, but for these cuts, earmarked money would have been funded this year. How did the House and Senate cut $2.7 billion in non-existent earmarks and have any other earmarks continued as part of the long-term CR? Citizens Against Government Waste estimated that in FY 2010 there were 9,129 earmarked projects, costing taxpayers $16.5 billion in all the 13 appropriations bills. Hopefully these funds are also hit in the next CR.
Abortion, Global Warming and ObamaCare Money
House Republicans seem to be negotiating against themselves on funding riders attached to the long-term CR. A funding rider is a provision that prevents money from being spent on different projects. Quite a few policy riders were attached to H.R. 1, the bill that has passed the House and is sitting on the Senate Calendar to fund the government for the remainder of the year.
Conservatives are worried that Republicans will use these riders to keep the final figure on spending cuts at $61 billion. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) attached a provision to the long-term CR to defund annual appropriations of ObamaCare. Republicans had already jettisoned Rep. Steve King‚??s (R-Iowa) attempt to do just that. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) attached a rider to defund Planned Parenthood. Another target of the Left is the rider attached by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) to ‚??temporarily prevent EPA‚??s onerous greenhouse gas rules from going into effect and inflicting major damage to our economy.‚?Ě
Balanced Budget Amendment
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) forced a vote on a Senate that ‚??Congress should pass and the States should agree to an amendment to the Constitution requiring a Federal balanced budget.‚?Ě The vote last week was 58 to 40 in favor. This is a good whip count for conservatives to see who is in favor and against the general idea of a balanced budget amendment.
All 47 Republicans voted for the idea of a balanced budget amendment joined by 11 Democrats. Members of the Senate Democrat Caucus who voted for Lee include Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Herb Kohl (D-Wisc.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Ben Nelson (D-Fla.), Bill Nelson (D-Neb.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.). Of these 11, seven are running for re-election in tough states and one is retiring. The other three are part of a new breed of Democrats who are open to the idea of using the Constitution to balance the budget.
Professor Peter Diamond
The Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a hearing on Professor Peter Diamond to be on the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Diamond is expected to face some strong opposition because he advocates the Obama ‚??Stimulus‚?Ě plan.
Diamond is a Keynesian economist and has written little about monetary policy or banking regulation. Expect Diamond to be yet another proponent of the expansive view of the Federal Reserve and an advocate who would want to use the Federal Reserve as a no-limit credit card for fiscally irresponsible states.