Policymakers still aren’t ready to radically cut government spending. A tentative deal has been struck to trim about $33 billion in the continuing resolution to fund the discretionary functions of the federal government past April 8.
Before the deal, Republicans and Democrats spent last week trying to find somebody to blame for a potential government shutdown. The Republicans were blaming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not passing the continuing resolution. The Democrats were blaming the Tea Party movement for pressuring Republicans to seek $61 billion in cuts to the estimated $1.5 trillion in debt for this year. Crisis averted.
Now the crisis talk and blame game will shift to a government shutdown over an increasing of the statutory $14.29 trillion limit on our collective national debt. In the next few weeks, the federal government will hit the permissible level of debt and will need the consent of Congress to borrow more money.
The Republicans want to use the debt-limit debate to force consideration of a balanced budget amendment, a constitutional limit on federal spending with supermajority requirements for raising taxes. Democrats will use the debt-limit increase to attack defense spending and to play protector of the big three entitlement programs???Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. If the debt limit stalls, both parties will try to pin the blame on the other party.
The American people may have to wait for another battalion of Tea Party Representatives, senators and a Tea Party-friendly President to come to Washington, D.C, for deeper cuts. It does not look like Capitol Hill and the White House are ready to radically cut the size and scope of the federal government.
Congress is getting involved in Libya policy and freshman senators are engaging in a fight on the issue. Clearly, President Obama was more concerned about consulting the United Nations and the Arab League than members of Congress. Senators and House members agree that the President hasn’t clearly stated the goal in Libya, yet they don’t seem to agree if the goal should be regime change, a no-fly zone or something else.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requesting passage of a bipartisan resolution stating “that removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest and therefore we should authorize the President to accomplish this goal.” That resolution may be debated soon in the Senate.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a resolution last week declaring that President Obama’s actions in Libya violate the Constitution. Conservatives will be split on this issue, yet we can agree that President Obama needs to explain to the American people our specific goals in Libya. Maybe a full congressional debate on the matter is the only way to force the President to explain to American people and Congress our mission in Libya.
President Obama’s (Un)Transparency Award
Politico reported last week that President Obama received a transparency award from groups advocating transparent government. The award was presented in a meeting closed to the press and the American public.
This is at a time when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a scathing report about secrecy in the Obama Administration. The committee documented political screening of the Freedom of Information Act request process on the part of administration officials.
The report indicates that senior political appointees reviewed FOIA requests and heavily redacted documents to prevent embarrassment to the administration. Chairman Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) said of the report that “political appointees do not have a right to stop or delay releases of information through FOIA because they find them embarrassing, inconvenient or politically sensitive.” The Obama Administration has conducted some important transparency policies, yet not all in the administration are practicing what they preach.
School Choice Faces Trouble in Senate
House Speaker John Boehner introduced and saw approved legislation to reinstate opportunity scholarships for poor kids in Washington, D.C. His bill passed the House, 225-195, last week. It would provide some competition and better schools for children in the Nation’s Capital. The President opposed the measure and pushed instead to pump billions into state education programs with little to no accountability. Senate passage of Boehner’s plan is going to be tough.
This fight over D.C. kids reflects the division between right and left on education policy. Conservatives want freedom for kids to choose good public, private or charter schools. Liberals stand behind a failed status quo.