Wonkbook: So many budget proposals
There are two budget debates going on in Washington right now. One is about the budget for next year, fiscal year 2012. That's the debate that the Obama administration will kick off when they release their budget on Monday. The other is what happens for the rest of this year, fiscal year 2011. That's the debate Republicans are going to kick off when they release their budget proposal next week. Confused yet?
Recall that for all the lame duck session's productivity, Senate Democrats didn't manage to overcome Republican opposition to a package funding the government for fiscal year 2011. Instead, they passed a resolution keeping the funding going for a few more months. That bill is coming up for renewal soon, and Republicans are hoping to use it as leverage for some big cuts. At the same time, this is the season when the government traditionally begins debating its proposal for the next fiscal year, too. Which means we're going to have a bit of a budget-proposal pile-up next week: We're going to get two proposals next week -- and perhaps three, if the Republican Study Committee decides to go its own way -- but they'll be covering different time periods. Republicans in Congress are looking at the rest of this year (and at some point, Democrats in Congress are going to have to weigh in on that, too), while the administration is looking to next year.
The House GOP previewed its budget cuts proposal, report Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray: "House Republicans sketched their vision for a smaller federal government Wednesday, proposing sharp spending cuts that would wipe out family planning programs, take 4,500 cops off the street and slice 10 percent from a food program that aids pregnant women and their babies. Top White House priorities also would come under the knife: Key Republicans are proposing to defund President Obama's high-speed rail initiative, slash clean energy programs and gut the Office of Science by 20 percent - cuts that would deal a direct blow to Obama's innovation agenda. They would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 17 percent."
"All told, House leaders are aiming to cut programs unrelated to national security by more than $40 billion over the next several months, an unprecedented reduction...The full impact of the Republican plan was not immediately clear. Rogers released only a partial list of spending decreases measured against Obama's 2011 budget request, which was never enacted, rather than actual spending levels. He is expected to announce the complete spending plan later this week and present it for debate in the House starting Tuesday."
Conservatives are opposing GOP spending proposals from the right, reports Janet Hook: "Ultimately, the plan calls for a 9% reduction in nondefense, discretionary spending from 2010. It would eliminate some programs entirely, among them family planning for low-income Americans and the AmeriCorps national service program. But so many conservatives complained about the bill, aides to the GOP leadership said, that it might be revised with further cuts before it is introduced. Congress must approve a new spending measure for the current fiscal year by March 4, when short-term legislation that has kept money flowing for government operations expires. The bill must also pass the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority and are certain to push back."
Obama and the House look ready to cooperate on free trade and education, reports Perry Bacon: "President Obama and a trio of top House Republicans largely played down looming clashes at an hour-long lunch Wednesday at the White House, instead discussing issues of potential compromise, such as an education overhaul and free-trade agreements...Republicans have said they will support a free-trade agreement with South Korea that the Obama administration negotiated at the end of last year. And the president and congressional Republicans have in the past backed education proposals that emphasize increased accountability for schools whose students persistently get low scores on standardized tests. Next week, Obama plans to begin his push to get Congress to adopt his education proposals."
Fed chair Ben Bernanke urged Congress to pass an increase in the debt limit, report Neil Irwin and Peter Wallsten: "Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke offered dire warnings Wednesday about the damage Congress could wreak if it refrains from raising the government's debt limit this spring and forces the country to default on its debts.
Testifying before the House Budget Committee, Bernanke added his voice to a debate that could soon become a high-stakes contest of brinksmanship between Republicans and Democrats. With the national debt hitting record levels, President Obama needs to reach agreement with Congress on increasing the legal cap on how much money the government can borrow, or the federal government will be unable to pay some of its debts."
Folk interlude: Alexa Woodward plays "Darkest Days".
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Still to come: Interest groups oppose killing off Fannie and Freddie; states forge ahead with health care cuts; a group of Republicans want to require bills address a "single issue"; the Obama administration is cutting heating aid to low-income people; and two red pandas try to open a door.
Interest groups are mobilizing against a Fannie/Freddie overhaul, reports Zachary Goldfarb: "To many Republicans and the Obama administration, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government's mortgage giants, are ill. But rather than healing them, both sides agree that the companies should be left to die and that their support for the housing market should wither away. Some influential interest groups are taking issue with that surprising bipartisan consensus. They include small banks, real estate agents and consumer groups, who all say that Fannie and Freddie, or something similar, are crucial for sustaining the struggling housing market...Although Republicans and the administration agree that Fannie and Freddie have got to go, that's where the agreement ends."
The GOP wants to try aid to workers displaced by trade to approving new trade deals: http://wapo.st/fBVpx7
Annie Lowrey profiles Ron Paul -- and his plans to end, or at least bother, the Fed: "Last year Paul had what may be his greatest triumph as a legislator. He and other members of Congress successfully placed a provision to perform an audit of the Federal Reserve into the Dodd-Frank law, against the strong opposition of both the Fed and the Obama administration. The bill also forced the bank to release the details of 21,000 loans granted to financial firms during the credit crunch. Now Paul is in charge of the House subcommittee that actually oversees the Fed. That might cause some awkward moments, to say the least. The title of his book is not misleading. The central bank 'is immoral, unconstitutional, impractical, promotes bad economics, and undermines liberty,' he writes."
It's dangerous to treat the budget as a bargaining chip, writes David Wessel: "The White House argues there's no point in the president proposing anything serious on big health- and retirement-benefit programs until Republicans are ready to deal...By casting the budget as a bargaining chip in a two-year poker game with Republicans rather than showing gutsy leadership and offering ways to slow benefit spending, the president runs the risk that no one will take his rhetoric about taming the deficit seriously. Here's the tough reality: Even if defense spending goes from 4.7% of GDP to 2.8% by fiscal 2021, if stimulus spending ends, if domestic spending is cut and then frozen and if taxes are raised on upper-income Americans, the debt-GDP ratio still keeps climbing, Goldman Sachs projects."
Adorable animals failing at human activities interlude: Two red pandas try to open a door.
State health spending is facing deep cuts, reports Julie Appleby: "Washington’s quandary is shared by many states: Demand for health-related services is growing, voters don’t want to raise taxes, payments to doctors, hospitals and clinics have already been reduced and states risk losing federal funds if they cut eligibility for the joint federal-state Medicaid health program for the poor and disabled...Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told them they can trim some optional services, such as dental care, and those with budget deficits can cut eligibility for non-disabled, non-pregnant adults above 133 percent of the poverty line, which is $14,500 for an individual. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia currently cover adults above that level."
The House GOP's malpractice reform efforts have hit a snag due to concern from Texas' reps: http://politi.co/hKpT68
Health care reform gives states more power than the federal government, writes Kathleen Sebelius: "The Affordable Care Act puts states in the driver's seat because they often understand their health needs better than anyone else - and that is why it is so frustrating to hear opponents of reform falsely attack the law as'"nationalized health care.' The truth is that states aren't just participating in implementation of the law; they're leading it. Consider the state-based health insurance marketplaces that will be created under the law in 2014. These marketplaces, called exchanges, will allow individuals and small-business owners to pool their purchasing power to negotiate lower rates. They'll also serve as a one-stop shop where insurers must compete to deliver the best deal."
Drug companies should be able to market drugs for the same condition together, writes Ian Spatz: http://nyti.ms/gwU9Cs
A group of Republicans wants to limit bills to one topic, reports Shira Toeplitz: "Republican Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso of Wyoming want to end the practice of weighing down bills with irrelevant add-ons by confining every bill to a single issue, a companion proposal to one already proposed in the House. Lawmakers often combine issues into a single bill in an effort to drum up a coalition of support and move it quickly through Congress. But Enzi, Barasso and their co-sponsor in the House, freshman Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), introduced a bill this week to change that because they believe the current system does not give members enough time to review the legislation. 'Every bill voted on in the U.S. Congress should be considered on its own merit in an open and transparent way before the American people,' said Schweikert."
Democratic House members are pushing for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from campaign finance cases: http://politi.co/e8mV4S
Businesses are worried the House GOP will expand an immigration enforcement program, reports Shankar Vedantam: "In an early indicator of how congressional Republicans will legislate on immigration, House GOP leaders are expanding an inquiry into an enforcement program that allows employers to check the immigration status of employees. The E-Verify program has long been championed by Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's immigration panel, which will hold a hearing on it Thursday. Many business owners believe that Gallegly and other House Republicans want to make E-Verify, currently a voluntary program for companies, mandatory. Critics of such a move, many of them farmers, warn that it could destabilize the agricultural economy."
Teacher's colleges are fighting attempts to grade them: http://nyti.ms/fLYDx7
Progressives should be open to Social Security cuts, writes Matt Miller: "Advocates for these built-in increases (which didn't exist before the late 1970s) say Social Security should always replace the same portion of wages as it does today; since real wages will grow as the economy grows, the logic runs, so should benefits...But in an era when health care and pensions for seniors are poised to crowd out cash for every other public priority, or else require tax increases beyond what even liberals think would be good for the economy, this shouldn't be the left's only objective...Should Democrats really say trillions in automatic pension increases over today's levels are 'untouchable,' when there's no similar 'trust fund' guaranteeing great teachers for poor children, universal preschool, repairs for America's crumbling roads and sewers or help for [insert your favorite non-elderly priority here]?"
When ads aren't short enough interlude: This year's Super Bowl ads in two minutes.
Obama will cut energy assistance for the poor, reports Marc Ambinder: "President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the government’s energy assistance fund for poor people, officials briefed on the subject told National Journal. It's the biggest domestic spending cut disclosed so far, and one that will likely generate the most heat from the president's traditional political allies. Such complaints might satisfy the White House, which has a vested interest in convincing Americans that it is serious about budget discipline. One White House friend, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said earlier today that a Republican proposal to cut home heating oil counted as an 'extreme idea' that would 'set the country backwards.'"
EPA administrator Lisa Jackson got a frosty reception in the House, reports Darryl Fears: "EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson got a cool reception Wednesday in her first appearance before a House energy subcommittee under Republican rule. Conservatives grilled Jackson on her agency's ability to regulate greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, saying it would burden manufacturers with expensive costs. EPA regulations would 'reduce manufacturing output in Michigan by $3 billion,' Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. Last week, Upton and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) unveiled legislation that would strip the EPA of its ability to force industries to lower substantial greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming under the Clean Air Act."
Republicans vow to block Obama's high speed rail proposals: http://on.wsj.com/gxEIXZ
Climate denialism has become Republican orthodoxy, writes Brad Plumer: "Take Fred Upton, the new chair of the House energy and commerce committee, who is working with Inhofe on the stop-the-EPA bill. Upton once thought climate change was 'a serious problem.' But, just this week, he said at a National Journal event, 'I do not say that it is man-made.' Surprisingly, he didn't feel the need to explain his shift--he recently told Politico that he probably wouldn’t bother to hold climate-science hearings...At the hearing on Wednesday, Texas Republican Joe Barton was simply content to quote former EPA economist Alan Carlin saying that the theory that humans were warming the planet failed to 'conform with real world data.' (He didn’t trouble himself explaining what real-world data he was referring to. Record temperatures? Dwindling ice caps? Who can say?)"
Closing credits: Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Dylan Matthews and Michelle Williams. Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais Photo.
| February 10, 2011; 6:50 AM ET
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