As we enter the final legislative week of the year with only the Senate in session, GOP leadership is coming full circle. They began 2013 by capitulating on the fiscal cliff tax increases. Now they are on the cusp of passing a bad budget deal that will obviate our leverage for months to come.
Moreover, after Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) abolished the filibuster on presidential nominees, the Senate is prepared to jam through a number of liberal nominations. Instead of fighting Reid, Republicans are rewarding his bad behavior. The only thing conservatives can look forward to is the upcoming year of primary challenges.
Last Thursday, the House voted to approve the Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)-Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) budget (H. J. Res. 59) with overwhelming bipartisan support. Only 62 Republicans voted against it.
Under this agreement Congress would reinstate more than half of the sequester for the next two years. Budget caps would be set at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015; current law is $967 billion & $995 billion respectively. he extra $64 billion in spending is offset with a hodgepodge of intangible, notional, or unverifiable collection of savings spread out over 10 years.
This Nov. 13, 2013 file photo shows House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, speaking with Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. on Capitol Hill in Washington at the start of a Congressional Budget Conference. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)
There are a number of conservative concerns with this deal.
Budgetary: The sequester cuts represented the only real accomplishment of the GOP Congress as it relates to trimming government spending. The Ryan-Murray deal is the old Washington trick of reinstating $63 billion in spending up front with the promise of offsetting the spending over 10 years. Moreover, this agreement has paved the way to vitiating the sequester altogether. Henceforth, the default position will be to undo the sequester. So every year we will spend more by offsetting the costs over 10 years.
Taxes: This bill raises taxes on airline tickets to further fund the TSA. Taxes and fees on airfare already represents 25-30 percent of the cost of the ticket. Also, now that we have started the precedent of repealing the annual sequester, Democrats will have future leverage to push through tax increases in order to offset the new annual spending. Finally, the bill contains a provision that makes it easier for the Senate to raise taxes across the board. Section 114 of the bill repeals the budget point of order against offsetting spending with tax increases in the Senate. Under current rules, any senator can force a 60-vote threshold through a point of order against any amendment that raises taxes. This bill allows the majority to raise taxes under the guise of offsetting spending increases with a 51-vote threshold.
TSA officer Kathleen Howard directs travelers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Obamacare: This bill funds every penny of Obamacare. And given that is sets discretionary spending for a full two years, Republicans have now lost any future leverage to fight Obamacare in the budget.
Military Pensions: While increasing spending for liberal domestic programs and rich defense contractors, this bill uses savings from military pensions. While there is room to reform the military pensions, those serving in combat should definitely not have their pensions cut, especially to line the pockets of less deserving programs. This is a prime example of dyslexic priorities expressed in the budget deal.
Immigration: One of the under-appreciated outcomes of the October budget fight, from a conservative perspective, was that amnesty was pushed off the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. When observing some of the recent statements and actions of top GOP House leaders, it is clear they are itching to pass immigration legislation. There is strong reason to believe the Ryan-Murray deal was forged for two full years in order to clear the agenda for immigration.
People opposed to current immigration legislation in Congress gather at a rally on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 15, 2013. The event is sponsored by a group called the Black American Leadership Alliance, which, in their words, does not want to "provide amnesty to over 11 million people who have entered the country illegally." Photo Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Rewarding Bad Behavior: Sen. Reid just blew up the Senate by abolishing the filibuster for nominees. Now Republicans are rewarding his bad behavior by giving him the votes to pass a raw deal.
Despite the overwhelming support among House Republicans, initially most of the Senate Republicans were skeptical of the deal. Much of the strong support in the House was a result of Ryan’s influence in that body, something that doesn’t extend as strongly into the Senate.
Late last week, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) had the opportunity to whip up the conference against the deal and deny Democrats the 60 votes they need to pass the bill. Unfortunately, McConnell made it clear that while he would probably vote against it because of his primary challenge, he would not round up the votes to block the bill.
Over the weekend, a trickle of Republicans began to break ranks and offer their support for cloture, which is expected to take place on Tuesday. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) announced they would vote for cloture. With no counter-force from McConnell to bring Republicans back into the fold, the outcome of this bill is a forgone conclusion.
Jeh Johnson was just named as Homeland Security Secretary. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The Democrats will continue to jam through their last-minute nominees using the nuclear option and thereby confirming them with just 51 votes. For example, Democrats plan to ram through the nomination of Jeh Johnson to serve as the next Secretary of Homeland Security. Johnson shares all of the views of President Obama on immigration. He will continue the policies of open borders, hamstringing our border agents, and promoting administrative amnesty. Given Obama’s refusal to uphold our immigration laws, there is no excuse for any Republican to support Johnson, even those who are sympathetic to an amnesty bill.
On Thursday, the Senate will vote to confirm Janet Yellen as the next Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. As Vice Chair of the Fed, Yellen has been even more zealous in pushing monetary stimulus and interventionist policies than Ben Bernanke. She has refused to divulge her plans for winding down the endless monetary stimulus and how long she plans to keep interest rates below the level of inflation. She is also vehemently opposed to any congressional oversight or audit of the Fed. Sadly, she is likely to be confirmed with bipartisan support.
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