Jason Pye

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House GOP to bring back earmarks?

After taking control of the House of Representatives in a wave election in 2010, House Republicans decided to extend their moratorium on earmarks, a controversial budget tactic that allow members to insert pet projects in spending bills without so much as a committee hearing or vote.

But before the GOP took control, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who would later become House Majority Leader, suggested that the moratorium on earmarks may only be temporary, which would be a slap in the face to fiscal conservatives and Tea Party activists that helped the GOP come back to power. Cantor was quick to amend his remarks, but it looks like House Republicans have learned little. Reuters notes that they are considering resuming the practice of earmarking:

The huge federal transportation bill was in tatters in early March when Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama posed a heretical idea for breaking through gridlock in the House.

In a closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans, Rogers recommended reviving a proven legislative sweetener that became politically toxic a year ago.

Bring back earmarks, Rogers, who was first elected to Congress in 2002, told his colleagues.

Few members of Congress have been bold enough to use the “e” word since both the House and Senate temporarily banned the practice last year after public outcries about Alaska’s “Bridge to Nowhere” and other pork barrel projects.

But as lawmakers wrestle with legislative paralysis, there are signs that earmarks - special interest projects that used to be tacked onto major bills - could make a comeback.

Obama to campaign against the Supreme Court?

With the future of ObamaCare up in the air, President Barack Obama took a divisive tone yesterday in discussing the pending Supreme Court ruling on his signature domestic, albeit blatantly unconstitutional law:

President Barack Obama took an opening shot at conservative justices on the Supreme Court on Monday, warning that a rejection of his sweeping healthcare law would be an act of “judicial activism” that Republicans say they abhor.

Obama, a Democrat, had not commented publicly on the Supreme Court’s deliberations since it heard arguments for and against the healthcare law last week.

Known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare,” the measure to expand health insurance for millions of Americans is considered Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
“Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,” Obama said at a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Conservative leaders say the law, which once fully implemented will require Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty, was an overreach by Obama and the Congress that passed it.

The president sought to turn that argument around, calling a potential rejection by the court an overreach of its own.

“And I’d just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we have heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,” Obama said.

Dick Lugar pays back taxpayers $14,000 in hotel spending

If you’ve been paying attention to the Republican Senate primary in Indiana, you know that Sen. Dick Lugar has had a rough time lately. Last month, he was declared to be ineligble to vote after not being able to produce proof of a permanent residence inside the state.

But it keeps getting worse for Lugar as he has had to pay $14,000 back to taxpayers for spending on hotels when he visited Indiana:

Sen. Dick Lugar is paying back more than $14,000 to the federal Treasury — three times his earlier estimate — after a closer review of his 35-year career found he owed additional money for hotel stays in the Indianapolis area.

The Indiana Republican said Friday that an investigation by the Senate’s disbursing office initiated at his request found he improperly billed taxpayers for his hotel stays for all but seven years during his time in office, amounting to $14,684.85. He cut a personal check paying that amount on Friday.

“Your office has compiled a comprehensive list documenting cases in which I incurred per diem expenses during trips that included a stop in Indianapolis … during August recess periods and sine die adjournments,” Lugar said in a letter to Christopher Doby, financial clerk of the Senate. “Vouchers for per diem expenses incurred in the Indianapolis area during these periods should not have been submitted or paid, even though they all pertained to official business.”

Lugar suggests he paid more back to the Senate out of caution. Lugar’s admission came after he acknowledged last week that he erroneously billed taxpayers $4,500 for hotel stays after a review by his staff of records dating to 1991. He began the inquiry after POLITICO asked about the matter, and later acknowledged the errors.

US now has the world’s highest corporate taxes

With Japan lowering its corporate income taxes, the United States reached a not-go-great milestone this week. That’s right, folks, we now have the highest corporate income tax rate in the world. Scott Hodge reports at the Tax Foundation:

It’s official. After eight years of having the second-highest corporate tax rate among industrialized countries, the United States has now assumed the top spot following Japan’s scheduled corporate rate cut on April 1, 2012.  Since 2001, Japan had levied the highest combined corporate tax rate among OECD nations at 39.5 percent, slightly higher than the 39.2 percent combined federal-state rate in the U.S. Japan’s new rate is 38.01 percent, which includes a temporary 10 percent surtax that will expire after 2014.

Statutory U.S. Corporate Tax Rate

The attention given to the Japanese rate cut has overshadowed the fact that Great Britain also cut their corporate tax rate on April 1st from 26 percent to 24 percent, and will cut the rate again to 23 percent in 2013. Moreover, on January 1st of this year, Canada cut its federal corporate tax rate from 16.5 percent to 15 percent. Canada’s combined rate is about 26 percent when the average rate of the Canadian provinces is added to their federal rate.

Where do you fall on the global payscale?

There was a lot of talk last year, thanks to the rise (and subsequent fall) of Occupy Wall Street, about income inequality. This discussion is most assuredly not over since President Barack Obama has set his sights on higher income earners as part of his misguided domestic platform. But a new tool from the BBC allows you to, by putting your pre-tax income information, see where you are on the global payscale.

Over at Cato@Liberty, Marian Tupy explains:

Many of my well-to-do friends in Washington, D.C. have been sympathetic to the Occupy movement and the “We Are the 99 Percent” campaign. Indeed, everyone should be outraged when politically connected banks and businesses rob the U.S. taxpayer. But everyone should also recognize that most wealthy people in the United States have made their money by producing goods and services that make us all better off.

Paul Ryan, Ron Johnson back Romney in Wisconsin

With polls in Wisconsin showing Mitt Romney with a healthy lead headed into tomorrow’s primary, Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Johnson, both respected conservatives, have endorsed the former Massachusetts Governor in hopes to put him over the top.

Ryan, whose “Path to Prosperity” has become the budget blueprint for House Republicans, endorsed Romney on Friday:

“Who will make the best president? And who has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama? … In my opinion, Mitt Romney is clearly that person,” Ryan said on “Fox & Friends.” “I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles, the courage and the integrity to do what it takes to get America back on track.”

Asked if this was a message he has conveyed to Rick Santorum, Ryan, whose budget plan passed the House on Thursday, said he is planning on speaking to the former Pennsylvania senator later on Friday.

“I’m just convinced now, that if we drag this thing on until summer, it’s going to make it that much harder to defeat Barack Obama this fall,” he added. “The more we drag it out, the harder it is to win in November.”

Johnson, a part of the 2010 Tea Party class who has become a strong voice on health care, announced his support of Romney yesterday during a visit to Meet the Press:

Johnson announced the endorsement on MSNBC’s Meet the Press (MTP), according to a Sunday morning tweet from MTP executive producer Betsy Fischer.

Federal Government Spends $434 Million an Hour

In the latest video from Learn Liberty, Prof. Antony Davies explains that the federal government spendings about $434 million an hour, over $10 billion a day. Davies notes that, at the current rate of spending, the federal government runs out of money on July 31st; meaning that in order to balance the budget, Congress would need to cut five months of spending:

Club for Growth releases the “Dick Lugar Pork Book”

The Club for Growth has been targeting big government Republicans for years, so endorsing Sen. Dick Lugar’s more fiscally conservative opponent, Richard Mourdock, was expected. But they’ve been hitting the Washington veteran especially hard recently, especially now that Mourdock is in striking distance.

Earlier this week, the Club for Growth made a signficant buy for an ad that ties Lugar to the $15 trillion national debt and slams him for backing the Wall Street bailout, gas and payroll tax hikes, and opposing spending cuts. And they’re not stopping there.

Yesterday, the Club for Growth released a detailed report showing some of the earmarks that Sen. Lugar has supported and the dollar amounts of pork that he has managed to take home to Indiana. The Club for Growth also points out that Lugar has showed little interest in reforming the earmark process and has voted against a ban on earmarking.

Dick Lugar Pork Book

Conservatives begin to coalesce around Romney

There is no denying that Mitt Romney has had a very good March, finally pulling away from the rest of the field. He’s also managed to pick up some endorsements from conservatives, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), a Tea Party favorite, and Al Cardenas, president of the American Conservative Union.

But the biggest endorsement Romney has received came on Wednesday from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who is a big name in today’s conservative movement and often thought of as possible presidential candidate in 2016:

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican superstar expected to top the vice presidential shortlist, on Wednesday said Mitt Romney has “earned’’ the Republican nomination for president and called a potential floor fight at the convention a “recipe for disaster.’‘

In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Rubio didn’t name Romney rivals Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich but said it was clear to him they would not be able to win enough delegates to lock down the nomination before the Republican convention.

“I think we’re at a stage now where at least two of the candidates have openly admitted that the only way they’re going to be able to win the nomination is to have a floor fight in Tampa in August. I don’t think there’s anything good about that,’’ he said. He added, “It’s increasingly clear that Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee.’‘

Pressed by Hannity whether he was in fact offering his endorsement, Rubio said yes. But he offered something even better: The rising figure in the conservative and tea party movements vouched for Romney’s conservative credentials.

Ryan’s budget passes the House

While President Barack Obama’s budget went down in flames in the House on Wednesday evening — though introduced by Republicans since no Democrat apparently would carry it, Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal cleared the House yesterday:

By a mostly party-line vote, the House of Representatives approved Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget resolution today by a count of 228-191, slashing trillions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade, but inflaming Congressional Democrats for proposing controversial reforms to programs like Medicare.
Ryan’s budget blueprint claims less than $5 trillion relative to the president’s budget proposal, and spends $3.5 trillion less over 10 years than the current spending levels. It also brings deficits below 3 percent of GDP by 2015. It would raise $2.73 trillion in tax revenue in 2013, leaving a $800 billion projected deficit for 2013 compared to $3.53 trillion in budget outlays.

Zero Democrats supported the proposal while 10 Republicans voted against it.

You can view the vote here.

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