With the lame duck session of Congress beginning today, it’s still unclear whether or not President Barack Obama and Democrats will back extension of the Bush tax cuts. A week ago, it seemed that Obama was open to a compromise as David Axelrod floated the idea on a Sunday morning talk show. Not too long after his appearance, the White House was walking back the idea.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will be reduced to the role of Minority Leader in January, has said that she will not support extension of the tax cuts:
Asked whether she would accept even a temporary extension of all the cuts like some Democrats want, Pelosi said that it is time to let them expire for the upper income brackets and be extended for the middle class.
“The position that we have, and which is the position the president has put forth, is that everybody should get a tax cut in our country,” the outgoing Speaker told NPR. “The problem comes,” she said, “when an additional tax cut to the wealthy is two percent that will heap $700 billion in debt” upon the country’s children.
Pelosi’s comments indicate that Republicans and Democrats are headed for a stand-off on the tax cuts when Congress returns for its lame-duck session next week.
President Barack Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released a draft of their recommendations (you can read it here or scroll to the bottom of the page) yesterday to mostly negative response from both Democrats and Republicans:
A draft proposal released Wednesday by the chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan commission on reducing the federal debt calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending starting in 2012, and an overhaul of the tax code to raise revenue. Those changes and others would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says.
The federal tax on gasoline, now 18.4 cents a gallon, would increase by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015, so that revenue from the tax and similar user fees could cover all transportation and highway spending programs, and the funds set up for that purpose would no longer require money from the general treasury.
The proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under the plan, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent on the lowest income bracket (now 10 percent) and to 23 percent on the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would also be reduced, to as low as 26 percent.
Even after reducing the rates, the overhaul of the tax code would still yield additional revenue to reduce annual deficits — a projected $80 billion in 2015.
The trickle-down affects of the mid-term will help Republicans when it comes to redistricting in between now and the 2012 election:
Based on their gains in state legislatures, governorships and projected population shifts, the Republican Party may start the 2012 cycle in position to expand their House majority by at least 10 seats.
Hotline On Call reported last week that the GOP picked up an eye-popping 680 seats in state legislatures last Tuesday on its way to flipping control of 19 chambers across the country.
But what is more striking is that in the states projected to gain or lose seats after the census this year, the GOP now holds the redistricting “trifecta” — meaning the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature — in the vast majority of them.
This is critically important because these are the states where districts will be most drastically redrawn and, in the states that stand to gain a seat, it virtually guarantees that new district will be drawn with a future Republican member in mind.
Estimates by Election Data Services in late September show that there are eight states projected to gain at least one seat in Congress. Of those eight, the GOP now holds unilateral control of redrawing the district lines in six of them.
Most notably, Texas, which is controlled by a GOP state legislature and governor, is slated to gain four seats. Similarly, Florida is projected to pick up two House seats and Republicans now hold both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship with Republican Rick Scott’s win last Tuesday.
Congressman Paul was on John Stossel’s show last Thursday discussing the election results, and whether we can expect anything different from the Congressional Republicans:
Despite promising “the most honest, most open, most ethical Congress in history,” voters don’t believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi has kept her word:
Most voters think Congress’s ethics have gotten worse in the past two years, according to a new poll in key battleground districts.
The finding suggests that people likely to have a big say in who controls the House in the next Congress believe that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has failed to keep her 2006 promise to “drain the swamp” of congressional corruption.
The Hill/ANGA 2010 Midterm Election Poll finds that 57 percent of likely voters in 12 competitive districts believe that the ethical situation on Capitol Hill has deteriorated since President Obama took office. Thirty-two percent of respondents say there has been no change, and only 7 percent claim it has improved.
Though it was released before this poll, a recent follow-up on this claim by the Associated Press founds the sentiment of the voter to be accurate, as several Democratic representatives are currently facing ethics accusations and charges, including Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).
There have been some reforms, but the ethics issues still remain.
Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul wants term limits for the heads of federal regulatory agencies. Paul made the comment during a meeting with leaders of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Monday.
Paul says federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, have too much power. He says the EPA is an “out of control bureaucracy that needs to be restrained.” “The bureaucracies have grown so large that they are controlling and running government. In fact, I’ve been thinking recently, I’m for term limits for politicians. Maybe we should have term limits for the heads of regulatory agencies as well,” he said.
Also during the question and answer session to be posted on the Internet, Paul spoke out against tariffs on foreign goods, but says the U.S. should quit sending foreign aid to countries that subsidize industry. Paul says the electricity grid that crosses Kentucky makes it an ideal state for nuclear power plants.
One of the reasons that regulatory agencies like the EPA are growing out of control is because Congress has given them power to write regulation without proper oversight. When legislation like cap-and-trade dies in Congress, the EPA steps in to shove it down our throats. Why have a legislative body if laws can be written by unelected bureaucrats?
While I like Paul’s idea, let’s take it a step further. Let’s strip these agencies of their regulatory fiat, which is a step toward shrinking government.
You may have heard about a new poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post showing Democrats gaining ground on Republicans in the generic congressional ballot. Is this evidence that Democrats aren’t in as much trouble as we thought? Not necessarily, though things are certainly getting interesting. As Ed Morrissy points out, the poll has a flaw:
[H]ow did the Democrats manage this rather remarkable comeback? Well, the WaPo/ABC pollster managed to find their usual sample gap. They went from a 31/25/39 D/R/I split in September in the general sample and 31/26/37 among registered voters, to 33/23/29 in the general sample and 34/25/37 among registered voters. That nine-point advantage to Democrats among RVs is almost twice what it was in the previous sample.
To believe that this represents the electorate, we would have to believe that (a) Democrats have had a big month in attracting voters to their banner, (b) Republicans somehow lost a bunch of voters in the same period, and (c) Democrats now have an advantage outstripping their 2008 situation when they won the presidency by seven points in the popular vote. Not even their own poll supports any of those conclusions, and both Gallup and Rasmussen this year put the partisan ID split among the general population at between 1.5 and 3 points.
In an editoral at The Daily Caller, Gary Johnson, former Governor of New Mexico and Chairman of the Our America Initiative, slammed Congress for running from Washington without passing a budget and for not even taking a vote on tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year:
Imagine for a minute that you hired a group of people to work for you at your place of business whose job it would be to develop a budget, including revenue
and the allocation of funds. You tell this group of employees that, while they may have a lot of other responsibilities, their most fundamental objective is to make sure that they figure out all the spending and revenue concerns for your business. It’s a big job, you say, but they have most of an entire year to do it. You allow them to start in January, and they have until September 30 to finish.
Can you imagine your frustration when that group — who all work for you and are responsible for spending your money — casually say in late September, “Hey, sorry, we got busy with a bunch of other things, like taking over health care and buying General Motors, and just didn’t get around to figuring out budgets, like how much money we should collect next year or how much we should spend.” “But no worries,” they say, “we’ll just take a short break and then come back and figure it all out. Don’t sweat, we promise we’ll get it done by Christmas…hopefully.”
Well…this inexcusable scenario is precisely what played out in Washington this week when Congress left town without enacting a single appropriations bill for the fiscal year — and without answering the really critical question of whether a whole range of tax cuts enacted a few years ago will expire come January.
I’ve heard some pretty bizarre things passing for logic in my time, but the oddest is some of the criticism leveled at one point in the Republican Party’s Pledge to America. That “controversial” statement is the idea that members of Congress should look at the constitutionality of proposed legislation before deciding to vote on it. A radical notion, to be sure.
Apparently, there is a whole school of that that says Congress shouldn’t worry about the constitutionality of a bill because that’s the Supreme Court’s job. They say this despite there being no actual language in the Constitution (you know, that document they ignore because it’s someone else’s job to look at?) that specifically outlines the Supreme Court is to conduct judicial review. Nada. This is a power that SCOTUS has taken on itself, and it needs to be done. Obviously, Congress can’t be trusted to weigh the constitution in its decisions.
I’m not the only one who finds it bizarre either. Jonah Goldberg over at Townhall.com seems to as well. He throws out some examples of some real radicals who made a stand on the constitutionality of things who weren’t even close to being on the Supreme Court:
George Washington vetoed an apportionment bill in 1792 because it was unconstitutional. What was he thinking? If only he had a Ben Adler around to tell him what a fool he was.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a lot on her plate these days. Her party is expected to lose control of the lower chamber of Congress in November, more than 40 members of her party are openly defying her on the extension of the Bush tax cuts and Americans have rejected major parts of her party’s agenda.
To give you an idea of how unpopular Nancy Pelosi is, a recent survey shows her to be just as unpopular with Americans as BP, the company responsible for the months long oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s negative ratings have hit an all-time high in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll. A full 50 percent of those surveyed have a somewhat or very negative impression of Pelosi, while just 22 percent have a somewhat or very positive impression of her.
Pelosi’s negative rating is precisely the same as oil giant BP, which has taken a public relations beating in the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill. While 50 percent of those surveyed view BP negatively, just 12 percent view the company favorably — a rating even lower than Pelosi’s.
Pelosi has failed at nearly everything she set out to do. She promised “the most honest, most open, most ethical Congress in history.” As the AP recently pointed out, it hasn’t happened.