Whenever people call for cutting the military budget, the usual response goes something like ”How can you keep the Army from getting the equipment it needs to fight wars?” Well, the problem with that response is highlighted today by this story from ABC:
Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.
But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”
It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.
Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.
If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.
Doug Shulman, former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, had a really tough Wednesday. During the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups, Shulman was asked very specific questions by members about the scandal and why he didn’t deal with it sooner.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) went after Shulman on several aspects of the scandal, and didn’t let him get away with deflection and empty answers:
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) also went after Shulman on whether or not he was being honest with the committee about his knowledge of the scandal and if he ever conversed with the White House on the matter:
Despite (unsourced) rumors of his resignation and demise, John Boehner (R-OH) was re-elected as Speaker of the House this afternoon as the 113th Congress convened for the opening of its first session:
Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) was reelected Speaker of the House on Thursday after a week of rumors of a possible GOP revolt.
Boehner won a bare majority in a vote that saw nine Republicans vote for other GOP members, and several others who abstained from voting or voted “present.” Two years ago, Boehner won all 241 available GOP votes.
In a vote that opened the 113th Congress, Boehner received 220 votes, compared to 192 for Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader. Fourteen members voted for other candidates or present. Boehner needed 218 votes to win reelection.
Stories broke yesterday afternoon that Boehner would resign during a meeting with the House Republican Conference. That obviously didn’t happen. Then the rumor was that enough conservative members had said that they were ready to vote to oust Boehner in today’s vote. Again, that didn’t happen.
Here’s how the dissenting members voted:
Defectors from Boehner included Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who voted for Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) and two freshmen, Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), all voted for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), but Cantor himself voted for Boehner.
Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) voted for outgoing member Allen West (R-Fla.). Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) voted for former Comptroller General David Walker. Speakers of the House do not have to be members of the House, although historically they all have been.
If you’ve followed the “fiscal cliff” debate, then you know that it has kicked up a debate over taxes that Republicans should win. But rather than make the case for less taxes and for entitlement reform, House Speaker John Boehner has shown a willingness to raise tax revenues, though he refuses to support raising tax rates.
But the prospect of Republicans backing increased tax revenues has caused a substantial rift with fiscal conservatives in Congress, many of whom feel that the GOP is risking economic growth and job creation by taking more money of the economy:
In order to get one with President Barack Obama — who has refused to cut a deal until Republicans agree to increase tax rates on the wealthy — the GOP may have to go even further on taxes, a prospect that could prompt a full-scale party rebellion.
“That’s a big gulp,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said of the $800 billion in new taxes, which did not include a tax rate increase. “As long as we’re not talking about rates, there may be a way to accomplish it.”
Asked about the concerns from conservatives, Kyl said: “They are right it would hurt job creation. Absolutely right. Well, that’s the question — what is the least, worst alternative? And I don’t know what the answer to that question is at this point.”
Via Veronique de Rugy comes video of a May 16th hearing where Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) questions John Woolard of BrightSource Energy about a $1.6 billion loan his company received from the government.
Jordan directly asked Woolard whether the loan was based on the merits of the project his company was working on or some sort of political influence with the Obama Administration. Woolard, of course, says that it was the merit of the project. But in his questioning, Jordan shows an e-mail from Woolard to a Department of Energy official where he notes that there was indeed a direct conversation with President Barack Obama himself about the project.
There is more. Here is video:
The hearing was part of a push by House Republicans to look into the actions of the Obama Administration over green energy loans, many of which have went to politically connected companies, like Solyndra, which would later go bankrupt. Rep. Darrell Issa explained in a recent interview that there has to be some accountability in these loan programs, after all, this is taxpayer money that the Obama Administration has been handing out:
The White House Press Secretary had an interesting day yesterday. He was asked several times about President Obama’s debt-ceiling plan. Well, there isn’t one, and the folks on the right are chomping at the bit. I can certainly understand why. Oh sure, Press Secretary Jay Carney gave hints about the plan, but wouldn’t go into detail. He said, “We’re showing a lot of leg.” When pressed for more, he mockingly said, “You need it written down?”
Well, yeah. It would help.
A couple of years ago, the White House derided the GOP because they didn’t have it written down. Republicans were supposedly “unserious” because they didn’t have a budget. So, the Republicans produced a framework. They “showed a lot of leg”, if you will. Then Press Secretary Robert Gibbs mocked it because it didn’t have the specifics he felt it should have. Sort of like how Obama’s plan seems to lack a lot of specifics.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of that “if you don’t have a plan, you shouldn’t be part of the conversation” crap. I don’t think Obama should just shut up because he doesn’t have a plan all his own. However, I do believe that the President probably should have a plan of his own to put forth.
Over at Hot Air, Allahpundit proposes that the reason there isn’t a specific plan is because Obama knows that he’ll get hammered with it in the General Election. I can’t say he’s wrong on that one.
On Tuesday it looked like conservatives in the House Republican Conference were prepared to kill Speaker John Boehner’s proposal to end the budget ceiling stalemate. But it looks like he is building enough support to move it through the House, though it has taken some arm twisting that is most assuredly going to set off grassroots conservatives and the tea party movement:
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he ordered GOP lawmakers to “get your ass in line” behind his debt proposal during an interview Wednesday on a conservative radio show.
“My goal is to continue to work with all our members so we get them to the point where they say ‘yes,’ ” Boehner said on Laura Ingraham’s radio show.
A large number of conservative Republicans are opposing Boehner’s proposal, arguing it does not go far enough in reducing government spending.
But Boehner said he couldn’t understand why any Republicans would position themselves with Democrats opposing his plan.
“Barack Obama hates it, [Sen.] Harry Reid hates it, [Rep.] Nancy Pelosi hates it,” he said, naming off the Democratic leadership.
Boehner would have a lot of leverage ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline for lifting the debt ceiling if the House approves his bill.
“We’ll see,” Boehner said in response to the veto threat. “In the absence of any other plan, your plan becomes the plan.”
Boehner outlined his strategy to box the president into having “no choice but to sign it into law.” He said a rival proposal from Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate majority leader, did not have the support to pass Congress.