Spending

Senate likely to strip language to defund ObamaCare

A procedural strategy being looked at by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would strike the language to defund ObamaCare out of the Continuing Resolution (CR), according to a report from The Hill:

Reid’s first move would be to schedule a vote to end debate on proceeding to the House continuing resolution. This would require 60 votes. Republican senators would vote to proceed to the bill because it would including the language to defund ObamaCare.

Then he would fill the amendment tree, defining what amendments could be considered in relation to the House legislation.

Reid would be sure that one of the pending amendments is a so-called “amendment to strike,” which would allow him schedule a future vote on stripping the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments.

Then Reid would schedule a vote to end debate on the House continuing resolution and proceed to final passage. This vote also requires 60 votes.
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After this second cloture vote has passed, the pending amendments can be approved with a simple majority vote. At this point, Reid could strike the language defunding ObamaCare and prioritizing debt payments without having to rely on Republican votes. He could strike the language with Democratic votes alone.

Justin Amash passes on Michigan Senate race

Justin Amash

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), an young and outspoken liberty-minded Republican, has decided to pass on the open Senate seat in Michigan, according to a report from the National Journal:

Amash was tempted by the allure of a campaign for higher office, sources say, but the second-term lawmaker ultimately was unwilling to risk surrendering the clout he enjoys among conservatives in the GOP-controlled House. (His advisers also didn’t like the uncertain internal polling against his expected general-election contender, but sources say that didn’t affect Amash’s decision.)
[…]
“Justin feels that he’s hitting his stride in the House, and that it’s the best place for him right now,” said one source close to Amash.

The National Journal explained some of the logistical background that ultimately led to the decision, including the fact that Michigan is generally considered to be a blue state. They also note that Amash’s internal polling in the primary “showed him running comfortably ahead of a weak GOP primary field.”

Terri Lynn Land, who served for eight years as Michigan’s Secretary of State, is thought to be the frontrunner for the nomination. Polling shows Land running close to Rep. Gary Peters (D-MI), the likely Democratic nominee. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) believes the race is competitive.

House Republicans want to fund government above sequester levels

House Republicans may be moving ahead with a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, but the measure they’re pushing will fund the government above levels set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The Budget Control Act (BCA) set in place $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years, which became known as the sequester. Those cuts, which are ultimately cuts to the rate of spending growth, went into effect in March after a temporary delay at the beginning of the year. Half of the cuts were applied to domestic programs, the other half to defense.

Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute, noted last week that the original CR backed by House Republican leadership would have spent $988 billion in FY 2014, rough $20 billion above the levels set by the BCA.

“The Congressional Budget Office’s score of the House Republican CR shows that defense is funded at $20 billion above the sequestration-included cap for fiscal 2014,” wrote DeHaven. “However, non-defense funding is actually $1 billion below it. Thus, it seems clear that the CR was intentionally written to force the sequestration-defense issue, which would kick-in in January.”

The BCA set the level for spending level for FY 2014 at $967 billion. The latest CR proposed by House Republicans, which defunds ObamaCare, would spend $986 billion, funding the government until December 15.

Tension brewing between House GOPers and Ted Cruz

After several days of wrangling, House Republicans decided to move forward on a Continuing Resolution that defunds ObamaCare, which will mostly likely pass and head to the Senate, where it may not come to the floor for a vote at all.

The thinking is that the House will then pass a Continuing Resolution that funds the government (and ObamaCare) that can pass the Senate before the end of the month, thus averting a government shutdown.

But Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) set some House Republicans off early yesterday evening. In a statement praising the latest House spending bill, the freshman senator acknowledged that there aren’t enough votes to defund ObamaCare. Even some Senate Republicans have expressed skepticism about the House CR for various reasons (more on that later today), though only a few have publicly knocked the defund ObamaCare approach.

“We commend House leadership and House Republicans for listening to the people and for taking decisive action to stop Obamacare, the biggest job-killer in America,” said Cruz. “Harry Reid will no doubt try to strip the defund language from the continuing resolution, and right now he likely has the votes to do so.”

“At that point, House Republicans must stand firm, hold their ground, and continue to listen to the American people,” he added.

House to vote on spending measure to defund ObamaCare

It looks like conservatives in the House of Representatives have succeeded. Robert Costa reported late yesterday afternoon at the National Review that Republican leadership will allow a vote on a Continuing Resolution (CR) that defunds ObamaCare, though what comes after that remains in question:

Leadership sources tell me the House GOP will soon vote on a continuing resolution that simultaneously funds the federal government and defunds Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor are expected to announce the decision at Wednesday’s closed-door conference meeting.
[…]
Here’s how my sources expect this gambit to unfold: The House passes a “defund CR,” throws it to the Senate, and waits to see what Senator Ted Cruz and his allies can do. Maybe they can get it through, maybe they can’t. Boehner and Cantor will be supportive. But if Cruz and company can’t get it through the Senate, the leadership will urge Republicans to turn their focus to the debt limit, avoid a shutdown, and pass a CR that doesn’t defund Obamacare.

Conservative members in the House and outside grassroots and pro-growth groups have been pushing hard to kill a plan backed by leadership that wouldn’t defund ObamaCare. They’ve rallied behind an alternative proposed by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) that would delay and defund ObamaCare until 2015. Graves’ measure now has 79 co-sponsors, according to his office.

Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling

debt ceiling

Though most members of Congress are focused on funding the federal government for another year, there is another battle on the horizon — raising the federal debt ceiling, which will be reached mid-next month.

House Republicans want some sort of a trade off from the White House to raise the debt ceiling, currently at $16.7 trillion, either further spending cuts or concessions on ObamaCare, and are tossing around the idea of holding a clean vote on the measure to show that there isn’t support for it inside the chamber. The White House, however, isn’t interested in having a debate on raising the debt ceiling.

Disagreement on how to approach the issue could lead to a stalemate similar to what the country saw in 2011 when Congress passed the Budget Control Act, a compromise between the Congress and the White House that led to the sequester.

But two new polls show that Americans are opposed to raising the debt ceiling.

NBC News and the Wall Street Journal released a poll at the end of last week showing that a plurality of Americans oppose raising the debt limit, at 44/22.

Though opposition is strong, NBC News notes that President Obama will be able to frame the debate over the issue, giving him an advantage over House Republicans who have frequently been unable to frame a coherent message.

John McCain may finally retire

John McCain

After 27 long years on Capitol Hill and two failed presidential bids, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) may finally be ready to retire. The Hill picked up on comments that the Arizona senator made during a recent interview:

The 77-year-old’s current term is up in 2016. When asked if this would really be his last term, McCain backtracked a bit.

“Nah, I don’t know,” McCain said. “I was trying to make a point. I have to decide in about two years so I don’t have to make a decision. I don’t want to be one of these old guys that should’ve shoved off.”

McCain made the initial remark about retirement off-the-cuff to a group of Obama supporters who interrupted the interview as he was arguing that television providers should unbundle their channels.

Yes, please?

McCain has long been a thorn in the side of conservatives and libertarians, voting for bloated budgets and pushing unpopular positions on a number of policies. Just this year alone, he opposed Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) on drones, backed more onerous gun control measures, and tried to help Senate Democrats push their big spending budget into a conference with the House without a guarantee against a stealth debt limit increase.

CBO can’t determine costs of Syria intervention

Tomahawk missile

Among the reasons that have been cited against military intervention against Syria is the potential cost, not just in terms of what the Obama Administration says will be “limited strikes,” but also the possibility of a broader engagement should the situation worsen.

But the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which frequently issues cost scores on legislation, issued a report on Monday afternoon noting that they could not accurately predict the cost of Syria intervention. Why? Because Obama Administration has “has not detailed how it would use the authority that would be provided” by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

S. J. Res. 21 would authorise the President to use military force against the government of Syria, for up to 90 days, in response to its use of chemical weapons,” noted the CBO in its summary of the resolution.

The CBO explained the AUMF requires that President Barack Obama to submit a plan to Congress showing that it has exhausted potential diplomatic solutions and how strikes against the Syrian government are in the national security interest of the United States. It also requires the Obama Administration to present a strategy for completing stated objectives of the strike.

“The Administration has not detailed how it would use the authority that would be provided by this resolution; CBO has no basis for estimating the costs of implementing S. J. Res. 21,” they added.

Conservative groups urge Republicans to vote against funding ObamaCare

The legislative trickery being employed by House Republicans to avoid a showdown on ObamaCare funding has pushed conservative organizations to ramp up efforts to urge members to vote against an upcoming stop-gap spending bill.

It was revealed on Monday that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) would push a stop-gap, known as a Continuing Resolution, later this week as well as a separate resolution that would defund ObamaCare.

The latter resolution would allow members to say that they voted to deny funding to the unpopular law while avoiding a feared government shutdown, even though it will almost certainly be shot down by the Senate, sending a clean bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

But conservative groups are having none of this. The Club for Growth, which previously blasted the move, announced yesterday that they would key vote the rule under which the Continuing Resolution will be brought to the floor, urging members to vote “no.”

“For several weeks now, the Club has urged lawmakers to defund ObamaCare in the FY14 continuing resolution,” wrote Andrew Roth, vice president for Government Affairs at the Club for Growth, in an email to members of Congress. “Rather than fight to defund ObamaCare, or to even have an honest debate about it, House leaders have decided to go with a ‘smoke and mirrors’ strategy that avoids the issue. Therefore, we urge lawmakers to oppose the rule.”

Cronyism: Senators supportive of Syria strikes bring in big bucks from defense contractors

Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted last week to authorize military force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime have brought thousands of dollars more from defense contractors than those who voted against it, according to a report from David Kravets of Wired:

Senators voting Wednesday to authorize a Syria strike received, on average, 83 percent more campaign financing from defense contractors than lawmakers voting against war.

Overall, political action committees and employees from defense and intelligence firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies, Honeywell International, and others ponied up $1,006,887 to the 17 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who voted yes or no on the authorization Wednesday, according to an analysis by Maplight, the Berkeley-based nonprofit that performed the inquiry at WIRED’s request.

Committee members who voted to authorize what the resolution called a “limited” strike averaged $72,850 in defense campaign financing from the pot. Committee members who voted against the resolution averaged $39,770, according to the data.

 


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