For the first time since April 29, 2009, the United States Senate has passed a budget. Early this morning, the Senate finished voting on dozens of amendments and gave final passage to its version of the budget — which never balances and raises taxes by $1 trillion — by a vote of 50 to 49.
It was mostly a party-line vote, 48 Democrats and two Independents, both of whom caucus with the party in power, voted for passage. Four Democrats — Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) — joined all 45 Republicans in opposition. It just so happens that every Democrat who voted against the budget is up for re-election next year.
Sens. Tim Johnson (D-SD), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Mark Warner (D-ND) are also up for re-election next year. Their votes in favor of the budget will no doubt be brought up by their opponents.
Negotiators from the House, which passed its budget proposal on Thursday, and Senate will soon meet in a conference committee to try to reconcile their vast differences. Because they’re so far apart — with the House wanting a balanced budget in 10 years, tax reform, and entitlement reform and the Senate pushing $1 trillion in tax hikes and an perpetually unbalanced budget — agreement on a budget for FY 2014 looks unlikely.
There has been plethora of news lately about ObamaCare, and none of it is good. Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that President Obama’s healthcare law could double insurance premiums, add $6.2 trillion to the national debt, and is already leading to layoffs. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg. We’ve seen more bad news about the law just in the last few days.
Five Guys to raise burger prices because of ObamaCare: This burger chain announced last week that they would be forced to pass on the added costs of ObamaCare to customers. Five Guys is just the latest business in the restaurant industry to make such a move. ThinkProgress, a leftist blog, is, of course, lashing out because they don’t seem to understand that when an employers costs go up because of regulations, the result is higher prices, slashed hours or even lost jobs.
ObamaCare will hit pet owners at the vet: Are you a dog or cat owner? Thanks to ObamaCare, your vet bills will be more expensive. Why? Vets are raising prices to cover the cost of a tax on medical devices. This once again proves the point that businesses don’t pay taxes — only consumers do.
If you walk around the exhibit hall at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this morning, you’ll see stickers and t-shirts from the Young Americans for Liberty booth sporting the “Stand With Rand” slogan that was born during the Kentucky Senator’s 13-hour filibuster. The outpouring of support seems to be shared by attendees of all ages, not just “impressionable libertarians kids.”
While Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has managed to capative the conservative movement over the last couple of weeks, count Donald Trump, the real estate mogul turned reality TV star, who is not impressed.
During a radio interview this morning, Trump, who is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Friday, said that the filibuster “didn’t serve a purpose” and took up for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who recently called Sen. Paul a “wacko bird”:
“I like John McCain. I don’t know Rand Paul,” said Trump. “I didn’t think the filibuster served a purpose.”
McCain slapped Paul’s filibuster, charging it was silly to think drones would be used to kill Americans. Paul, however, said filibustering the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan was a necessary stand for libertarian principles.
“This didn’t serve a purpose,” sneered Trump in an interview on the Andrea Tantaros Show, a syndicated radio program. “They got a letter. The letter said ‘we are not going to bomb our own cities,’” said Trump Wednesday. That, he added, “is pretty obvious and I think that’s basically what John McCain is saying.”
The budget battle is taking shape. On one hand you have a budget proposal from House Republicans that takes steps to deal with entitlement reform and balance nation’s finances in 10 years and on the other you have Senate Democrats pushing for nearly $1 trillion tax hike and a perpetually unbalanced budget:
The first budget from Senate Democrats in four years includes nearly $1 trillion in new taxes but would not balance the budget.
The blueprint unveiled by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) on Tuesday to her Democratic colleagues would also turn off the next nine years of the sequester and replace those spending cuts with a 50-50 mix of tax increases and spending cuts.
The budget would dedicate $100 billion to economic stimulus in the form of infrastructure spending and job training.
While Rep. Ryan’s imperfect, but respectable budget would trim $4.6 trillion from budget deficits over the next decade, Sen. Murray’s proposal would only trim $1.85 trillion over that same timeframe. Sen. Murray’s budget would raise tax revenue by closing tax loopholes. That would be good, broad-based tax policy, provided that the increased revenues are used to lower overall tax rates.
Editor’s note: While the larger point of the post is a good topic for debate, Fortenberry was a bad example. According to the scorecards released by the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, Fortenberry hasn’t been a friend to the taxpayer on fiscal issues. Thanks to Matt Hoskins for bringing this to our attention.
Author’s note: Yes, kudos to Matt Hoskins. I’ve added an update below.
Last week, Rod Dreher at the American Conservative magazine wrote about John Fortenberry, a Republican congresscritter from Nebraska who is considering a run for the seat of retiring Republican Senator Mike Johanns. What has Dreher annoyed —understandably — is that the Senate Conservatives Fund has come out against Fortenberry. Why? Because Fortenberry is “too liberal” on taxes:
“We can already say that we won’t be able to support Congressman Fortenberry if he runs. His record on spending, debt, and taxes in the House is just too liberal. Republicans in Nebraska deserve better,” said Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins. SCF, which was started by conservative Jim DeMint and involved itself in the 2012 Nebraska Senate GOP primary, is looking to identify a candidate it can get behind, Hoskins added.
Dreher argues that’s completely bunk. In an interview with the Congressman last year, he wrote:
In a telling moment with reporters yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who voted for the sequester in 2011, said that the spending cuts should take place if no deal is brokered with House Republicans for more tax revenue:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid would support letting the $85 billion in across-the-board sequestration cuts take effect on Friday if Republicans don’t agree to increasing taxes as part of an alternative plan, the Nevada Democrat said on Tuesday
“Until there’s some agreement on revenue, I think we should just go ahead with the sequester,” Reid told reporters after a meeting with Senate Democrats.
Basically, the scare tactics haven’t worked. They’re not going to work. With that statement, Reid is admitting that everything — all of the fearmongering and brow-beating of Republicans — was just for show.
It looks like Senate Democrats, who have not passed a budget since April 29, 2009, are once again falling down on the job. Over at the Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll notes that they’re blaming the sequester for their failure to perform one of the most basic functions of government:
Well that was fast. Less than a month after Senate Democrats passed a debt limit hike that included a provision delaying their pay if they failed to pass a budget this year, Senate Democrats are already signaling that no budget should be expected.
“Senator Murray is working on a budget right now and we hope we can get that done,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told CNN yesterday. “But we need time. So the sequestration will prevent — preempt us from getting a budget done and other factors.”
So don’t blame the Democrats if they can’t pass a budget. It’s the sequester’s fault. Never mind that Democrats never had any intention of passing a budget anyway. Pressed to commit to a budget in November, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., told The Hill she “had no idea” whether Democrats could come to an agreement.
In what was probably the most unsurprising story from last week, Reuters noted on Wednesday that retail sales had slowed in January. Why? Because of President Barack Obama’s tax hikes and rising gas prices:
Retail sales barely rose in January as tax increases and higher gasoline prices restrained spending, setting up the economy for only modest growth in the first quarter.
The Commerce Department said on Wednesday retail sales edged up 0.1 percent after a 0.5 percent rise in December.
The small increase suggested the expiration of a 2 percent payroll tax cut on January 1 and higher tax rates for wealthier Americans were hurting the economy.
While some economists were encouraged that consumers had maintained purchases despite a reduction in their disposable incomes, they cautioned sales could remain weak over the next months.
“By no means are we completely out of the woods when it comes to the impact of higher taxes,” said Michael Feroli, an economist at JPMorgan in New York. “Evidence from past episodes suggests it could take up to two quarters for spending to fully adjust to new tax realities.”
President Obama’s plan to fix the deficit and national debt? Call for more tax revenue:
President Obama insisted Sunday that additional tax revenue will need to be part of future deficit deals, but said hikes in tax rates may not be necessary.
In a pre-Super Bowl interview with CBS, the president outlined his vision for further deficit reduction, which he said was essential, but in a way that preserves the government’s ability to continue spending on key programs.
He also emphasized that the seemingly continuous stream of Washington standoffs was wreaking havoc on confidence in the U.S. economy.
Republicans have insisted that the revenue side of the deficit equation was dealt with during “fiscal cliff” talks, which resulted in a compromise that saw rates climb on the nation’s top earners. But Obama flatly rejected the notion that future talks would explicitly focus on spending.
“There is no doubt we need additional revenue, coupled with smart spending reductions, in order to bring down our deficit,” he said.
Uh, no, Mr. President. What we need is not additional revenue; what we need is to reduce spending across the board. We need to cut defense spending, which is the highest in the world. We need to cut and reform entitlements. We need to drastically scale back federal education spending, which has done absolutely nothing to educate our children. We need to acknowledge that the federal War on Poverty has been useless and reform our welfare system. We need to end foreign aid. We need to cut back on environmental spending, since that has done nothing useful. What we do not need is “additional revenue.”
Don’t look now, but the economic recovery that we’ve been constantly told is upon us may unsurprisingly be fading away. The Commerce Department released less-than-stellar numbers this earlier today showing that gross domestic product (GDP) contracted in the last quarter of 2012:
The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus.
The economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.
The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That’s a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter.
Oh, and by the way, you’re taxes have gone up. That’s right, Americans will have less money to spend as the affects of the tax increases that hit at the beginning of the year are felt. When money is removed from the economy, it will translate into slower economic growth or even, given that the economy contracted, a recession.
Rick Santelli, the CNBC contributor whose rant on the floor inspired the Tea Party movement in 2009, summed up the news best:
“Hey Joe,” Santelli said, “when you act like Europe, you get growth rates like Europe, and our discussions with economists sounds like we’re in Europe. They have the same discussions constantly.”