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Entries Tagged as 'Continuing Resolution'

Why Centrists Can Still Win the Budget Fight

April 2nd, 2011 at 1:56 am 24 Comments

Please, sovaldi stop.

Whether it is Bruce Bartlett admonishing Republican Senators who have co-sponsored the Balanced Budget Amendment or Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex) refusing to vote for the GOP “plan” debated on the House floor Friday, patient the small crack among Congressional Republicans that appeared during debate on the sixth iteration of the Continuing Resolution now threatens to become a chasm.

In his latest blog post, prostate Bartlett (a true blue conservative for decades) simply notes that “every Senator cosponsoring this POS should be ashamed of themselves.”  With my roots among the common man, I suspect I know what “POS” means and it is not “Point of Sale.”  The POS is the balanced budget amendment  cosponsored  by all 47 Republican Senators.

Rep. Gohmert, a fourth-termer who received his J.D. from Baylor, contended that it was Democrats who got the nation into the debt crisis, and “we do need to cut spending,” but the bill on the House floor is “unconstitutional” and  he would not violate his conscience by voting for it.  Apparently the Baptist ethic of telling the truth infuses Rep. Gohmert, whom, it must be noted, actually spoke at a Tea Party rally at the on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Why are Republicans doing this to themselves?

If the GOP “true believers” continue to substitute nonsense for substance, they will do exactly the opposite of what they have set out to do.  Eventually, they will isolate themselves, force the Republican leadership to make common cause with the moderate and conservative Democrats in both Chambers, and allow a true bi-partisan centrist landscape to develop in Congress.

That result—a true example of unintended consequences—would be good for the country and good for fiscal policy.  Such a center, moving on its own without official endorsement of the leadership of either party or body, might actually begin to regain trust and credibility among American voters.

Two things have become apparent in this long folly we call “the great Continuing Resolution debate.”

First, too many new members of the House GOP caucus simply don’t know where federal spending really goes.  They, like many of their constituents, apparently believe that 25 per cent of the budget goes to foreign aid and cutting that 25 per cent and getting rid of “waste, fraud and abuse” will solve the growing debt crisis.  That may account for the recent House GOP study camp on the federal budget provided to the caucus.  Imagine their horror when they realized that the vast majority of spending goes to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, other pensions, payments on the public debt, and farm programs!  “Oh, no, now what?”

Second, somehow these new members must think that the 2010 election turnout model will prevail in 2012.  That is, young people and minorities will continue to stay home and independents will remain rented by the Republican Party.  Somebody needs to sit down and carefully show the vast differences in the composition of Presidential year and non-Presidential year electorates.  While the far right can distort GOP primaries (and nominate Republicans unable to win vulnerable Democratic  Senate seats such as those in Nevada, Colorado, and Delaware in 2010), it will lose much of its sway in the general election in 2012.  And independents are notoriously fickle.

Perhaps  one should add a third unintended consequence: the Tea Party and its adherents in Congress risk losing seats in the House in 2012, not winning control of the Senate, and allowing President Obama to continue being President Obama in 2013.

One irony.  Republican House members read the Constitution aloud on the House floor as almost their first act of the 112th Congress.  Senate Republicans extol the virtues of a strict reading of the Constitution. Then isn’t it peculiar that this week House Republicans concocted a clearly unconstitutional piece of legislation to support and Senate Republicans decided that the present Constitution needs to be amended?

The need to raise the federal debt ceiling nears.  This latest descent into silliness cannot make global bond market participants optimistic that Congress will handle the challenge with courage and grace.


Will Blue Dog Dems Save Boehner’s Budget?

March 30th, 2011 at 12:32 pm 6 Comments

Students of history immediately recognize the phrase Alea Jacta Est, “the die is cast”: spoken by Caesar at the River Rubicon, as he made the decision to head for Rome and civil war. If media reports are to be believed, it may well be that House Speaker John Boehner, deliberately or inadvertently, has crossed his own personal Rubicon.  Many sources reported this morning that Boehner has turned to Blue Dog and moderate Democrats in the House in order to pass the next and perhaps final version of the Continuing Resolution for Fiscal Year 2011 Appropriations (the CR).

Yesterday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer reiterated his position that he would help Boehner pass the CR, which expires a week from Friday, if he needed help.  Recall that 54 Republicans voted against the last version of the CR, leaving it to many Democrats to provide final passage on the House floor.  That aid was not publicly requested by Boehner.  If media reports are correct, Boehner is now proactively reaching out to Hoyer for help.

It remains hard to see how either House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan or Boehner can garner the votes needed either for the CR or for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2012 budget that Ryan has pledged to begin devising April 4.  That is, unless moderate and conservative Democrats come to their aid.

We have written before about the distrust that exists between Boehner and many of the newly-elected Republicans.  If, and we emphasize if, Boehner has indeed decided that he cannot depend upon his own troops, then indeed that split will remain.  The influence on upcoming fiscal events cannot be over-stated.

Apart from the details of budget process changes, balanced budget amendments, and other strategems to get Republican unity, the situation will be simple: Boehner will have shown that he will lead the House, not just a sub-set of the House.  This dynamic will continue through deliberations on the FY12 budget, on attempts to increase the federal debt ceiling, and the FY12 appropriations process.

It may well be that the Speaker can command a majority of his Republican caucus, even if only a bare majority.  Thus, he will be able to follow what has been an almost iron rule for decades for leadership in both chambers: pass legislation only if it gets a majority of your majority.

Much remains to be written and discussed about these reports and about Boehner’s fellow members in the leadership.  The Speaker can win, if the GOP leadership is united.  If disunity prevails, 2011 will be an even messier year than anticipated.


Boehner Faces GOP Budget Revolt

March 29th, 2011 at 5:06 pm 13 Comments

Today’s news that conservatives in the House Republican Study Committee will draft their own alternative Fiscal Year 2012 budget to challenge the GOP leadership highlights Speaker Boehner’s problems in keeping his caucus unified. But he’s not the only one. In the budget fight, cialis neither President Obama, capsule nor Speaker Boehner, nor Leader Reid can lead, because by and large their troops won’t follow.

So far in the spending fight, delay may have actually helped congressional leaders.  All the strum und drang has been about very tiny spending numbers and the CR.  The FY12 budget (and its five- and ten-year projections) will involve very big numbers and very basic fiscal policy.  And the debt ceiling will involve both.

Instead of trying to make a deal on FY 11, then another on the FY12 budget, and a third on the debt ceiling, the best strategy would be to make a “grand bargain” on all three at the same time.  If Ryan delays a couple of weeks, and Congress forges another CR until mid-April or so, then the debt ceiling may be nearly breached and a “global” discussion of all three could take place.

All of this complicated scenario-devising can’t hide the underlying problem.  Just ask yourself these three questions:

  • How can Chairman Ryan get the necessary votes either in committee or on the House floor when he will be asking his colleagues to vote for at least 2 years of trillion dollar deficits?
  • Who in either party will vote to radically change federal pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, and other entitlements with an aging voting population and no short term deficit reduction in the offing?
  • Why would the President begin public negotiations when it is clear that neither Boehner nor Reid have their own troops in line?

In short, none of the three principals can make a deal that they may be able to deliver on.

The revolution in the GOP ranks is dramatized by the announcement today that the Republican Study Committee within the House caucus will develop its own budget, countering what they perceive will be an insufficiently aggressive budget by Boehner and Ryan.  Since almost two-thirds of House Republicans belong to the RSC, their challenge cannot be ignored.

At the same time, House Democratic Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer, has repeated that once again it may be the House Democrats who come to Boehner’s aid and provide enough votes to pass the CR for FY11.  Recall that at the last vote, it was Democrats who voted in enough numbers to pass the CR, as 54 Republicans voted against it.  Whether Hoyer’s remarks help or hurt Boehner remains unclear.

One of the most famous verses in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 14:8.  It reads, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

The President has sounded the trumpet—we have unsustainable deficits and debt and we must take action.  Boehner and Reid agree resoundingly.  Every serious policymaker and economist concurs—America’s fiscal path will lead to fundamental damage to America’s economy and international standing in the future.

And yet, in his own way, each sounds an uncertain trumpet to the troops.  The president wants Congress to go first; Reid wants the House to act first; Boehner doesn’t know if he has the votes to go first.  The American people look on, confused and bemused, in a state of “buyer’s remorse” over the election of November 2010.

In such a melee, with no one blowing the trumpet and leading the charge, the troops haven’t even formed up yet.

The dust will clear one way or the other.  Congress will act in a convincing fashion to get projected deficits trending down or the bond traders in international markets will strike.  So we end with a final question:

“What happens when a 30-year-old bond trader in London all of a sudden wants 5.5 per cent on the American 10-year note, instead of the current 3.4 per cent?”

Stay tuned.


Is the GOP Backbench Rebelling?

David Frum March 15th, 2011 at 4:15 pm 13 Comments

Fifty-four Republican defections on the latest Continuing Resolution.