Breaking Down The Budget Deal

— by CAP Action War Room

The Omnibus Spending Bill And Tax Extenders Package Contain Significant Progressive Accomplishments

After weeks of negotiations, congressional leaders and the White House have agreed to a spending deal to fund the government through 2016. The omnibus spending bill and the tax extenders package still need final approval from the House and Senate. But with the release of the bill, all that’s left are the final votes, which are both expected tomorrow. There’s a lot to unpack in the 2,009-page bill, so we’ve broken it down into the good, the bad, and the fun.

The Good:

  • Permanent Renewals Of Earned Income Tax Credit And Child Tax Credit Expansions: Under the stimulus bill, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit—two key programs that help keep millions of Americans out of poverty—were expanded until 2017. But the tax extenders package made the extensions permanent, a clear win for working families. Allowing these expansions to expire would have pushed 16 million Americans, including 8 million children, into or deeper into poverty.
  • Wind and Solar Tax Credit Extension: Renewable energy was also a winner in this year’s budget deal, thanks to a five-year extension of the solar Investment Tax Credit and the wind Production Tax Credit. Solar accounts for 1 in 78 new jobs in the country, and the solar Investment Tax Credit has been a crucial driver in the growing industry. The increase of wind and solar capacity is seen as a critical way for the U.S. to meet its goals under the Clean Power Plan as well as its commitments under the new UN climate agreement.
  • Accountability For Fast Food Chains: Congressional Republicans tried to block a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that makes large corporations like McDonald’s responsible for how their franchises treat workers. The ruling, which remained intact, may force McDonald’s and similar brands to take responsibility for workplace conditions. This could significantly improve the chances that workers can force change in the industry.
  • Health Care For 9/11 First Responders: A health care bill for 9/11 first responders—brought to national attention thanks to the advocacy of Jon Stewart—was included in the year-end spending bill. The legislation was also included in the omnibus, only after 9/11 first responders made hundreds of advocacy trips to D.C.
  • Investment In The Middle Class: The omnibus bill funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy. These investments include education from early childhood through college, medical and science research, transportation infrastructure, and conservation. These investments were made possible by the recent budget deal, which reversed about 90 percent of the cuts sequestration would have made to nondefense discretionary programs in fiscal year 2016.
  • Defeat of Many Policy Riders: Congressional Republicans had a long wish list of inappropriate and nongermane partisan policy riders. Luckily, many failed, including riders that would have defunded Planned Parenthood, made it harder for Syrian refugees to come to the United States, blocked the Department of Labor from protecting retirees’ savings, and hindered the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s ability to protect consumers.

The Bad:

  • A Win For Big Oil: Unfortunately, lawmakers also handed a win to big oil. As a part of a broader energy package, including the wind and solar tax credit extensions, the 40-year-old crude oil export ban was lifted, meaning American crude oil can be shipped abroad for the first time since the 1970s. Lifting the ban has been a priority for the oil industry. Many environmental groups are concerned that the policy change could lead to more domestic drilling and the potential for additional pollution.
  • Decreased Transparency In Money In Politics: Snuck into the 2,009-page omnibus bill are two sections that will only make the influence of money in politics worse. Section 735 would block the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ability to require companies that receive federal contracts to disclose their contributions to political organizations. And Section 127 will prohibit the IRS from formalizing proposed rules to reign in political groups who use the title of tax-exempt 501(c)(4) “social welfare” non-profits to avoid disclosing their funding.
  • Bans On Gun Violence Research (Still): Public health, medical, and gun violence prevention advocates were unable to take out a rider known as the “Dickey amendment,” which effectively prevents the CDC and NIH from doing any research on gun violence. The provision was maintained despite the fact that former Rep. Jay Dickey (R-AR), for whom the amendment is named, has since spoken out against the policy saying he regrets no research is being done. The good news is, despite the fact that the NRA spent more than $27 million to elect a Republican majority in the 2014 elections, several other gun lobby priority items failed to make it in.
  • Budget Cuts For The IRS Enforcement Division: The budget deal cuts $25 million in funding for the IRS team that keeps people from evading their taxes. The IRS enforcement team has already experienced huge cuts, which limits its ability to save the government money through auditing returns and pursuing tax evaders.

The Fun:

  • Sledding provision: The crude oil export ban wasn’t the only ban lifted as a part of the budget deal: In a big win for winter cheer, the sledding ban on Capitol Hill was also lifted, ending an official ban of 14 years.

BOTTOM LINE: Crisis averted?  We’ll see tomorrow when the House has scheduled a vote on this ill-conceived budget. Congress has (almost) successfully avoided a government shutdown and agreed on a spending bill to fund the government for the next year. The deal is imperfect, but it is largely absent of highly partisan riders and funds key investments in a number of areas to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. ‘Like’ CAP Action on Facebook and ‘follow’ us on Twitter

22 Congressmen Demand Keeping Sequestration Budget Cuts That Leave Kids Out Of Classrooms And The Elderly Out Of Food

by Bryce Covert

Fiscal Cliff

Three Republican Representatives, Mick Mulvaney (SC), Jim Jordan (OH), and Steve Scalise (LA), sent a letter on Thursday to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) advocating to keep spending in any agreement that results from the current budget conference at the sequestration level of $967 billion in 2014. Their letter has 19 other signatures so far and lawmakers can sign un until Monday.

Claiming that Democrats “want the diversion of another shutdown” to deflect from the troubles with Obamacare, they write, “[W]e encourage you to allow a vote as soon as practicable on a full-year ‘clean CR’ funding bill at the levels established in law by the Budget Control Act,” which set sequestration’s automatic cuts and “is the law of the land.” It also says, “Our Democrat colleagues are now threatening to shut the government down in order to change that. We should not permit that to happen.”

Other Republicans have been worried about sequestration’s cuts, particularly to defense spending. Reps. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) and  introduced a bill this week that aimed to cancel sequestration cuts to the Department of Defense for the next two years. And Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) negotiations with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) look set to yield a higher spending level closer to $1 trillion for next year, which would cancel sequestration’s cuts to programs while keeping its deficit reduction through higher revenues from increased fees. “Most Republicans — conservatives and moderates alike — are hoping Ryan and Murray succeed, because they believe sequester level spending is unsustainable,” Jake Sherman writes in Politico.

But Mulvaney, Jordan, and Scalise aren’t the only Republicans who have come out in favor of keeping sequestration. While Republicans originally tried to pin the blame for the cuts on President Obama, at least eight others have said that they’re a good way to cut the budget and something they want to keep. House Republicans also released a budget plan in July with even deeper cuts, although when it came time to implement the specifics so many balked that it didn’t get a vote. Yet they again made sequestration a baseline leading up to the government shutdown by passing a continuing resolution at those levels in the House.

Sequestration’s damage had a wide-ranging effect this year, impacting the elderly, cancer patients, low-income renters, domestic violence survivors, the homeless, preschool and K-12 students, scientists, the long-term unemployed, and Department of Defense workers, among others. It also reduced economic growth and consumer spending. Yet things get even worse next year if the cuts stay in place, as many of the accounting gimmicks and emergency measures departments took to dampen the blow will no longer be available. The damage compounds the longer the cuts go on. On the other hand, the deficit would look better if the cuts were cancelled and the economy could add as many as 1.6 million jobs and 1.2 percent to GDP growth.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Ryan-Romney Budget Gives Away the Store

Congressman Paul Ryan has finally endorsed Mitt Romney as his preferred candidate for president.   Yeah, like we didn’t expect that coming.  Thus, it should be no surprise that both Romney and Ryan support the same key budget tenets — massive cuts to programs critical to its economic security of middle class Americans, and ending Medicare for our nation’s seniors as we’ve known it and paid into throughout our working careers — all so they can transform our nation’s wealth into outrageous tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.

There budget plans would

  • Turn Medicare into a voucher program to help pay for massive tax cuts to the wealthiest.
  • Turn Medicaid into a block grant program that can easily be underfunded or diverted by states for other purposes.
  • Protect tax loopholes that benefit oil companies and hedge fund managers.
  • Repeal Health Care Reform, re-opening the do-nut hole, re-instituting pre-existing conditions and increasing health care costs to every American by thousands of dollars for not just medical premiums and services but in increased taxes as well.
  • Make arbitrary cuts to programs essential to middle-class families like education, environment and clean energy.
  • Provide large new tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, above and beyond any permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts
  • Not balance the budget and in fact, would increase our national debt.

But beyond the deep cuts in programs, those cuts mean some serious job losses in the public sector.  That means the Republicans intend to dump more Americans into the unemployment roles and simultaneously slash the safety net that would have assisted them.

Romney has said he is on the same page as Ryan – even “applauding” Ryan’s budget – so America’s seniors and the middle class need to take note of what this budget means to and for them.  Here’s a press release from the Obama/Biden Campaign that compares the two GOP budgets.  Is that where you think American should be going?  Do those represent your priorities for America?  If not, then get of your duff and get out there and fight for our ticket!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Obama/Biden Campaign

THE RYAN-ROMNEY BUDGET PROMOTES GIVEAWAYS TO OIL COMPANIES, WALL STREET,
AND THE WEALTHIEST WHILE SENIORS AND THE MIDDLE CLASS FOOT THE BILL

“Governor Romney has said he is on the same page as Congressman Ryan, so America’s seniors and the middle class should take note of what that means for them. The Romney and Ryan budgets would turn Medicare into a voucher program, increase health care costs to seniors by thousands of dollars and make arbitrary cuts to programs essential to middle class families like education and clean energy, all while giving massive tax cuts to the wealthiest and protecting taxpayer subsidies to oil companies and hedge fund managers. And by repealing health care reform and cutting over $1 trillion from Medicaid, Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan would deny coverage to approximately 50 million Americans who currently have it, including low-income children, pregnant women, nursing home patients and people with disabilities. We can’t do the same thing and expect a different result – Governor Romney has embraced a carbon copy of the policies that led to the economic crisis.” — Ben LaBolt, Press Secretary

ROMNEY-RYAN BUDGET: TAX CUTS FOR THE TOP, DEEP CUTS FOR THE MIDDLE-CLASS

The budget released today by Rep. Paul Ryan mirrors the radical policies supported by Gov. Mitt Romney: massive tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, privatize Medicare and deep, arbitrary cuts that hurt middle-class families.

Ryan’s Path to Poverty

Romney Budget Plan

Mutual Admiration 
  • “Look at what he put out! This is a great development. … This tracks perfectly with the House budget.” — Ryan on Romney’s budget,  Washington Post, 11/4/11
  • “When Paul Ryan put his plan out in the first place, I said it was a major advance, a big step forward, we were on the same page.”  — Romney on Ryan’s Medicare plan New York Times, 2/1/12
Privatizes Medicare 
  • YES. Turns Medicare into a voucher program that shifts costs to seniors.
  • YES. Similar voucher plans make seniors pay $6,350 more a year.
  • Charges seniors more for prescription drugs and preventive care.
  • Increases payments to insurance companies by $100 billion and repeals other reforms, accelerating the exhaustion of the Medicare trust fund to 2016.
Breaks Bipartisan Deal on Spending 
  • YES. Deep cuts to domestic spending would break the bipartisan agreement.
  • Cuts would cost jobs and hurt average Americans, slashing investments in education, clean energy and scientific and medical research.
  • YES. Proposes similarly deep cuts to discretionary spending that would also break the bipartisan deal.
  • Holding true to his promise to balance the budget would require deeper cuts to all domestic spending than the House plan.
Huge Tax Cuts for the Wealthy 
  • YES. Extends all of the Bush tax cuts.
  • Provides trillions more in tax rate cuts weighted towards the rich without specifying how to pay for them.
  • YES. Extends all of the Bush tax cuts.
  • Provides $5 trillion in tax cuts weighted towards the wealthy without specifying how to pay for them.
Deep Cuts in Medicaid and Healthcare Coverage 
  • YES. Repeals health reform and cuts over $1 trillion from Medicaid over the decade.
  • Deny coverage to up to 60 million people, including low-income children, pregnant women, nursing home patients, and people with disabilities.
  • YES. Repeals health reform and cuts over $1 trillion from Medicaid over the decade.
  • Deny coverage to up to 53 million people, including low-income children, pregnant women, nursing home patients, and people with disabilities.
Repeals Key Protections in Wall Street Reform 
  • YES. Rolls back key protections in Wall Street Reform designed to prevent future financial crises and end the era of “too big to fail.”
  • YES. Repeals all of Wall Street Reform,  even though it creates no budget  savings.

End note:  Absent from the Obama/Biden press release above was the restoration of the sequestration cuts that were made to military spending which takes up, by far, the largest portion of spending in the federal budget.  It is time to put our money “where our mouth is” and stop putting money into more and more weapons of destruction and involving our Country in one armed conflict after another.  Maybe we should mandate that every Republican is required to watch that new “Bully” film.