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

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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.

What Makes Our Economy Grow?

Well, it’s certainly NOT what deadbeats Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei have to offer. Both voted yesterday to let the U.S. default on it’s debts, wreak havoc on the world economy and put the world reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar at risk.  But, despite their NAY votes, the bill passed and the government is once again open to conduct the people’s business, albeit temporarily yet again.  And while yet another committee works on trying to get the GOP to compromise on a workable budget, it’s time that we focus on Immigration Reform and begin to grow our economy.

Useless Baggage

With their big fuss over aviation punctuality, lawmakers make it clear that they’re not feeling the pain felt by the majority of Americans.

— by 

Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities ProjectThey’ve hit a new low.

Citing significant concerns about long lines at airports and flight delays caused by the furlough of air-traffic controllers, Congress let the Federal Aviation Administration override strict sequestration rules and redirect funds within its budget. And they did so with lightning speed.

With their big fuss over aviation punctuality, lawmakers made it clear that they’re not feeling the pain felt by the majority of Americans. Their message: In the United States it’s fine to wait — and face a steep climb — for housing, health care, cancer treatment, a preschool slot, domestic violence intervention services, federal work study, or job retraining. But our planes? They better take off on time.

Thanks to sequestration’s across-the-board cuts that began two months ago, the FAA had to cut $637 million from its budget between March 1 and September 30, 2013. It planned to achieve one-third of this cost savings by furloughing 14,000 air-traffic controllers — making them take one unpaid day off for every ten days worked.

Congress is falling prey to what The New York Times calls the “special-interest demands for exceptions” — first meat inspectors, now air-traffic controllers.

Even though the majority of sequester-driven cuts fall on programs that serve families, workers, and low-income Americans, the gasp emerging from local communities is barely audible in the media or on Capitol Hill.

That’s because the majority of folks enduring the across-the-board cuts — program beneficiaries and the workers who serve them — are fighting to survive. They don’t have huge sums at their disposal to pay lobbyists or publicists.

Our lawmakers’ struggle to ease the pain of weary travelers is doing nothing to soften sequestration’s overall blow. More than a piecemeal approach is required.

Congress must cast off its confounding allegiance to zero-sum budgeting where one person’s win is another person’s loss. With all their constituents in mind, not just a powerful few, lawmakers must forge comprehensive legislation that tackles the way our nation makes our revenue and the way we set federal spending priorities.

Any member of Congress unwilling to engage in this task should locate the exit closest to them. There’s no room on this flight for useless baggage.


Jo Comerford is the executive director of the National Priorities Project. NPP is part of the Pentagon Budget Campaign, a broad national effort to rein in wasteful Pentagon spending. NationalPriorities.org.  Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Sequestration, the Pentagon, and the States

Sequestration, the Pentagon, and the States offers selected state-level briefs focused on the local impact of looming automatic across-the-board federal spending cuts known as sequestration and historically high levels of Pentagon spending.

On March 1, unless Congress acts, billions of dollars will be cut from domestic programs and the Pentagon. But while these cuts will have a devastating impact on many domestic programs, the Pentagon is better positioned to absorb them due to the significant growth in military spending over the past decade.

Highlights of the release focus on critical domestic programs that could see their funding cut if sequestration goes into effect, and the impact that modest reductions in Pentagon spending could have to safeguard these programs, such as:

  • A $50 billion cut in Pentagon spending could fund five years of Community Development Block Grants AND five years of Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) AND four years of Homeless Assistance Grants.
  • Military spending has grown by 35 percent since 2002, 48 percent if you include war costs. Domestic discretionary spending grew by only 8 percent over that period.
  • Funding for FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program has been cut by 53 percent over the last three years. Sequestration would reduce the program’s $100 million FY2013 proposed budget by $5.1 million.
  • At the University of Virginia the Virginia share of total projected Pentagon spending for Fiscal Year 2013, $16 billion, would fund all in-state expenses of a four-year education for each incoming freshman class for the next 46.3 years.

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Read the full report published by the National Priorities Project