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October 31, 2014

Posts in "Budget"

October 28, 2014

McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

mcconnell 016 040114 445x312 McConnell: Obamacare Repeal Will Take 60 Votes (Updated)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 9:35 p.m. | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says Republicans won’t be able to repeal Obamacare anytime soon.

Tempering the expectations of conservatives a week before the elections that could install him as the first Republican majority leader in eight years, the Kentucky Republican said in a Fox News interview Tuesday a repeal of the health care law simply wasn’t in the cards for now.

He wasn’t telling Fox News anything that close observers of the Senate and the budget process didn’t already know, but it serves as a reminder of the limitations Republicans should expect even if they net six or seven seats, given the obvious reality that President Barack Obama is still in the White House.

McConnell said repealing Obamacare remains at the top of his priority list.

“But remember who’s in the White House for two more years. Obviously he’s not going to sign a full repeal, but there are pieces of it that are extremely unpopular with the American public and that the Senate ought to have a chance to vote on,” he said.

McConnell also noted Democrats could filibuster a repeal effort.

“It would take 60 votes in the Senate. No one thinks we’re going to have 60 Republicans, and it would take a presidential signature,” McConnell said. “I’d like to put the Senate Democrats in the position of voting on the most unpopular parts of this law and see if we can put it on the president’s desk.”

That suggests McConnell isn’t about to pull a nuclear option of his own and do away with the filibuster just for the sake of repealing the law.

Republicans including McConnell have talked about rolling back much of the Affordable Care Act through the budget reconciliation process — which would allow them to bypass a filibuster. That route is difficult to traverse and forbids the inclusion of items that are not budget-related. Such a bill could also still be vetoed, making the whole process a symbolic exercise without a Republican president.

Other smaller pieces might get super-majorities, such as repealing the 2 percent excise tax on medical devices. McConnell also mentioned nixing the individual mandate as another target.

McConnell again suggested Republicans would try to use the appropriations bills to rein in the Obama administration.

Asked about what a GOP-led Senate might do to blunt executive action on immigration policy that President Barack Obama is planning, McConnell used the example of environmental regulations.

“I think it’s a bad mistake for the president to try and assume powers for himself that many people feel he should not be assuming. You know, we’ve seen that on full display with the EPA and the war on coal,” McConnell said. “That’s not a result of any legislation that Congress passed. It’s just something the president wants to do on his own and uses the people who work for him to achieve. I think that’s a big mistake.”

Those spending restrictions could get to Obama’s desk, leaving the president to decide whether to use his veto authority.

Speaking to Fox from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky., during a campaign stop, McConnell counted the potential move on immigration as one such mistake. McConnell himself must overcome a challenge from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, with a variety of public and internal polls showing the race competitive in the closing week. The Kentucky Senate race is rated Leans Republican by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

“If the American people do change the Senate, and give the Republicans control of Congress, we certainly are, through the spending process, going to try to restrain the overactive bureaucracy that’s been attacking virtually every business in America,” McConnell said. “And we intend to push back against executive orders that we think aren’t warranted by … trying to control the amount of money that is allocated.”

But there’s only so much the GOP is going to be able to accomplish.

“He is the president of the United States, and he’ll be there until January 2017,” McConnell said of Obama.

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October 22, 2014

Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ Targets Include Mountain Lions, Sheep, Beer (Video)

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Coburn, pictured here unveiling the 2013 Wastebook. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call)

Sen. Tom Coburn and his investigators have been busy in their most recent effort to unveil what they view as government waste and abuse.

The 2014 edition of the Oklahoma Republican’s annual “Wastebook” runs almost 250 pages and features more than 1,100 footnotes. It’s presumably the last such report Coburn will issue from his Senate perch, as he’s resigning his seat early at the end of the current Congress.

As in previous editions, the report highlights billions of dollars of projects that Coburn views as wasteful government spending.

“This report, the fifth annual Wastebook, gives a snapshot of just a fraction of the countless frivolous projects the government funded in the past twelve months with borrowed money and your tax dollars,” Coburn wrote in the report’s introduction. “Every year taxpayers, regardless of their personal political leanings, raise their eyebrows and shake their heads in disbelief at how billions of dollars that could be been better spent — or not spent at all — were squandered.” Full story

September 16, 2014

Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

VAPOL14 032 090414 445x296 Mark Warner Still Pushing Grand Bargains on the Stump

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

FAIRFAX, Va. — How often do you hear a Democrat on the campaign stump tell a largely partisan audience that some of the attendees might be well-advised to vote for a Republican?

That’s exactly what happened when Sen. Mark Warner stopped on a college campus a few weeks ago.

“If you’re a Democrat, you may have to vote for a Republican who is willing to do revenues,” the Virginia Democrat said. “If you’re a Republican, vote for a Democrat who’s willing to do entitlement reform.”

In any case Warner, the former Virginia governor who is favored to win re-election against former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie this fall, and has often been talked about as someone who could end up on a national ticket, said no one should vote ”for anybody who’s signed one of these stupid pledges” such as the anti-tax one championed by the Grover Norquist-led group Americans for Tax Reform.

Full story

July 16, 2014

Obama’s Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long-Term Deal

murphy 026 040913 445x330 Obamas Embrace of GOP Highway Fix Frustrates Senators Pushing Long Term Deal

Murphy has been pushing a gas tax hike to bolster the Highway Trust Fund. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A group of Senators focused on forcing action on a new highway bill expressed disappointment with President Barack Obama for backing a House-GOP stopgap measure that they argue would encourage kicking the can down the road. Full story

June 12, 2014

Senators Doubt ‘Astronomical’ CBO Score for VA Health Bill

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Some senators are questioning an ‘astronomical’ but preliminary Congressional Budget Office score for the Senate-passed emergency veterans health bill — while promising to find ways to pay for it in conference with the House.

The CBO said the VA bill could cost $50 billion a year in expanded health benefits, but there were questions Thursday about how the CBO came to that figure.

“I think it’s astronomical because of some of the CBO assumptions, which among other things assumes that every veteran who qualifies now to get VA services … who hasn’t been using the VA, will all start using the VA and they’ll all have their share of health problems,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt said. “Probably neither of those two things turn out to be the case.”

Full story

June 11, 2014

Veterans Could Get $50 Billion a Year in New Health Care

mccain 037 0601014 445x296 Veterans Could Get $50 Billion a Year in New Health Care

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is a co-sponsor on the bill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation designed to fix problems at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the amount of new spending in the measure began to clarify.

And the price tag could be a gut-check when it comes to understanding what it really costs to fulfill sacred obligations to America’s veterans. The cost of the measure could be astronomical.

That’s according to preliminary numbers circulated by the Congressional Budget Office Wednesday afternoon. The bill would give veterans new opportunities to seek care outside of the health care system provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Full story

June 10, 2014

Wyden Focused on Finding Bipartisan Funding for Highway Bill (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is keeping his options open on how to fund a new highway bill in order to help foster a bipartisan solution.

“Nothing has been agreed to, nothing has been ruled out, nothing has been ruled in,” Wyden told reporters Tuesday. “And the way it’s going to work is by the end of today, early tomorrow morning, we’ll have a bead on what members of the Finance Committee want to do and then we’ll go from there.”

“There are no easy answers here,” Wyden continued. “Failure is not an option and we’re going to make decisions in a bipartisan way.”

Full story

VA Bill Could Pass Senate by Week’s End (Video)

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate could move ahead at breakneck pace on bipartisan legislation to address the  scandal rocking the Department of Veterans Affairs — after just as swiftly voting to block a partisan student loan refinancing bill.

A test vote on the student loan measure championed by Democrats and led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is set for Wednesday, and despite the vocal support of Democrats and an outside public relations push, it is going nowhere fast.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell dissed that measure, which would allow student loans to be refinanced at lower current rates with an offsetting millionaire minimum tax. Instead, he said, the Senate should be acting on the bill to address the unfolding scandal at the VA, negotiated by Veterans Affairs Chairman Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., and Republican John McCain of Arizona.

Full story

May 12, 2014

For Tax Cut Bill, Senators Face Vote on Boosting Deficit

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Coburn plans to force senators to vote on increasing the deficit before the Senate can pass a tax cut bill. Others are considering attaching an unemployment extension. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senators will likely face a separate vote on boosting the deficit in order to pass an $85 billion tax cut extenders bill, according to key Senate Republicans.

Retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a staunch opponent of the extenders bill, said he would “raise every order I can” to block the bill and “try to get us to do the right thing” for taxpayers.

He expects someone on the Budget Committee to raise a budget point of order. And, “If they don’t I will,” Coburn said.

Full story

Tax Bill Highlights Split Between Grover Norquist, Club for Growth

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Norquist (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The tax-cut-extension bill set for the Senate floor this week highlights a longstanding fissure between Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth.

The dispute comes down to this: The club would rather see the entire extenders package disappear — and thus see higher revenue flowing to the government, at least in the short-term — because it believes that many of the provisions are anti-growth and would harm the economy in the long run. For Norquist’s ATR, lower revenue is the top priority.

The two groups have faced off in the past — on a repeal of an ethanol tax break that would have violated ATR’s no-tax pledge, and on broader strategy, with the club nearly always opposing major budget legislation that has reached President Barack Obama’s desk, while Norquist has often supported the deals cut by GOP leadership. Full story

Democrats Not Cheering Walsh Proposal for Budget Balance Before Recess

walsh 108 021114 252x335 Democrats Not Cheering Walsh Proposal for Budget Balance Before Recess

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John Walsh’s proposal to cancel recesses until adopting a budget resolution that balances the books by 2024 isn’t exactly getting endorsements.

Asked about the recently appointed Montana Democrat’s proposal, a Senate Budget Committee spokeswoman reiterated the view of Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., about the state of the budget process.

“Chairman Murray believes we should build on the budget currently in place as a result of the two-year bipartisan agreement she reached with Chairman Ryan with additional bipartisan work to create jobs, encourage growth, and responsibly tackle our long-term budget challenges,” the spokesperson said.

Congress is currently operating under the spending levels agreed upon in that bipartisan deal, which has allowed appropriators to get to work on fiscal 2015 bills.

And the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Full story

May 8, 2014

Democratic Senator Proposes Banning Recess Until Congress Adopts Balanced Budget

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Walsh wants senators to stop going on recess until they pass a balanced budget. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Freshman Sen. John Walsh introduced a bill Thursday that would block congressional recesses until there’s an agreement on a budget resolution that balances within a decade.

Walsh was appointed in February to fill the unexpired term of fellow Montana Democrat Max Baucus, who resigned from the Senate to become ambassador to China.

“Montana families don’t leave work before the job is done, and Congress shouldn’t get taxpayer-funded trips back home until they’ve addressed the national debt,” Walsh said in a statement. “This is the issue I hear most about from Montanans and I’m sure our neighbors across the country agree that Congress must solve this issue before going back home to ask their constituents for votes. What’s more, we have to responsibly address this issue, which means I won’t allow cuts to Medicare, Social Security and other programs that serve our most vulnerable Americans.”

Full story

March 31, 2014

CBO Calls Baloney on Using War Money to Pay Medicare Docs (Updated)

Updated 3:54 p.m. | Congressional budget scorekeepers don’t sound impressed with using projected savings from not fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to prevent slashing paychecks for doctors.

In a cost estimate released Monday, the Congressional Budget Office explained that $601 billion in projected savings from limits on the Overseas Contingency Operations account might never be spent anyway, and noted there’s no funding currently provided for the OCO funding.

“As a result, reductions relative to the baseline might simply reflect policy decisions that have already been made and that would be realized even without such funding constraints. Moreover, if future policymakers believed that national security required appropriations above the capped amounts, they would almost certainly provide emergency appropriations that would not, under current law, be counted against either the existing caps on discretionary funding or the proposed new caps on funding for overseas contingency operations.”

Full story

March 13, 2014

McCain Rails GOP on Ukraine Bill: ‘Don’t Call Yourself Reagan Republicans’ (Video)

Sen. John McCain hammered Republicans on the Senate floor Thursday for refusing to pass by unanimous consent a Senate Foreign Relation Committee bill which would provide economic aid while imposing sanctions on Russia.

“What has happened? Where are our priorities? You can call yourself Republicans, that’s fine, because that’s your voter registration. Don’t call yourself Reagan Republicans,” the Arizona Republican said.

Full story

Graham to Kerry: ‘Let Me Know What I Can Do’ to Help With Boehner (Video)

Following remarks Wednesday from Speaker John A. Boehner saying IMF aid to Ukraine is unnecessary, Sen. Lindsey Graham personally offered assistance to Secretary of State John Kerry as the House and Senate continue to debate the appropriate response to the Ukrainian crisis.

“Hey, John, good job,” the South Carolina Republican was heard saying before Kerry turned off the desk mic. “Let me know what I can do to help you with Boehner.”

Graham’s remarks were caught following a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the State Department’s fiscal 2015 budget. Meanwhile, Kerry travels to London on Friday to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Correction 11:40 p.m.

An earlier version of this report misstated where Kerry is traveling on Friday.

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