Competing Visions: President Obama, House Budget Committee, Senate Budget Committee, and Congressional Progressive Caucus Release Budget Proposals for 2016

National Priorities Project
By Jasmine Tucker
3/19/15

National Priorities Project examines how new budget proposals stack up against Americans’ priorities.

(A better display of these tables is here.)

Public Opinion: What Do Americans Want? President Obama House Budget Committee Senate Budget Committee House Congressional Progressive Caucus
Domestic Discretionary Funding(Education, energy and environment, housing, job training, etc.)
Opinion polls suggest that domestic investment in areas such as infrastructure, climate change, the economy, and immigration are top priorities for Americans. Other polls show Americans would prefer to see higher tax revenue to fund these priorities. Provides an additional $37 billion for domestic investment above Budget Control Act spending levels in 2016, and $178 billion more than current law over 10 years. Maintains current cuts to domestic programs under the Budget Control Act and proposes cutting non-defense discretionary spending by an additional $759 billion over 10 years. Maintains current cuts to domestic programs under the Budget Control Act, and proposes cutting non-defense discretionary spending by an additional $236 billion over 10 years. Provides an additional $1.5 trillion for domestic investment above Budget Control Act spending levels over 10 years.
Job Creation

67 percent say improving the job situation is a key issue facing the president and Congress this year. Invests $478 billion over six years to create jobs in surface transportation repairs and includes $146 billion in 2016 for expansion of research and development (R&D) tax credit to grow manufacturing and create jobs. No new funding for job creation. No new funding for job creation. Says reduced spending and regulation will indirectly lead to job creation. Invests nearly $1.3 trillion over 10 years in job creation measures such as aid to states to rehire police, fire fighters, teachers and other public employees, and in infrastructure spending.

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House and Senate Budgets “…envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…”

REPUBLICANS PUSH CONSERVATIVE BUDGETS IN BOTH HOUSES

Associated Press
By David Espo and Andrew Taylor
3/18/15

WASHINGTON (AP) — Making good on last fall’s campaign commitments, Republicans advanced conservative budgets in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, setting up a veto struggle over the fate of the health care law and promising a whopping $5 trillion in spending cuts to erase deficits by the end of the coming decade…

…Both budgets envision a significant campaign to cut spending, with much of the savings coming from Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and welfare…
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47 of 54 Republican Senators Issue Letter to Iran About Nuclear Deal Being Subject to Constitution and Change After 2016 Elections

Senator Tom Cotton and 46 other Republican senators have issued an open letter to the leaders of Iran commenting about  “…two features of our Constitution—the power to make binding international agreements and the different character of federal offices…”

The letter with the 47 names is here. (Also, with signatures. Was cursive handwriting taught back then? – Admin.)

Cotton was interviewed by Fox News this morning regarding the letter.

The following Republican senators did not sign the bill: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

Other media reports:

Republican senators warn Iran in open letter (Politico.com)

Iran nuclear deadline likely to slip (Politico.com)

Rep. Walorski Opposes Funding Homeland Security, Senators Coats and Donnelly Support

By Russ Phillips
3/5/15

Yesterday President Obama signed into law the Homeland Security Appropriations Act,
2015 that had been approved by the House and Senate in recent days. Indiana’s Rep. Jackie Walorski voted to oppose the Act while Indiana Senators Dan Coats and Joe Donnelly supported the Act.

An explanation of Walorski’s vote was not found on her website. However, a Walorski staff member stated today, “The Congresswoman had hoped that a solution could be reached, the Senate again played politics with our country’s national security. Yesterday, Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked a vote to allow a bill, that would fund the Dept. of Homeland Security and hold the president accountable for his abuse of executive power, to go to conference and reach a workable solution. After careful consideration, she decided that she could not support the Senate passed bill  – a measure that did not halt funding for President Obama’s executive amnesty.”

Neither was a statement found on Donnelly’s website regarding his vote.

Coat’s website does include a statement about his vote.

The vote of all members of Congress will be found here.

Foreign Policy: Israel, Netanyahu, Iran, Nuclear Deal, Congress, Obama

The U.S. is in the midst of negotiating an Iran nuclear deal. In recent days there have been several related developments. Several snippets of information follow with links for more extensive reading.

*Israel remains the leading recipient of U.S. foreign military financing (FMF), receiving over $20.5 billion since 2009. The United States in Fiscal Year 2014 provided Israel with more security assistance funding than ever before. In Fiscal Year 2016, which marks the eighth year of a 10-year, $30 billion Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. and Israel, we have asked Congress for $3.1 billion in FMF funds for Israel. (Source: “5 Things You Need to Know About the U.S.-Israel Relationship Under President Obama,” National Security Council)

*Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday [February 25, 2015] declined to “get into” what negotiators are proposing to the Iranians in the nuclear talks, and defended the president’s authority to execute foreign policy, saying he did not believe a negotiated agreement should go through a “formal approval process” by Congress. (Source: “Kerry: Congress Has No Role in Approving Iran Nuclear Deal,” CNSNews.com)

*In an interview with Reuters on Monday [March 2, 2015], President Barack Obama said Iran should commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years in its nuclear activity as part of any final agreement. “If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist … if we’ve got that, and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. (Source: “What’s in the Iran nuclear deal,” CNN.com)

*WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) introduced bipartisan legislation requiring congressional review of any comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 would mandate the president submit the text of any agreement to Congress and prohibit the administration from suspending congressional sanctions for 60 days. During that period, Congress would have the opportunity to hold hearings and approve, disapprove or take no action on the agreement. (Source: “Corker, Menendez, Graham, Kaine Introduce Bipartisan Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015,” U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Congress Tuesday [March 3, 2015] about the emerging nuclear deal with Iran. Here is the full transcript: (Source: “Transcript: Netanyahu Speech to Congress,” Time.com)

Nutrition Subcommittee Holds Hearing to Review SNAP Recipient Characteristics and Dynamics

2/26/15

Today, Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2), Chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Nutrition, held a public hearing to review the characteristics and dynamics of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients. [SNAP is the former Food Stamp Program.] The committee will conduct a full-scale review this Congress in order to improve and strengthen the program for its intended recipients. This hearing follows yesterday’s full committee hearing on the past, present, and future of SNAP…
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(The following are several excerpts from links included in the above press release. – Admin.)
* [SNAP is] the largest welfare program in both the number of recipients and the amount of spending, yet the program lacks a clear mission and the data reveals that it is not helping lift people out of poverty. (This and the next comment come from different sources. – Admin)
*SNAP has become one of the most effective antipoverty programs overall, especially at lifting non-elderly households with children out of deep poverty.
*Currently 18 different programs provide food assistance, and while many of them do not fall within this committee’s jurisdiction, they do serve SNAP recipients. In addition, a range of low-income benefit programs are offered at the local, state and federal levels.  On top of that, a web of non-profits and community service providers exist to provide assistance.
* SNAP provided benefits to 46.5 million people in an average month in fiscal year 2014, slightly down from 47.6 million people in an average month in fiscal year 2013. The average monthly benefit in fiscal year 2014 was also down to $125 per person from $133 per person in fiscal year 2013.
*Today, 1 in 7 Americans receive assistance from SNAP at a cost approaching $80 billion, making it the second largest means-tested transfer program in terms of cost after Medicaid.

Cutting IRS staff leads to cutting taxpayer services and collections

The Washington Post
By Joe Davidson
2/26/15

…Cuts to IRS staff mean cuts in service to taxpayers.

That’s the message Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, delivered to a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday. She described an agency with stark declines in customer service.

“From January first through February 14th this year, the IRS answered only 43 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers seeking to speak with a customer service representative, and those taxpayers who managed to get through sat on hold an average of about 28 minutes,” she said. “By comparison, during the same period last year, 77 percent of taxpayers got through and waited on hold an average of about 10 minutes. The IRS is now only answering the most basic of tax-law questions through April 15, and none after that. And it is no longer preparing tax returns for the most vulnerable taxpayer populations: elderly, disabled and low-income…

…“The IRS’s budget has been reduced by about 17 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since FY 2010,” which (Olson) said so far has resulted in almost 12,000 fewer employees, a 12.3 percent drop. There are projected cuts of several thousand more during this fiscal year.

This adds up to “the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001, when the IRS implemented its current performance measures,” Olson said…
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Obama’s Expected Keystone Pipeline Veto Is Likely to Be the First in a Wave

(Summary of Bills vetoed including brief description, 1789-present – Admin.)

NYTimes.com
By Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport
2/22/15

WASHINGTON — Wielding the weapon of his pen, President Obama this week is expected to formally reject a Republican attempt to force construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. But in stopping the transit of petroleum from the forests of Alberta to the Gulf Coast, Mr. Obama will be opening the veto era of his presidency.

The expected Keystone veto, the third and most significant of Mr. Obama’s six years in office, would most likely be followed by presidential vetoes of bills that could emerge to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, impose new sanctions on Iran and roll back child nutrition standards, among others…

…If Mr. Obama takes the veto path in his last two years in office, he could easily surpass the 12 vetoes of his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush. He will not come close to the 635 vetoes that President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued during his 12 years in office or the 414 by President Grover Cleveland during his first term. But Mr. Obama might match the 37 by President Bill Clinton or the 44 by the first President George Bush…
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