Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Legislative Alert: HR3082, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

On December 8, the House approved a continuing resolution (CR) to essentially fund government at 2010 levels through the end of September, 2011. With the exception of 8 Republicans and 8 Democrats who abstained from the vote, all of the 171 remaining Republicans along with 35 Democrats voted against the bill. These 206 votes were not enough to overcome 212 Democrats who voted for the bill. (http://www.opencongress.org/vote/2010/h/622 )

House Democrats know that in November the people voted for responsible spending. They also know that House Republicans will come to work in January 2011 with a mandate to reduce spending, and their target is to trim $100 Billion from the budget by returning to the pre-Obama budget levels of 2008. The sensible thing to do at this point is to pass a temporary resolution to keep the government operating until February, but the outgoing Democrats want to saddle us with their excessive spending for nearly another year.
This legislation will now move to the Senate, where it is expected that Senators will introduce an “Omnibus Spending” amendment to the bill. While details of this expected amendment are unknown, it’s safe to say that it won’t cut spending any further, and will likely add to the expense of this bill.

In a particularly egregious move, although one that is typical for this Congress, the House tacked the FDA Food Safety Bill, S510, onto this legislation. This allowed them to bypass the constitutionality issue of the taxes added to the bill by the Senate, so that this unpopular bill can be forced into law without further debate.

In debate, House Republicans brought forth many good arguments against the CR:

1. While supporters of the CR pointed out that it calls for $46 Billion less spending than the budget amount requested by President Obama for 2011, Republicans know that the budget amounts requested in this CR are far in excess of the spending in 2008 and earlier. After a small reduction in spending for 2010 (to a level that was still over $500 Billion more than 2008), Obama’s requested budget for 2010-2019 calls for increased outlays every single year, culminating with over $5 Trillion  in outlays in 2019, compared to less than $3 Trillion in 2008. President Obama’s proposed budget projects spending for nearly a decade, and shows no signs of fiscal responsibility at any point. Any comparisons to this wish list to prove fiscal responsibility are laughable.

2. In addition to funding programs at 2010 levels, the bill makes supplemental appropriations for several programs, among them Healthcare Reform. $630 Million is allocated to fund four sections of the healthcare law, including the creation of an entirely new federal agency to promote public health. Republicans have vowed to defund the healthcare bill, but this bill cuts them off from doing that before they can even try.

3. Rep. Kingston of GA pointed out that while the bill cuts $36 Million from grants for academic competitiveness, it adds $14.5 Million to Congress’ budget (CR pg H8206).

4. Rep. Turner of OH objected to the fact that Section 2412 of the CR holds $624 Million of the appropriation for nuclear weapons activities hostage to the Senate passing the START treaty. (CR pg H8207)

5. Republicans also pointed out that the CR was necessary because for the first time in the history of the United States Congress failed to produce an appropriations bill for the budget as they’re required to do.

Rep. Flake of AZ may have said it best: “Having failed to present (even) one of the 12 annual appropriation bills for fiscal year 2011 to the President, this body finds itself once again in the position of scrambling at the last minute to pass legislation just to keep the government running…This year the outgoing majority wants us to accomplish much of its agenda long before Republicans take control. It would seem that if you failed to pass legislation in regular order that would fund the government for the coming year that you should at least recognize that we have had an election (emphasis added). And if you can't finish the work, allow those who are coming in to go ahead with their own budget.”

Rep. Flake continued, “Republicans have called to cut spending to fiscal 2008 levels. This, I think, continues funding at 2010 levels. That might not seem significant until you realize that's a $100 billion difference. And when you are running these kinds of deficits, when you have this kind of debt, that makes a difference. If the first rule when you are in a hole is to stop digging, certainly the first rule when you are running a deficit like we are is to stop spending.” (CR pg H8206)

These are just a few of the issues with this bill. In a nutshell, this is a last-ditch attempt by a lame duck Congress to continue their reckless spending for nearly a year after they leave office, ensuring funding for their pet special interest projects long after they leave office. It’s unconscionable that they should propose this when it so clearly contradicts the mandate of the people from the election just a month ago.

It’s now up to the Senate to stop this reckless power grab and send this flawed CR back to the House to be reapproved as a true interim spending bill for only as long as it takes the new Congress to do the job that the current Congress failed to do. Please contact your Senators by email and/or fax this weekend, and call them on Monday to ask them to oppose a long term CR on every vote, especially a cloture vote where a 2/3 majority is required to proceed:

Senator Harry Reid (D- NV), 202-224-3542, 202-224-7327

Senator John Ensign (R- NV), 202-224-6244, 202-228-2193

Senator Mitch McConnell (R- KY) (Minority Leader), 202-224-2541, 202-224-2499

Senator Jon Kyl (R- AZ) (Minority Whip), 202-224-4521, 202-224-2207

For other Senators, or for detailed info on local offices for your Senator, click here:

Thank you!

Jim DeGraffenreid
Jimde45@earthlink.net


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