Like me, Congress was out of town last week. I guess the main difference is that they get 20 or so of these a year and I get one, but no matter. Today, at least, we start from the same position. And so what do they have planned for the next few days?
Well, in the House, Republicans will try to pass a part of their budget that would substitute cuts for the poor for planned cuts to the military. That certainly sounds like the first order of government – first, do no harm to defense contractors, and be sure to comfort the afflicted with the knowledge that we have more guns and bombs than the rest of the world, rather than actual, you know, comfort.
Republican leaders are planning to bring up a $260 billion measure to slash the budget gap and replace across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect in 2013.
The bill, known as a “reconciliation” proposal, is the product of six House committees and will be combined into one piece of legislation by the House Budget Committee. Democrats have already panned it as an extension of the House GOP proposal that “reflects the wrong priorities” by protecting tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting programs for the poor [...]
Principally, the GOP measure would replace $78 billion in sequestered cuts resulting from the failure of the congressional “supercommittee” to strike a bipartisan deficit deal last fall. Both Republican leaders and the Pentagon have warned against what they say are arbitrary cuts to defense spending.
In addition to the $78 billion in sequester replacement, the bill contains an additional $180 billion in cuts aimed at reducing the deficit. Among the federal programs hit are food stamps, funding for the 2010 healthcare and financial regulatory laws and the refundable child tax credit.
Wow, the child tax credit? I didn’t even see that one coming. “Pro-family” legislators have promoted the child tax credit for years as a way to encourage traditional marriage. But defense contractors need their blow-shit-up money, so that’s done, surely with some rejoinder that poor people are having babies for the tax credit (because babies cost no money to raise these days).
The reconciliation bill is a vehicle for any replacement of the trigger cuts down the road, probably in the lame duck session. So far, House Republicans will only reach a goal of generating headlines that make them look like cruel slaves to industry. I’m not sure what else they get out of it.
In fact, you know this is a political game because the House GOP only wants to roll back the trigger cuts on the defense side, not the non-defense side. The entire argument for rolling back the defense cuts is that they are arbitrary and not well-designed, and would cause chaos within those government agencies. This is no less true on the non-defense side as far as it goes. The trigger envisions across-the-board cuts without a target. That’s fine in the non-defense sphere, to the House GOP, but not when you’re dealing with the 3,542nd long-range bomber in the US fleet.
House Democrats assailed these cuts in a letter last week, and they will pass on the strength of Republican votes alone. So it’s a message bill that allows Republicans to say Democrats want to preside over the weakening of national defense.
As for the rest of the agenda, a bipartisan deal has been struck on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, which would actually raise its loan cap and extend its charter, in exchange for some tighter rules on its business plan and management. Basically, industry got behind reauthorization in a big way and moved Eric Cantor substantially.
There’s also the fight over CISPA, the cybersecurity bill that passed the House recently. The Senate bill is quite a bit different and has support on both sides of the aisle, but co-author Joe Lieberman is trying to persuade Republicans to accept it with additional measures. The White House threatened to veto the House version of CISPA, and has nominally stood behind the Senate effort.