Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Blogging the Budget

I've arrived at the Capitol, and the first big news is that lunch will not be healthy today: no salad, or even turkey sandwiches. The GOP Conference is providing chips and soda. Still, it's a good group - with Mark from Red State, Mary Katharine Ham, Stephen Spruiell, Rob Bluey, Pat Cleary, and Ivy Sellers here.

Paul Ryan (Budget Committee Ranking Republican)
Washington does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem.

The new Democratic majority is the same as the last Democratic majority. The last one passed the largest tax increase in American history; the new one is passing the largest increase in American history. This budget bill contains a $392.5 billion tax increase. 115 million taxpayers will see their average tax bill increase by nearly $2000 annually in 2011 alone. Women, families with children, single women with children, elderly Americans. Almost half of the 5 million people in Wisconsin will see their taxes go up by an average of over $2000 annually. Democrats have clearly decided to raise taxes to balance the budget.

The GOP budget blocks tax increases, reforms government, limits spending, protects Social Security and begins to pay down the debt. Democrats offer no entitlement reform with no savings on those programs. Democrats are proposing to fix entitlements sometime after 2012 - but they deliver on immense new spending right away. Control spending, keep taxes low, stop the raid of Social Security. The difference between the two parties is crystal clear.

Adam Putnam (Policy Committee Chair)
The Two Great Issues
First: giving our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines the tools they need. Democrats want to set a date certain, so the enemy in Iraq knows when to begin their serious attacks. It's a very dangerous plan.

Second: On the budget, Democrats are porking up spending bills, while doing nothing about the generational crisis of entitlement spending. This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue; it's an American issue.

Scott Garrett (NJ)
Very pleased with the budget Paul Ryan put together. Goes back to the problems of the last election. The Democratic budget is without substance to address the issues they campaigned on - no reserve funds, no funds in the 'tax gap' from which Democrats want to recover. The Democrats plan to recover $300 billion from the tax gap; the IRS says the most you can recover is $20 billion. That is what you can recover from corporate taxes. The Democrats are planning to engage in what the IRS characterized as 'draconian tactics' to get the funds from individuals and small businesses. What do the Democrats intends to do with the funds they recover? It will pay for new spending (instead of repaying the debt).

Cliff Stearns (FL)
Three issues are immigration, war in Iraq and health care.
On the topic of the day - the budget - Democrats eliminate 10% bracket, raise rates on all taxpayers, reinstating marriage penalty, reinstating the death tax. This is even though we have 5 years of uninterrupted growth. We are enjoying record federal revenues - they increased by more than 9 percent since 2001. The deficit in comparison to GDP is among the lowest in history.

On Iraq: Americans should realize that even during the surge in Iraq, we have fewer troops in Iraq than at least three other periods during the war. HR 1062 settles many concerns: it has military, political and social benchmarks. Let's work with Petraeus. Violence is on the decline. Car bombs, deaths, assassination attempts are down dramatically. In the short period of the surge, there have been improvements.

President should veto the supplemental. There is no reason for the pork.

Brian Bilbray (CA 50)
Do What Worked in the Past
When he first left Congress in 2001(?), we had a $150 billion(ish) surplus. Republicans would have done better if they had stuck closer to their formula for success in the 1990s. He did not bring pork back to his distrct, but he bought a balanced budget. For his grandchildren, it was essential to control two things: the budget and the border. We ought to have a 2-year budget cycle. Let Members address difficult budget issues right after having gotten elected, not right before they're about to seek re-election. Shouldn't have to spend 70 percent of your time on how to redistribute the taxpayer money.

Another issue is the insertion of new pork in the conference committee. It gets little scrutiny because it did not go in before; and the conference report doesn't get as much scrutiny. We'll know the process is working properly when people no longer want to serve on conference committees.

Some fiscal conservatives are advocating an amnesty for 12-15 million people, which will cost about $30-$35 billion annually.

Roy Blunt (House Republican Whip)
Defining who we are and who the Democrats are.
We have a great opportunity to define who we are; the Democrats are helping by showing who they are. Democrats showed who they are when they voted for a deadline for withdrawal and defeat In the last Congress, House Republicans forced the Senate to strip $14 billion in pork from the Iraq supplemental; with Democratic leadership, the Iraq supplemental will have more than $24 billion in pork. With the supplemental and the budget, Democrats will be spending $50 billion in new money.

House Republicans have a site at Youtube.

What did we learn from last year's elections? Our ideas did not lose; many Democrats who got elected ran as Republicans. We need to follow our ideas and do a better job of communicating those ideas.

Discussion of No Child Left Behind... (sorry, you'll have to read Rob Bluey - he's following this much more closely).

With regard to immigration, Mr. Blunt opposes the proposal to make illegal immigrants 'touchback' in their home countries before claiming citizenship.

Pete Sessions
I comment that Mr. Sessions takes a picture of every visitor to his DC office. He comments that he learned management, leadership, and customer service in a 16 year career at SBC, and that he tries to get to know everyone who visits his office.

With regard to FTAs, he recognizes that 95 percent of the world's customers live outside the US. Free trade agreements reduce taxes on products and services. We stand for lowering taxes and enhance the economies of the world. Rather than give aid with no expectation as to what countries should do with it, Republicans have favored giving people the chance to earn (my paraphrasing).

The 25 EU countries now have a combined GDP equal to the US... circa 1985. In employment and productivity, R&D, the US has the lead. The US Dow Jones average has gone up 12 times since 1981; the Republican policies of low taxes, open markets, is what works. Europe is trying Hillarycare for health care, high taxes and regulation. How's that going?

Question from Rob: What will Rudy do on health care? (Mr. Sessions is a Giuliani backer). Mr. Sessions' family has longstanding ties to Rudy Giuliani, owing to Sessions' dad's tenure at the FBI, while Rudy was in the Reagan Justice Department. Giuliani believes in markets and wants to empower consumers. Giuliani is concerned about quality health care and access to health care. He understands the importance of tort reform, and of encouraging doctors to participate in the market - so more can afford care.

With regard to Sarbanes-Oxley, the original law was considered quickly and the Senate made the bill much more complex and cumbersome. We need to fix the words 'de minimis' and 'material,' which set the standard for audit. IPOs are being chased outside the US, because of onerous rules and standards. Those words need to be interpreted reasonably.

We need to support our men and women

Dennis Hastert (former Speaker)
Would like to talk about energy, but we need to address climate change. Concerned with the scare stories about submerging Manhattan. We need to recognize that good policy is good environmental policy. We need to do whatever we can to make our air cleaner and our environment better. We need to be more energy independent - instead of being dependent on places like Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Angola, etc. We need capital, technology and prodding to accomplish that. We ought to be more dependent on the ground under Gillette (sp?) Wyoming than we are on Saudi Arabia. We need to do ethanol, clean coal, wind power, gasification and liquification of coal, and atomic energy. The Senate leader is stopping the establishment of a nuclear waste depository at Yucca Mountain. One person - in a despotic manner - is blocking energy choice in America. We have challenges, but we have great opportunities.

With regard to how Ms. Pelosi is doing as Speaker, Hastert says he always thought of her as a formidable opponent. He says she's doing a good job; she's putting a steress on her conference (noting particularly the vote on the Iraq supplemental) like we did on our conference. With Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, Blue Dogs, and others, it's hard to keep your players in line. They split the caucus pretty well; and they will do it a lot more over the next few years.

Tom Reynolds
The Democratic budget includes an average tax increase of $3,657 increase in taxes for the average New Yorker (sorry dad) - all as part of the largest tax increase in American history. Mr. Reynolds hits on some of the same points that Messrs. Ryan and others have. They claim that they are fixing the AMT for one year, but they haven't even done that. Their grassroots lobbying disclosure bill will put new disclosure requirements on ordinary folks. We need good reporting in the blog community and elsewhere about what the Democrats are trying to do. With a threshhold of 10,000 contacts for coverage, we can look forward to more debate and discussion.

Also, Mr. Reynolds is optimistic on taking back all 3 Congressional seats that the Republicans lost in 2006. He says that the Gillibrand seat is a good GOP seat, and those of Arcuri and Hall are winnable.

Tim Walberg (MI)
He has been 'exhilirated' in his first 3 months in Congress, and humbled. He can't believe to be in a Congress attempting to put in place the largest tax increase in American history. He has signed onto the 'A+' Act, as an alternative to No Child Left Behind. It allows local school districts to decide what is best. We must reduce the massive bureaucratic overhead of NCLB. He is a proud sponsor of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. He considers himself deeply privileged to speak for his troops. We need to make sure they are always supported - if not by Congress, then at least by the people in his district.

Mr. Walberg then talked at some length about card check legislation, but that will be better covered by Pat Cleary.

Eric Cantor
First thanks bloggers for leadership and getting out the message (yeah, I don't believe it either). Talks about wrong-headed move to try to take away the secret ballot for unionization. With regard to the budget, we're set for a good old-fashioned tax fight in the House. Will also hear more about a proposed House rule change by Steny Hoyer to stop Republicans from winning floor votes. (More here). On tax bills, it will have the effect of allowing tax increases without Republicans having much of a say. With regard to Iran - and the news today that Iran may release the female British sailor - it demonstrates that Iran will go to such lengths to taunt the US. What will they do if they have nuclear weapons?

On trade, this is a critical week. In order to renew TPA, some agreement is needed this week. We should all want to expand markets, because that's how we lead. Nevertheless, the Democratic Majority insists on inserting ILO standards into any trade agreement - a huge departure from traditional practice. But it seems Speaker Pelois and Sandy Levin want to abide by their commitments to Big Labor.

Mark Kirk (IL)
Tomorrow the House may take up a resolution to call for the release of the British sailors in Iran. Served in the Pentagon as Navy Intel officer. GPS data clearly shows the sailors were seized in Iraqi waters. The House resolution mentions a new sanction: a gasoline quarantine on Iran. Because of mismanagement, Iran is dependent on foreign sources for nearly half its gas. Most of the gas comes from one supplier: Vital (?) of Belgium.

Another priority in Congress is building a new agenda for GOP parties and candidates. People think of the US as a third rural, a third urban, and a third suburban. But this last election was the first in which half of all voters were suburban voters. The agenda includes legislation on school safety (allowing teachers to search students for weapons), online predator legislation, helping save for college, '401 Kids' savings accounts.

On trade, Mr. Kirk represents Boeing and Motorola. Trade lifts many incomes, but spreads those gains widely. Business failures and bankruptcies attract disproportionate attention.

Todd Tiahrt (KS)
Chapter 9 of the supplemental prevents the deployment of troops that are not fully 'mission capable.' That is, we must have all the troops, and they must have been trained on the equipment that they will be deployed on - which is not possible, because US policy means that that is already in theater. Plus, Congress must be notified 15 days in advance of deployment. Under the Democratic proposal, it's impossible to deploy troops.

Tax policy: look to the lesson of Ireland, which shows how important tax policy is to economic growth. Regulations raise the cost of everything by 12 percent. Health care costs are rising faster than inflation. We need more R&D funding. On energy we are stifling economic growth by not using the resources that we have, and not looking for new technologies (notably clean coal and natural gas).

John Boehner (Minority Leader)
President has made it very clear he will veto a bill with unnecessary spending. There is a $400-$800 billion hole in the Democratic budget over 5 years, which must be made up with entitlement cuts or tax increases. It will be through tax increases. Democrats have already spent $50 billion more than called for, in just the first quarter of the year.

With regard to earmark reform, the Democrats promised more clarity on how Members benefit from their own earmarks. Yesterday's decision of the Ethics Committee did nothing to fulfill that promise. Then last week, David Obey did this - and it demonstrates that there is no way to enforce the simple rules they've put in place.

On ethics and the inability of people to access gift and travel benefit information online, Mr. Boehner says it might be a good idea to put that information online so people can access it. He also says the rules are incosistent and difficult to obey. Rob mentions that Sunlight Foundation is working on this as well.

Zach Wamp (TN)
Mr. Wamp notes that Republicans were not only better at running the House when they were in the majority, they are better at being the Minority than the Democrats were. Democrats ran on security and fiscal responsibility; now is their chance to make good on their promises.

The threat of Islamic Jihadism will not go away, and it is the defining issue of our generation. Our volunteer army is facing that threat, and we must not play games (and play politics) with our troops and our way of life. You can't vote for withdrawal and then tell the voters at home that you are tough on terror. We should leave Iraq when it's in our nation's best interest.

Mr. Wamp sits on the Appropriations Committee, so I asked where earmark reform stands. He says reform was long overdue, and he is all for transparency and complete openness - but the Congress must exercise its constitutional role in determining the spending of taxpayer dollars - not just leave it to the President.

He also too advantage of a question to plug Thompson for President. He says his guess is that Thompson will run - and he says we need a tough conservative who can offer leadership.

Dr. Phil Gingrey (GA)
With regard to 'rebranding' and what happened between 1994 and 2006, we must stand for a strong national defense and a limited government. We must have the $103 billion for the military in the Iraq supplemental, but we must not have a drop dead date for withdrawal - no matter what the circumstances. Even if we have the enemy on the run in 2008, the Democrats want us to pull out. It makes no sense to have this excess spending in it. The Democrts refuse to consider S-CHIP funding as a stand-alone bill - as it should - because it would complicate matters under their new Pay-Go rules. Democrats are ramping up spending and paying for it with the largest tax increase in American history.

Mr. Gingrey also called for S-CHIP reform when it is reauthorized - to make sure it is not abused. Chairman Dingell is already talking about increasing spending from about $5 billion per year to $15 billion per year. He wants to let the federal government pay for health insurance for those who don't need it.

Tom Tancredo (CO)
First he expressed his outrage that Democrats bought votes of their Members for a forced surrender with peanut money and all sorts of other bribes.

He then turned to a topic on which he's passionate: immigration. Mr. Tancredo is being sued by a jailed illegal immigrant named Al Qaedi (sp?) who suffered mental anguish listening to Mr. Tancredo talk about immigration. This fellow can't be deported, because Iraq won't take him back. The State Department is supposed to stop issuing visas for nationals of countries who won't take back such nationals - but they won't. He has called for the resignation of Alberto Gonzales over failure to enforce immigration laws. On immigration reform, he's concerned that some Republican Senators will be willing to make a bad deal; he looks to Jeff Sessions to continue to lead the fight.

Trent Franks (AZ)
Mentions that the Democrats are getting ready to put in place the largest tax increase in the history of humanity. The only offsets for the deficit and the debt are tax increases. Democrats must want to repeal the laws of math, because its the only way their budgets can be consistent with reality. When the Baby Boomers retire, they will become the most dependent generation. The Congress lacks statesmen - people willing to consider the next generation. Taking a bill intended for the support of our troops and ladening it with pork is dishonorable.

What we face in Iraq is the most dangerous challenge we face in the history of the world. The violent ideas and philosophy of Islamic terrorism is taking hold in too many people around the world, and we must confront it. But the ignorance of the truth of this is even more dangerous.

Mr. Franks notes that he has endorsed Duncan Hunter for President (Editor's note - not John McCain). He is a former Ranger and understands what we are facing. He hopes that people take a look at what he stands for.

Catherine McMorris Rodgers (WA)
There is no greater defining issue than the budget - and taxes. So many Democrats ran on fiscal responsibility - and are now pushing to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. It will lead to a tax increase of over $3000 on the average Washington state resident. These tax increases will destroy businesses and jobs.

But why aren't the American people aware that this tax increase is coming their way; why don't they notice it? We need to do a better job communicating.

Mike Conaway and John Carter
Democrats have bragged for 12 years that they are 'fiscal conservatives;' it's easy to do so when you're not accountable. But voting on this tax increase is a chance to hold their feet to the fire. They're going to continue business as usual - throwing money at every program coming down the pike.

The average tax filer in Texas will see taxes go up $2,755 under the Democratic plan. When people ask what the Republicans did during 12 years in power, the answer comes tomorrow: they fought off this tax increase. If the Democrats had been in power, they would have enacted this tax increase - and taken away money that people could have used for TVs, trucks - and homes, in some cases.

John Campbell (CA)
The Democratic budget increases spending, does nothing for Social Security and/or entitlement reform - while including the largest tax increase in American history. The Democrats are unencumbered by facts. They claim to be for marriage penalty relief, the 10 percent tax bracket, and lower taxes generally - but that belies the facts of what's in their budget. Under their plan, they can either have the tax cuts they claim to like, or they can balance the budget. The bottom line: a tax increase of $3,000 on average for every American tax filer. Mr. Campbell notes that the House Regressive Caucus has a tax increase 2.5 times larger, and the Black Caucus has their own proposal as well. In fact, the main Democratic budget - with all of its tax increases - is the least bad budget put forth by the Democrats.

Mr. Campbell is really enjoying his posting at the Green Eyeshade Blog. He thinks it's a great way to get information out to ordinary folks. (Check this out for example).

Mr. Campbell also made a pitch for Congress to stay in session to fund the troops - pointing out that while funds are running out, Members should not go home.

Charlie Dent (PA)
He notes (in response to a question I posed to Mr. Campbell), that he has endorsed Rudy Giuliani for President. He thinks that Giuliani will run very well in his district.

Rob notes that Senator McCain has advised that the President, in explaining why he's going to veto the Iraq supplemental, would simply read the list of pork projects in the bill. Congressman Dent thinks that's a good start, but notes that the major problem is the provisions that interfere with the President's authority to command the armed forces. He also makes a pitch for doing more to inspect the people who enter country.

Marsha Blackburn (TN), Kevin Brady (TX) and Bob Goodlatte (VA)
Ms. Blackburn starts off on climate change, noting that people accept that the climate has changed. We need to know better what effect human beings have on it. How can we encourage a positive outcome? And off to Mr. Goodlatte...

who notes that the Democrats are getting ready to pass the largest tax increase in US history. He says that the GOP needs to reclaim the high ground, and the Democrats are helping them do it. It will set aside Social Security, keep taxes down and balance the budget. HJRes 1 is a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution introduced by Mr. Goodlatte and cosponsored by more than 150 others. He hopes to have a vote on the measure in this Congress. He's also a proponent of eliminating the tax code by a date certain, so Congress and the President will act to replace it.

Mr. Brady steps up and says that Republicans got fired from running Congress because they forgot to balance the budget and reduce spending. The GOP budget will do that. If you listen closely (he notes), you'll hear the shattering of many Democratic campaign promises. He points out that the budget deficit will increase by $38 billion under the Democratic plan.

Brady wants to extend Trade Promotion Authority, and notes how well the US does in trade with nations with whom we have Free Trade Agreements. He says they're down to the last 48 hours on this. He says that the GOP has offered a good compromise on Trade Promotion, which would require trading partners to sign on to either ILO standards or US standards when they come to an agreement with the US. He says the US can't step off the trade stage and hope to prosper.

Ms. Blackburn also points out that the Democrat budget eliminates the exemption for states that use sales taxes instead of income taxes - raising taxes even more on residents of those states.

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