spending cuts

Biggest Stories of 2013: The Republican Surrender Act of 2013

Throughout New Year’s Eve, we’ll be going through the 10 biggest political stories of 2013 as selected by United Liberty’s contributors. Don’t forget to chime in on the biggest stories of the year on our Facebook page.

Republicans won a hard fought debt ceiling battle in 2011, getting $1.2 trillion in reductions in spending over the course of 10 years. The spending cuts were hailed by supporters as one of the biggest achievements for fiscal conservatives in several years.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) passed both the House of Representatives and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support, including votes from Pelosi and Reid, and was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

But before those bipartisan cuts even kicked in, Republicans began retreating from them, and, in the process, blew their messaging on the need for lower spending and deficit reduction. Why? They wanted to restore some of the defense spending cuts mandated by the BCA, because they wanted to protect crony contractors from cutbacks.

Republicans talking tough about debt ceiling

In the midst of a complete surrender over the hard-fought spending cuts in the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011, congressional Republicans are talking out loud about making demands to raise the debt ceiling in the spring.

For example, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who brokered the budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), noted over the weekend that House Republicans “don’t want ‘nothing’ out of the debt limit” and would “decide what it is we can accomplish out of this debt limit fight.” He later indicated that one potential trade off could be approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) doubted that Congress would approve a clean debt ceiling hike. “I think the debt ceiling legislation is a time that brings us all together and gets the president’s attention, which with this president, particularly when it comes to reducing spending, has been a bit of a challenge,” said McConnell this week, according to Politico.

The deal reached during the government shutdown funded the government until January 15 and raised the debt ceiling to February 7. With the budget issue almost certainly out of the way, assuming the Senate passes it, the focus in Congress will be on the debt ceiling.

New report highlights $30 billion in wasteful government spending

The federal government has doled out nearly $1 million since 2010 to study the origins and influence of popular romance in books and films, $3 million spent by NASA to study how Congress works, and $150,000 to develop an educational game based on the zombie apocalypse.

These are just a few examples of how Washington is spending taxpayer dollars, according to a new report, Wastebook 2013, released yesterday by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). The report, which highlights nearly $30 billion in wasteful, low-priority spending, comes as Congress debates a budget that will rollback modest, bipartisan spending cuts.

“While politicians in Washington spent much of 2013 complaining about sequestration’s impact on domestic programs and our national defense, we still managed to provide benefits to the Fort Hood shooter, study romance novels, help the State Department buy Facebook fans and even help NASA study Congress,” said Corburn in a statement on the report.

The report, Wastebook 2013, highlights nearly $30 billion in. The 100 examples provided in the report just scratches the surface of the large problem, according to Coburn.

“Had Congress, in particular, been focused on doing its job of setting priorities and cutting the kind of wasteful spending outlined in this report, we could have avoided both a government shutdown and a flawed budget deal that was designed to avert a shutdown,” said Coburn. He noted that the wasteful spending highlighted in the report is “a small fraction of the more than $200 billion we throw away every year through fraud, waste, duplication and mismanagement.”

Senate likely to push through Ryan-Murray budget deal

There were some news reports over the weekend featuring which suggested that there were not the votes in the Senate to pass the budget deal reached between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). But The New York Times reported yesterday that enough Republicans will vote to advance deal past a procedural hurdle, setting the stage for final passage (emphasis added):

Support for a compromise two-year budget deal grew on Monday ahead of a Tuesday vote in the Senate as Republicans concluded that a measure that achieved overwhelming bipartisan support in the House could not die in Congress’s upper chamber.

Boehner doubles down: Conservative groups have “lost all credibility”

John Boehner

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) got a budget deal passed through the House of Representatives on Thursday, but he continued to alienate some of the Republican base in the process by doubling down on criticism of conservative groups.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Boehner, who is in his term as Speaker of the House, said that conservative groups opposing the budget deal are “using our members” and “using the American people.”

Those comments have been called a “line in the sand” against conservative groups and have drawn praise from moderate Republicans, including former Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-LA), who referred to the groups as the “Flat Earth Society.”

Conservative groups quickly fired back at Boehner, saying that the deal is a surrender by Republicans on spending and the promise of spending cuts in the future is dubious, at best.

But Boehner doubled down on the criticism on Thursday, shortly before the vote on the budget deal, after a question from a reporter about his comments from the previous day.

“Well, frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers, pushing members into places they don’t want to be,” Boehner told the reporter. “And, frankly, I think that they’ve lost all credibility.”

Boehner defends the Republican Surrender Act, slams conservative groups

John Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) responded angrily when asked about the strong opposition from conservative groups over the budget deal announced on Tuesday by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

An unidentified reporter asked about the groups which had blasted the deal — more aptly called the Republican Surrender Act of 2013 — and warned members of Congress that they would key vote against it on their respective scorecards. Before the reporter could finish her question, Boehner cut her off, clearly agitated, and shot back, “You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?”

“They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people, for their own goals. This is ridiculous,” he said. “Listen, if you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”

Conservative group: Budget deal a “lose-lose compromise” for taxpayers

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairs of budget committees in both chambers of Congress, reached an agreement last night that will partially roll back the bipartisan spending cuts mandated by the bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2011.

Jonathan Bydlak, president of the Coalition to Reduce Spending, warns that the looming budget promise is “disastrous” for fiscal conservatives because reversal of some of these reasonable spending cuts and does nothing to address entitlement programs — the real drivers of federal budget deficits.

“This deal would be a disastrous lose-lose compromise that kicks the can down the road while refusing to address the core of our national fiscal crisis,” wrote Bydlak in an email blast before the agreement was formally announced.

RELATED: United Liberty chats with Jonathan Bydlak

“At this point, sources have reported that the deal will likely replace less than half of the sequester cuts for 2014 and 2015, and not touch major entitlements and the tax code,” he continued. “[W]e’re hearing rumors that the disastrous deal could…include spending around $980 billion to $1 trillion, along with raising revenues through increased federal employee benefits contributions and air ticket taxes, among other things.”

Budget agreement reached, sequester cuts partially rolled back

Paul Ryan and Patty Murray

After months of working through differences, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairs of the respective chamber’s budget committees, announced this evening that they’ve struck a two-year discretionary spending agreement that would avoid the prospect of another government shutdown.

The agreement, dubbed the “Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013,” would spend $1.012 trillion in the current fiscal year and $1.013 trillion in FY 2015, according to a summary of the agreement. It will rollback $63 billion of planned spending cuts between this and next year. The funding measure will not tackle mandatory spending (ie. entitlements), nor does it raise the debt ceiling.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” Ryan said in a joint statement. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” Murray said. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

Budget deadline approaches, some sequester cuts could be nixed

There is a lot going on surrounding the budget as Congress approaches the December 13 deadline for lead negotiators — Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairs of their respective budget committees — to reach an agreement, per the October deal that ended the government shutdown.

Republicans in Congress are, generally, ready to deal on the budget, one way or another, after the hit in the polls they took in October. But discussions current taking place between Ryan and Murray would undo tens of billions in sequester cuts, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal:

Lawmakers must still overcome significant obstacles, including last-minute pressure from Democrats seeking a renewal of expanded federal unemployment benefits and labor unions opposed to proposed cuts in federal employees’ pensions.

Still, officials close to the talks say that Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), chief negotiators for their parties, are closing in on a deal that, while smaller in scope than past budget deals, would mark a rare moment of bipartisanship in a Congress that has been lurching from one fiscal crisis to the next.

Obama knocks Republicans, bloggers in post-shutdown speech

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama told reporters on Wednesday evening that he’d have a lot to say about the government shutdown and debt ceiling following the House’s passage of the measure.

Boy, did he ever?

During a 20-minute speech on Thursday morning, President Obama spent a lot of time decrying “brinksmanship” and lecturing Republicans who opposed a spending measure that didn’t defund or change his signature law. He also took shots at groups and bloggers that oppose his administration.

“We know that the American people’s frustration with what goes on in this town has never been higher. That’s not a surprise that the American people are completely fed up with Washington,” said President Obama. “At a moment when our economic recovery demands more jobs, more momentum, we’ve got yet another self-inflicted crisis that set our economy back. And for what?”


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