Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Monumental Accomplishment For Taxpayers" Is "Dead On Arrival"

Feb 22: At about 4:40 AM, Saturday morning (Feb. 19) the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) providing funding for the Federal Government for the remaining part of Fiscal Year 2011 (ending September 30), by a vote of 235-189 entirely along party lines. No Democrats voted for the bill and 3 Republicans voted with Democrats against the bill.
    Republicans and Democrats obviously had strikingly different views on the bill and its passage. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the passage was a "Monumental Accomplishment for American Taxpayers"; while the Committee Ranking Member Norm Dicks (D-WA) said the bill was "encumbered with an array of ideologically-driven provisions that will surely render it dead on arrival in the other body and virtually impossible for the President to sign it into law."
    The deadline to pass a new CR is March 4, 2011, to avoid a government-wide shutdown. To make matters worse, the U.S. Senate, where the bill now resides, is on recess for the remainder of the week and does not return until February 28, leaving four days to pass and sign a bill. However, efforts are already underway to extend the timelines (see below).
    Chairman Rogers said, "This bill is a monumental accomplishment for each and every American who believes that their government is spending too much. It dramatically scales back the size and scope of domestic government programs, eliminates $100 billion in spending compared to what the President asked for last year, and will mark the beginning of a new trend of reductions that will take place throughout the next year. We held no program harmless from our spending cuts, and virtually no area of government escaped this process unscathed. While these choices were difficult to make, we strived to spread the sacrifice fairly, weeding out waste and excess, with a razor-sharp focus on making the most out of every taxdollar. . .
    "In addition to spending cuts, the legislation also contains multiple provisions to stop harmful regulations or programs that would hurt the nation's economy and inhibit the ability of American businesses to create jobs, such as onerous EPA 'greenhouse gas' regulations, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility application process, and the Obama Administration's health care reform act. The hand of government has reached too far into Americans' everyday lives, hindering our freedoms and impairing our economic recovery. This legislation will help stop harmful regulations, misguided laws, and over-reaching bureaucracies to allow our businesses to create jobs and our economy to thrive." 
    Ranking Member Dicks said, ". . . I believed the Republican approach to deficit reduction was too narrow and too focused on non-security discretionary spending – the smallest segment of spending in the budget.  Those spending levels would undoubtedly have been detrimental to our task of creating jobs and assuring our economic recovery. And I expressed my view that this specious concept of "cut and grow" had no basis in sound economic theory. . . the most conservative members of the Republican caucus objected and demanded that their leaders impose an additional $26 billion in budget cuts simply in order to adhere to an arbitrary $100 billion level that was pulled out of thin air and inserted into a campaign press release last fall. . .
    "While the debate has been a healthy debate, exposing the clear divisions in this body between our two parties over what we believe should be our budget priorities, the resulting product does not in any way represent a consensus view of this body and I believe it represents a prescription for further harm to our fragile economy and it imposes unfair cuts that will disproportionately affect many of our citizens who are least able to afford them. . . The Republican leadership knows that there is zero chance for this legislation to pass in the other body, and most likely we will see a completely different bill return to the House shortly before March 4th, presenting the prospect of a government shutdown if a compromise version cannot be achieved by then. While I believe it would be a serious mistake for the Republican leadership to let that happen, I worry that we are headed inexorably in that direction. . ."
    The CR was considered in an historic and unprecedented open process on the House floor that included more than 580 amendments offered by both parties and a grueling 60-plus hours of public debate. Of these amendments, 67 were accepted or passed, changing the underlying legislation and according to Chairman Rogers, "reflecting the fair representation of the American people. In all, the successful amendments included more than $620 million in additional spending cuts."
    In addition to the major cuts contained in H.R. 1, including for example nearly a 30% cut in U.S. EPA's budget, some of the environmental and energy related amendments in the final bill included:
  • An amendment by Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) to eliminate $8.4 million from the EPA's Greenhouse Gas Registry, a program that collects data on industrial greenhouse gas emissions, returning its funding to 2008 levels.
  • An amendment from Rep. Whitfield (R-KY) to eliminate $1.5 million for the "Greening of the Capitol" initiative from the Legislative Branch section of the CR.
  • An amendment from Rep. McClintock (R-CA) that eliminates $20 million for tropical forest debt reduction, affecting the Department of the Treasury, Debt Restructuring portion of the CR.
  • An amendment from Rep. Scalise (R-LA) that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay the salaries and expenses of the following "czars," or special presidential advisers who are not required to go through the Senate confirmation process: Obama Care Czar, Climate Change Czar, Global Warming Czar, Green Jobs Czar, Car Czar, Guantanamo Bay Closure Czar, Pay Czar and Fairness Doctrine Czar.
  • An amendment from Rep. Carter (R-TX) that prohibits the use of funds to implement, administer or enforce the rule entitled "National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants From the Portland Cement Manufacturing Industry and Standards of Performance for Portland Cement Plants," published by the Environmental Protection Agency on September 9, 2010, which limits the levels of mercury in cement.
  • An amendment from Rep. Lummis (R-WY) to put a moratorium, for the duration of the CR, on the payment of legal fees to citizens and groups who sue the government, in order to study abuses in the system.
  • An amendment from Rep. Young (R-AK) to prohibit funds from being used by the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board to consider, review, reject remand or other invalidate any permit issued for Outer Continental Shelf sources located offshore of the States along the Arctic Coast.
  • An amendment from Reps. Poe (R-TX), Barton (R-TX) and Carter (R-TX) that defines specifically what greenhouse gases are and prohibits the EPA from imposing regulations on those gasses emitted by a stationary source for seven months.
  • An amendment from Rep. McClintock (R-CA) that prohibits funds from being used to implement the Klamath (California) Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study, conducted by the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • An amendment by Rep. Herger (R-CA) that prohibits the use of funds to implement or enforce the Travel Management Rule, which would close roads and trails on National Forest System land.
  • An amendment from Rep. Johnson (R-OH) to prohibit the use of funds for the Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) from moving forward with a proposed rule that would effectively eliminate the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, a rule that presently allows surface mining operations with qualified permits to work within 100 feet of a stream.
  • An amendment from Rep. Goodlatte (R-VA) that would prohibit EPA funding for enforcement of total maximum daily loads in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • An amendment from Rep. Rooney (R-FL) that prohibits funding for the EPA to impose and enforce federally mandated numeric Florida water quality standards.
  • An amendment from Rep. Flake (R-AZ) that prohibits funds from being used to construct ethanol blender pumps or ethanol storage facilities.
  • An amendment from Rep. Hall (R-TX) prohibiting funds to implement a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Service, part of the President's fiscal year 2012 budget request.
  • An amendment from Rep. Griffith (R-VA) prohibiting the EPA, Corps of Engineers and the Office of Surface Mining from implementing coordination procedures that have served to extend and delay the review of coal mining permits.
  • An amendment from Rep. Jones (R-NC) that prohibits the use of funds from being used to develop or approve a new limited access privilege program – "catch-shares" – for any fishery under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, New England or Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
  • An amendment from Rep. Luetkemeyer (R-MO) that prohibits the use of funds for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • An amendment from Rep. Sullivan (R-OK) that blocks funds for the EPA to implement a waiver to increase the ethanol content in gasoline from 10 percent to 15 percent.
  • An amendment from Rep. McKinley (R-WV) that prohibits funding for the EPA to deny proposed and active mining permits under Section 404 (c) of the Clean Water Act, specifically to revoke retroactively a permit for the Spruce Mine in West Virginia.
  • An amendment from Rep. McKinley (R-WV) that prohibits funding for the EPA to implement regulations to designate coal ash reside as hazardous waste.
  • An amendment from Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) that prohibits funds for a government sponsored "consumer products complaints database."
  • An amendment from Rep. Noem (R-SD) to prohibit funding for EPA to modify the national primary ambient air quality standards applicable to coarse particulate matter (dust).
     Needless to say there will be a battle in the Senate when the CR is considered there when the Senate returns. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI) released a statement and analysis of the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) prior to the latest round of amendments. In his statement Senator Inouye said, "The impact of H.R. 1 on the ability of the federal government to perform even some of its most basic functions is, in many instances, severe. The Constitution requires of the government that it '…establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...'. The House Republican proposal would undermine our ability to live up to these ideals, and do little to address the long-term fiscal challenges facing our nation. . .
    ". . .many of the reductions proposed by the House were made not because programs were ineffective or wasteful, but out of desire to meet an arbitrary dollar figure cited during a political campaign. Many of the recommendations in this bill resulted from a "meat cleaver" approach to budget cuts, when we should be using a scalpel -- responsibly identifying specific programs that are wasteful or unneeded. . . We cannot win the future by gutting the very programs that make America competitive in the first place. . ."
    On February 22, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced his plans to introduce a clean, short-term Continuing Resolution that will give Democrats and Republicans time to negotiate a plan to responsibly cut government spending. Senator Reid said, "Speaker Boehner should stop drawing lines in the sand, and come to the table to find a responsible path forward that cuts government spending while keeping our communities safe and our economy growing. It would be the height of irresponsibility to shut down the government without any negotiations, as Republicans are threatening to do. A shutdown could send our fragile economy back into a recession, and mean no Social Security checks for seniors, less funding for border security and no paychecks for our troops.
    "To avoid a shutdown and give us time to negotiate a responsible path forward, I have asked Sen. Inouye, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to prepare a clean Continuing Resolution that I can bring to the floor next week. Since this bill is intended to fund vital services like Social Security, our military and border security, it should have no legislation or riders tied to it. This bill will include the $41 billion in budget cuts that Democrats and Republicans agreed to in December, and will keep the government running for 30 days while both sides can negotiate a common-sense, long-term solution. I have asked my chief of staff, David Krone, to begin negotiations with Speaker Boehner's chief of staff, Barry Jackson, to craft a long-term continuing resolution that cuts waste and excess, while protecting the initiatives that keep us safe, put Americans back to work and keep our economy on the right track. It is time to drop the threats and ultimatums, and work together on a path forward. I am asking Speaker Boehner to simply take the threat of a government shutdown off the table, and work with us to negotiate a responsible, long-term solution."
    Access a lengthy release from Chairman Rogers with a summaries of key provisions (click here). Access a release from Ranking Member Dicks (click here). Access complete legislative details with links to amendments and votes on individual amendments (click here). Access the House Appropriations website for links to a table of program cuts, CR summary and  CR savings (click here). Access a release and analysis from Sen. Inouye (click here). Access a release from Sen. Reid (click here). Access a fact sheet from Senate Democrats on the House-passed CR (click here).
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