What do the Republican presidential candidates think about the most pressing defense and foreign policy issues facing the U.S.? Find out by tuning into CNN at 8 p.m. (EST) on Tuesday, Nov. 22, for the next GOP debate. Sponsored by The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute, the debate should offer insight into how each Republican hopeful would act as commander in chief.
Omnibus Spending Bill
Congress is wrapping up the Fiscal Year 2012 spending bills. Members are going with a massive omnibus spending bill that bundles all the remaining spending measures into one. Conservatives have objected to the overall spending levels in the bill. The final measure's numbers will be far higher than those the House earlier agreed to in the budget sponsored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.).
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) tried to pass the Financial Services and State Department appropriations bills as part of a less controversial measure: Energy-Water bill. Conservatives blocked consideration of that measure. Now Congress is resorting to one massive appropriations bill to fund the government for the remainder of the year.
Super Committee Mission Creep
This week, the Super Committee is supposed to deliver a bill to Congress and the American people cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget to avoid mandatory debilitating cuts to defense programs. Some conservatives worry that the Super Committee, thanks to Democratic bullying, is considering increased spending and higher taxes—two issues inappropriate for a “Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.” Democrats have been using the threat of massive defense cuts to scare Republicans on the Super Committee into agreeing to new spending and tax hikes.
A proposal for the Super Committee written by Sen. Pat Toomey (R.-Pa.) contains some excellent ideas on flattening the tax code, but it comes at the price of $250 billion in tax hikes over the next 10 years. Conservatives like the flattening of the tax code, but hate the idea of raising taxes on the American people.
The Toomey proposal would cut discretionary spending, save money through some entitlement tweaks, and cut some health care spending. Toomey has put tax increases on the table if Democrats would agree to a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts and some further flattening of the tax code. The same tax cuts President Obama agreed to extend for two years, into late 2010. The tax increases come from limiting deductions on high earners.
Democrats don’t like the Toomey plan because they want even higher taxes, and they want to use the Super Committee to spend more. They claim their plan is a $2.3 trillion cut over 10 years. Yet it relies on accounting gimmicks and higher taxes to hit that imaginary number. Tax-and-spend liberals want to hammer the oil and gas industry with huge tax hikes. These proposed tax increases would cause further hikes in the cost of energy for all Americans.
Democrats on the Super Committee have their own version of tax reform that will raise some half a trillion in taxes over 10 years, in addition to the oil and gas tax hikes. The proposal makes massive cuts to defense and uses accounting gimmicks to save money in Medicare and Medicaid. Reports indicate that Democrats have further demanded inclusion of elements of the President’s stimulus plan, including an extension of unemployment benefits.
Coburn Strikes Again
A new report issued by Sen. Tom Coburn (R.-Okla.) shows that the only government function that politicians seem to want to cut is government oversight. The report shows that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has done some excellent work in exposing congressional overspending. Rather than respond to these reports by cutting government spending, Congress is seeking to cut the GAO budget. Lawmakers want to punish the oversight office for exposing the ugly underbelly of waste, fraud and abuse.
The GAO exposed the fact that congressional oversight has decreased and that Congress has passed 96% of legislation without a vote. It wrote that the Senate spent more than 200 hours in quorum calls in 2009. Clearly these federally elected politicians didn’t like the work of the GAO, and they have sliced its budget with 13% in cuts since 1992.
Seems as if the only cuts federal politicians want to make are to keep secret all their ongoing overspending and sweetheart deals.
Brian Darling is a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in Human Events