87 Republicans joined 198 Democrats to support legislation to end the government shutdown and prevent a default on the national debt. This was the key vote to ending the standoff. The Senate and President Barack Obama had been ready to support this legislation from the beginning. But Speaker of the House John Boehner was reluctant to bring a bill to the floor that would rely on Democratic votes to pass. Speaker Boehner has relied on Democratic votes before, but only on a few occasions and usually as a last resort to end some kind of legislative crisis like the recent shutdown. Much more could be accomplished in Congress – and we could stop governing by crisis – if Speaker Boehner was willing to work with Democrats to govern. Continue reading
The Ryan Budget makes enormous cuts to critical safety net programs that help low-income families access health care and put food on the table. Its author, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), claims that these programs will become more efficient, by transferring control over them from the federal government to the states. This belief in the power of giving states flexibility is central to the Ryan Budget. If the states fail to dramatically improve program efficiency, then the Ryan Budget would shred the social safety net.
Given the stakes, one would expect the Ryan Budget to be deeply committed to the idea of giving states flexibility. However, the budget only supports that concept when it is being used to justify deep spending cuts. The Ryan Budget actually takes a dim view towards programs where states already have flexibility, and is especially critical of decisions by the Obama Administration to delegate more authority to the states.
This week’s House hearings on the Benghazi attack bolster the claim that Susan Rice was providing an account of the attacks as a spontaneous demonstration that the Obama Administration already knew to be unlikely. The star witness was Gregory Hicks, who was the ranking official under Ambassador Chris Stevens at the U.S. Embassy in Libya. Hicks testified that his immediate conclusion was that this was a terrorist attack, which was also the early conclusion of the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
The Washington Post reports that pressure is dropping to reach a budget deal to cut the deficit, complete with a picture of Paul Ryan having a sad. The pressure to cut the deficit is dropping because the deficit is already being cut. The economy is improving, which means more tax revenue and lower spending on safety net programs. Also, Congress already enacted large tax increases and spending cuts when it passed legislation to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 and avert the “fiscal cliff” at the end of 2012.
While cutting the deficit further is not an urgent priority, reaching a budget deal should be. That’s because a portion of the spending cuts already enacted by Congress is “sequestration,” an across-the-board cut that is causing problems throughout the country. Republicans oppose the cuts to military spending, and Democrats are primarily concerned about the cuts in domestic programs. Neither side likes sequestration. It was included in the debt ceiling package to encourage a future budget deal that would replace the across-the-board cuts.