My latest column at Center for American Progress examines the omnibus appropriations bill that Congress passed yesterday. The challenge of covering legislation like the omnibus is finding a way to tell a coherent story about a very long bill that is essentially a list of government programs and how much money each will receive for the year. I chose to focus on some of the key investments in the bill, to try shedding some light on what the bill will mean for our economy. From the column:
The omnibus reverses some of the most damaging sequester cuts, but not all of them. The omnibus also makes a few excellent investments in our economy, and it is certainly better than allowing the full sequester cuts to continue for another year. This column focuses on four major areas of economic investment: infrastructure, early childhood education, scientific research, and job training. It also examines the smaller but very important long-term investment in preventing lead poisoning. Altogether, the omnibus delivers mixed results for these sectors, primarily because it faces restrictions from a spending cap that is simply too low to enable the investment our economy needs.
The whole column is posted here.
This is just weird. I was comparing the House and Senate versions of the spending bill that will fund transportation and housing programs for the 2014 fiscal year. As expected, the House wants to cut these programs far more deeply than the Senate. Less expected, the reports for these bills don’t even agree on how much we’re already spending this fiscal year.
I am excited to join Center for American Progress, as their Associate Director for Fiscal Policy. My work focuses on the tax and spending decisions within the federal budget. I recently published my first article on Think Progress, zooming in on just one of those decisions: funding for lead removal. Continue reading
House Republican leaders suffered an embarrassing defeat yesterday when the farm bill was rejected by a combination of Democrats and conservative Republicans. The House also failed to pass a farm bill last year, so this is not a new problem. It’s particularly embarrassing for House Republicans, since the Democratic Senate has been able to pass a bipartisan farm bill both this year and last year. In the Senate, leadership must get a 60% supermajority to overcome a filibuster, and a single obstinate Senator can make things difficult by denying the unanimous consent needed to conduct routine business. In the House, a simple majority is enough to pass legislation, and leadership largely controls the floor process through the Rules Committee. So why can’t the House pass a farm bill? Continue reading
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers. (Wikimedia Commons)
It’s unfortunate that discussions about federal spending are often filled with generic talk about overall spending levels, “non-defense discretionary spending,” and “sequestration.” Ultimately, what matters is funding for specific programs and agencies, such as Americorps, the National Institutes of Health, and VA hospitals. In that sense, it’s good to see the debate get more specific this week, with the House Appropriations Committee approving spending levels for each of the twelve appropriations bills that will fund the government in fiscal year 2014.
The Ryan Budget, which was passed by House Republicans, calls for deep across-the-board cuts in domestic spending. Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) followed that blueprint in his allocations for the twelve appropriations bills.
Sergei Magnitsky was beaten to death in Russian custody after uncovering tax fraud by government officials. (Voice of America)
Polls have found that Americans view Congress in a worse light than cockroaches, traffic jams, and the band Nickelback. So, this post serves as a reminder that things could be a lot worse. At least we aren’t Russia.
When a Russian journalist named Sergei Magnitsky reported a $230 million tax fraud carried out by Russian officials, their response outdid any misconduct we could ever imagine from our own IRS. Magnitsky was framed for committing the tax fraud himself, arrested, and beaten to death. The United States addressed the Magnitsky case by passing sanctions against Russian government officials who were involved in the mistreatment and killing of Magnitsky, or other human rights violations. Continue reading
Ezra Klein is a big fan of this explanation of the budget debate from CBO Director Doug Elmendorf:
I agree that it’s a solid summary of some of the key elements of each budget, but my earlier post on the budget process suggests that Elmendorf’s focus misses the most important part of the budget debate.