Nel's New Day

November 27, 2017

December – GOP Breaking Point

Filed under: Legislation — trp2011 @ 11:23 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

With 15 days of work left before their holiday hiatus at the end of December, Congress may face a far more difficult task than in September unless they shuffle everything down the pike, as they did two months ago. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and the Republicans have more than a full plate for its few working days.

Government shutdown: The lights in the government go off on December 8 without further action on the spending bill. Spending caps cause trouble for this bill, so House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) may float another short-term bill, something that the Republicans lambasted Democrats for doing before the GOP was in power. The 2011 Budget Control Act set 2018 caps which will automatically go into effect in January without a deal to raise them. No legislation has been written, and the Senate needs at least 60 votes, meaning at least eight Democrats.

Without a change in the law, defense programs get only $549 billion, and nondefense programs are limited to $516. DDT and the GOP haws want over $600 billion for defense, and Democrats want the same increase in nondefense spending.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program for nine million children and 370,000 pregnant women in poverty expired at the end of September, and funding may end up in the December spending bill. The program is running out of money for the first time since it was created two decades ago.  The expenditure of $15 billion for CHIP is vital for preventative health care, but families are already receiving notice that their children can no longer have this coverage.

DACA: The deadline for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing some undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children to work and attend school without fear of deportation, isn’t until March, but Democrats may force the issue as part of the spending bill.

Tax cuts: At least 50 GOP senators must sign off on a bill that increasingly gouges people the poorer they are. Then the bill has to go to the House which either signs off on it or creates its own version and then sends it back to the Senate for approval. At least eight GOP senators don’t like the bill, each for his own reason, but they may end up caving in because donors are insisting that the GOP Congress do SOMETHING! Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal with healthcare individual mandate, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) oppose that part of it because the loss of the mandate may destabilize health care markets. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) refuses to vote in favor of the bill unless he gets more perks for his personal small business. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are leading the charge in opposing the $1.5 trillion increase in the deficit.

To keep the vote for tax cuts to a simple majority, the increase in deficit can be no more than $1.5 billion. As senators consider tweaks to keep some of the reluctant GOP senators in line, the deficit goes up, requiring that other cuts be made. One suggestion is to just eliminate all the cuts for individuals—not businesses—in the bill’s final year.

The popularity of the tax cut bill is going down and may shrink even more with the Congressional Budget Office report that poor people are hurt even worse than previously thought. People making less than $30,000 a year could be worse off by 2019, and those earning $40,000 will be losers by 2021. By 2027, most people earning less than $75,000 are worse off. In addition, the increase in health insurance premiums will take four million people off any plans by 2019 and 13 million by 2027. The rest of the people, 38 percent of the population, will keep getting tax cuts. The chart below indicates the amount that the government will reap from different salary groups—for example, the group of people making under $10,000 will pay an additional $1,540,000,000 whereas those making over $1 million a year will gain $34,100,000,000. The negative sign before the amount means less revenue for the government and shows that the poor pay for the rich.

FISA: Without a bill, this surveillance program expires at the end of the year, but bipartisan opposition to a “clean” renewal of warrantless spying comes from those who believe in privacy. At this time, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act permits the government to collect emails and texts from foreign spies, terrorists, and other overseas foreign targets without warrants. Proposals have been cleared by the House Judiciary Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee, but neither has gone to a floor vote. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has pledged opposition because it violates the Fourth Amendment.

Flood Insurance: The House has passed its version of reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program, renewing it for five years, updating federal flood mapping requirements, and bolstering a new private flood insurance market. The Senate, however, has made no plans to address the House bill. The NFIP is $25 billion in debt.

Emergency disaster aid: The $44 billion package for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands is too small, according to some Republicans from Texas, although it’s added to another $50 billion. Conservatives will demand that cuts elsewhere pay for the $44 billion. The budget from DDT goes only to these places for hurricane relief; DDT has offered not one cent to the Western states ravaged by wildfires.

Iran: The 60-day deadline after DDT’s October statement that the nation is not in compliance with the agreement comes in December. Leading Republican senators want to keep the deal but pass legislation to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons after the deal expires. DDT will need to waive sanctions to keep the nuclear pact intact.

All these decisions are set against the background of ethics proceedings for continuing sexual assault and harassment accusations and a December 12 election to determine whether Roy Moore joins the Senate. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) has promised to force a vote to impeach DDT before the end of 2017.

In The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza writes that December is the make or break time for DDT:

“Year one is when Presidents usually make their mark[.] By the second year, a President’s legislative agenda becomes complicated by the hesitancy of members of Congress to take risky votes as midterm elections approach, particularly if a President is unpopular. The math is stark: on average, modern Presidents have historically lost thirty House seats and four Senate seats in their first midterm elections. Trump’s first year has been different. He has a record low approval rating. He is mired in scandal. [And] he looks like a President in his eighth year rather than one in his first. … He is unique among modern Presidents in that he has no significant legislative accomplishments to show for ten months after taking office.”

What’s missing from this list of must-dos? Restricting bump stocks or closing the domestic violence loopholes in the gun laws.

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