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Checking in on the Supercommittee

October 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress created the deficit supercommittee they attached a trigger to it that would automatically enact large cuts in defense spending if they failed to vote out a proposal. The idea was that nobody in Congress wants to make major cuts to defense so the threat would compel the supercommittee to accomplish the kind of deficit-reduction compromise that the full House and Senate were unable to achieve. More than halfway through the supercommittee's tenure, however, the only progress being made involves finding a way out of the trigger.

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The Trigger

August 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As has been the fate of every other bipartisan congressional sub-group that has met recently to talk about cutting deficits, the most likely outcome for the supercommittee is gridlock. The supercommittee is split evenly between the parties, and the members that have been chosen are probably too partisan to achieve a grand bargain on taxes and spending that can win a majority vote. If gridlock occurs, an automatic spending cut trigger that Congress created in the debt ceiling bill will go into effect. Let's take a look at how that would work.

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'Super Congress' Must Be Open and Transparent

August 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The debt ceiling bill that was signed into law yesterday shunts off much of the dirty work of deciding exactly what to programs to cut or whose taxes to increase to a new "joint select committee on deficit reduction," a.k.a the "Super Congress." Whatever the Super Congress comes up with will be brought to the Senate and House for votes under expedited rules that bar amendments and limit filibusters. And the bill contains an enforcement mechanism designed to persuade members to vote for the Super Congress' plan -- if it fails, massive cuts to two sacred cows, Medicare and the Defense Department, would automatically take effect.

The Super Congress appears to be designed so that just a handful of lawmakers, who will probably be selected from very safe districts, have to make decisions about which constituents will bear the burdens of austerity. The vast majority of Congress will only have to take an up-or-down vote, and with the threat of cuts to seniors' health care and precious jobs in teh defense industry, even if they vote for the Super Congress plan they'll be able to tell constituents that they voted for the less bad of two bad options.

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The Alternate Engine That Just Won't Die

May 5, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For years, both parties in Congress insisted on funding the $500-million-per-year F-35 alternative engine program that nobody besides the defense contractors that benefit from it seem to want, not even the Pentagon. Then, earlier this year, against the wishes of Speaker Rep. John Boehner [R, OH-8], a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and freshman Republicans won an amendment to the 2011 spending bill to cut funding for the program. But now that appropriators have begun working on spending bills for 2012, they're trying to secure funds for the program once again.

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With the giant Defense budget, the tax-cut extensions, the bailouts, and the lack of tax reciepts from the economic crisis, the ceiling on our national debt is going to have to be increased, by the end of March according to Tim Geithner, if we are to avoid defaulting on our debt and destroying whatever modicum of creditworthiness we have left in the international community.

Voting to raise the debt ceiling is always unpopular, and its must-pass nature makes it a perfect tool for the minority party to force the majority to register an unpopular vote. Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2] admitted as much last year, arguing that the unpopular debt ceiling vote was not his party's responsibility. "That is the burden of the majority," he said.

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Lieberman Introduces DADT Repeal Bill

March 5, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Sen. Joe Lieberman [D, CT] on Wednesday introduced legislation (S.3065) that would halt the discharges of gay and lesbian service members and allow for the eventual repeal of the “don't ask, don't tell policy” banning gays from serving openly in the military.

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Gays In The Military Gain Joementum

February 22, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT] is taking the lead on congressional efforts to repeal the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.

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House Approves Defense Spending Bill, Another CR

December 16, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Once again, I was caught unawares by the House, as it approved a $636 billion Defense Spending Bill yesterday afternoon. The text of the legislation wasn't posted online until sometime after 10 p.m. last night, and while we've been expecting action on it for the past few weeks, it still came as a surprise.

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On the trail of defense spending

July 10, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

I was reading an article in the Washington Post this morning that raised a number of interesting questions for me. Specifically, the article is about the F-22 fighter jet that's at the center of a high-profile showdown between President Barack Obama's administration and Congress. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates want to halt further production of the advanced (and costly) fighters, while many members of Congress want to continue building them.

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