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GOP Lining Up Against Obama Jobs Plan

August 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The big tax idea being put forth by the Obama Administration, extending the payroll tax holiday for employees that is set to expire in January, is already running into opposition from congressional Republicans.

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The deficit reduction supercommittee that was created by the debt ceiling bill is going to have an extraordinary amount of power. All areas of federal spending and revenues will be on the table when they meet, and whatever proposal they come up with will be guaranteed a vote in both chambers of Congress with no amendments and no filibusters allowed. Now that the 12 supercommittee members have been named, here's a look at some of their key votes on budget, spending and tax legislation over the past few years, as well as some information on their party loyalty.

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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 Boehner Plan

July 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As usual, when Congress does something that's actually important, they do it the least transparent way possible. This time around it's the Boehner debt plan, which calls for trillions in cuts to social spending and a "super Congress" for reforming taxes and entitlements in exchange for allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year. It's a plan that was negotiated 100% behind closed doors, and it's not being introduced through the regular legislative order, thereby hindering the public's ability to read it and contact their elected officials with feedback.

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If this NYT report is accurate, then congressional Democrats, led by the Obama Administration, are lined up for another epic cave in. The Republicans, on the other hand, are looking poised to score yet another big victory. First, the Bush tax cuts extension, then the 2011 spending bill cuts, and now a debt-ceiling deal that would reduce the deficit entirely through cuts to social spending.

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The "Gang of Six" Plan

July 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

It's still unclear just how viable the "Gang of Six" deficit and debt package is. On a logistical level, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] said yesterday that the lack of actual legislative language and an official budget score from the CBO means there might not be enough time to get it through Congress before the August 2th deadline. On a political level, it's unlikely the House would bite. It looks to be basically similar to the Biden plan that House Republican leaders rejected several weeks ago because of the level of revenue raisers involved. Still, there are reaons to take it seriously. It is bipartisan to some extent, public pressure to strike a deal is increasing as the deadline approaches, and ratings agencies are now threatening to downgrade U.S. debt if Congress goes with the other potential compromise on the table, Reid-McConnell. Those factors make it absolutely worth taking a close look.

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The McConnell Debt Plan

July 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

At this point we're pretty much all aware that raising the debt ceiling is nothing new. Democrats do it and Republicans do it. It's been done 9 times in the past decade, and corralling the votes to pass the increases each time has been treated as a burden of the majority. The unique problem this time around is that Congress is split between the parties and it's not clear who the majority is. But regardless of the politics of the situation, it's something that pretty much everyone in Congress agrees must be done. And that's the reality that Senate Minority Leader Micth McConnell's [R, KY] plan, which seems to be the leading proposal right now, reflects.

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Please Enjoy This Phony Debt Debate

July 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans have been hammering Democrats and the Obama Administration for negotiating the debt limit and deficit deal behind closed doors and out of the public view. They have a point. Unless there's something you're bringing to the table that you'd rather hide from the public, why not put a camera in the negotiating room and broadcast the talks?

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Richard Cohen at Politico has a piece this morning on what is probably the most important trend in Congress right now. According to the article, Republicans, from the leadership down, are warming up to the idea of raising revenue through increasing corporate tax rates and closing loopholes. "The targeting of long-protected tax breaks — for ethanol, research and development, manufacturing and foreign company income — is a sign that key House Republicans are ready to break with the orthodoxy of past tax debates while ditching special interests that have long held sway in tax reform discussions," Cohen writes. So what does it mean for the hottest issue among users of OpenCongress -- extending unemployment insurance for the very-long-term unemployed who have exhausted all available benefits without finding new work?

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Coburn vs. Big Corn

June 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] has stuck his neck out and is forcing a vote today on an amendment (identical to S.871) to repeal ethanol tax subsidies. Ethanol subsidies cost the government atlas $5 billion per year and they are opposed by groups like the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action on environmental grounds and by groups like Koch Industries on grounds that they distort energy market forces. On the other side, however, are Big Ag corporations like Monsanto, whose Roundup-resistant-corn-seed sales have skyrocketed under the subsidies, and they seem to be winning.

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Food Safety Overhaul Faces Defunding

May 31, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last session, one of the few truly bipartisan things Congress accomplished was enacting new food safety legislation, designed to increase the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory authority over the food chain in order to prevent food-borne illness outbreaks. It passed 73-25 in the Senate and 283-142 in the House. But under the House Republicans' proposed budget, the FDA would not receive the extra money authorized by Congress last year to start implementing the new food safety law. In fact, they would see their budget cut below current operating levels.

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We already know that the House Republicans support increasing the debt limit. All but four of them recently voted in favor of a budget blueprint that calls for adding $9 trillion to the debt subject to limit over the next decade. Yet somehow they have convinced Obama and the Democrats that they have to get something in return, like spending cuts that make tax increases less likely, in exchange for actually voting for the debt limit increase they've already endorsed.

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Dems' Oil Subsidy Bill is Unconstitutional

May 17, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans may be using a faulty argument about gas prices going up if we end oil subsidies as an excuse for protecting some of their biggest corporate donors, but Democrats don't seem to be taking the issue much more seriously. By bringing up a bill to end subsidies and effectively increase the corporate tax rate on U.S. oil companies, they're only setting up a campaign talking point, not doing actual policy work. The bill is flat-out unconstitutional, and they know it.

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Senate Moves to Bill Repealing Oil Subsidies

May 17, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate is set to begin debate this afternoon on the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act. The bill repeal five tax breaks that Congress has enacted over the years to encourage oil companies to drill off of America's shorelines, and it would close a loophole that U.S. oil companies have been using to disguise foreign royalty payments as taxes and deduct them from their domestic tax bill. All savings would be used to balance the budget and pay down the debt. Despite expert analysis showing that the bill would not increase gas prices and may actually increase domestic oil production, Republicans are planning to vote against it. 

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House to Vote on Abortion Tax Bill

May 4, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Under current law, no federal funding can be used for abortions except in cases of incest or rape. But that fact isn't stopping House Republicans from using the false premise of blocking federal funding for abortions to push legislation that would make it harder for women to use their own money to finance abortion services. Their misleadingly-titled "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" is lined up for a vote today, and, with 227 co-sponsors, it is expected to pass.

UPDATE: This passed the House, 251-175.

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