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Must Keep the Threat Alive

September 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Earlier today Congress officially disposed of the most recent budget standoff that was threatening to shut down the government. And without skipping a beat, they also began prepping for the next one.

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As things were coming together for Democrats on the tax bill in the House, the omnibus appropriations bill was falling apart in the Senate. Last night, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] announced on the Senate floor that nine Republicans who who had said they would support the bill had changed their minds and were now planning to vote against it. That left the Democrats with too few votes, and Reid with no choice but to pull the bill from the floor.

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The Senate Omnibus Arrives

December 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

On top of the tax deal, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the DREAM Act and the nuclear arms treaty, Congress has to pass spending legislation by this weekend to keep the government funded and avoid furloughs of federal employees. The House passed legislation last week to simply continue the current funding levels through the rest of the fiscal year, but the Senate wants to do it in a way that looks something like the regular appropriations process. That means we're looking at thousands of earmarks, pet projects, and policy tweaks via budgeting.

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Congress comes back to work today for the first time since the midterms for what is known as a "lame duck" session, a post-election work period with defeated incumbents still in office, but unaccountable, and newly-elected members waiting in the wings. Lame duck sessions have historically been relatively unproductive, but there is a lot that could happen this time and there's a certain unpredictability to lame duck sessions that make it extra important that we pay close attention. Here's a quick look at what Congress might take up in the lame duck.

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One More War Supplemental, Please

March 29, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

A huge chunk of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been done outside of the regular congressional appropriations process through "supplemental" spending bills, which don't count on the budget and mask the actual impact the wars are having on the deficit.

This is something Obama vowed to change on the campaign trail. "As President, Obama will […] end the abuse of the supplemental budgets, where much of the money has been lost, by creating system of oversight for war funds as stringent as in the regular budget," a campaign document (.pdf) on defense spending stated.

But, last Thursday, the Administration was back in front of Congress asking for another supplemental for the Afghanistan surge, his second since becoming President.

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Why Transparency Beats the Earmarking Ban

March 11, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In his State of the Union address, President Obama made a strong call for Congress to make earmarking more transparent. Instead, the House of Representatives has put in place new rules that bans most earmarking altogether. The new rules have lobbyists scrambling to figure out a work-around to make sure that their clients still get a piece of the money Congress appropriates, the New York Times reports:

Jolted by a sudden tightening of the rules, lobbyists and military contractors who have long relied on lucrative earmarks from Congress were scrambling Thursday to find new ways to keep the federal money flowing. […]

Some firms talked of partnering with hospitals, universities and other nonprofit organizations in seeking federal money, an idea that Congressional officials said might not be allowed under the new rules. Others said they planned to become more aggressive about applying directly to the Pentagon and other federal departments and agencies, and not Congress, for grant money.

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Lockheed Martin vs. Obama's Defense Budget

July 13, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

As the Senate begins consideration of the FY10 Defense Authorization bill, the most contentious issue will be $1.75 bill for new Lockheed Martin-produced F-22s. The Obama Administration says the new jets aren't necessary, but Congress, which has many connections to the company, is so far succeeding at getting the funds approved.

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The Senate kicks off the week with a busy start, as Democratic leaders attempt to keep the caucus in line on the omnibus spending bill. In the House, a vote on D.C. voting rights legislation is probable on Tuesday, and House members may be required to approve any changes made to the omnibus spending bill. In addition, the Employee Free Choice Act will be introduced in both chambers Tuesday.

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