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Funding the War, Neglecting the Veterans

May 12, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Blue Dog Democrats are threatening to block a part of the emergency war supplemental that would expand education benefits for returning soldiers because its $51.8 billion ten-year pricetag (pdf) is not offset. At the same time, many of the Blue Dogs will likely vote for the bills underlying $162.5 billion in war funding, which is also not offset. Both seem to violate Congress' pay-as-you-go budgeting rule, which requires spending to be either budget neutral or offset with a corresponding plan for revenue. So why would Blue Dogs block the veterans' bill and help to give President Bush his war money?

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Telecoms writing Their Own Immunity Law?

May 8, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The Protect America Act, part of FISA, was allowed to expire months ago over a disagreement over giving legal immunity to the telecom companies that helped the Administration execute its warrantless wiretapping program. President Bush has insisted that he will only sign a Protect America Act replacement that contains an immunity provision. Now, with the telecom companies at the bargaining table, Democrats are working out a compromise to satisfy all parties.

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Last week I noted the potential for Blue Dog Democrats to basically strip the war supplemental of its spending on domestic programs like an unemployment insurance extension and veterans' education benefits. Now, The Hill reports that, because some of the domestic spending is not accounted for with a corresponding revenue plan, they are balking: >The supplemental was cut into three sections to allow members to vote against withdrawal from Iraq, against war funding or against domestic spending ...

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The War Supplemental Demystified

May 7, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

If you want to know exactly what's being proposed for inclusion in the most expensive supplemental funding bill ever, which the House will vote on tomorrow, look no further that this fact sheet issued by the House Appropriations Committee. It's also a good time to review OMB Watch's background briefer (.pdf) on supplemental spending bills. It mainly refers to the supplemental war funding bill that President Bush requested and Congress passed last year. But it includes some important and time...

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Housing Stimulus: Congress v. Administration

May 7, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

It's been a little unclear where the administration stands on the big housing stimulus/foreclosure prevention bill that Congress has been working on. Members of the Bush cabinet have been making some contradictory-seeming statements, but yesterday an official Statement of Administration Policy was issued, making their position clear: they're against it and the President plans to veto.

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Democrats' Plan to Fund the War

May 6, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Details of the supplemental war funding bill have finally emerged. President Bush has requested an extra $108 billion this fiscal year for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill would provide all but $3.4 billion of that, plus an extra $66 billion to fund the wars through the first part of fiscal year '09. In exchange for all the extra war money, Democrats in Congress are going to try to get the President to back off his threat to veto and sign some domestic program spending that they may add to it, though they don't seem very optimistic about their chances. The bill may be voted on in the House as early as Thursday.

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This Week in Congress

May 6, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Once again, housing legislation aimed at reforming the Federal Housing Administration and at helping homeowners threatened with foreclosure is at the top of the list for senators and representatives this week, as debate intensifies over differing proposals. In addition, Democrats are mulling how much domestic spending to include in a $108 billion Iraq/Afghanistan supplemental, while 10 days remain before a second extension of the 2002 Farm bill expires. Negotiations, which began last year, continue as the House and Senate work to reconcile subsidy-levels and income-brackets for farmers.

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The Price of Foreclosure Prevention

May 5, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Nobody knows if taxpayers will have to front for a foreclosure prevention plan that's going to be debated in the House this week. The bill, which would help about half a million at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosures by allowing the FHA to refinance new mortgages, could come at a cost to taxpayers, it could pay for itself, or it could make money for the government.

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Credit Card Holders' Rights

May 1, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Looking back at the causes of the current mortgage crisis, many in Congress wish that they had done more. There were early warning signs that abusive and predatory behavior was getting out of hand, but it was largely ignored. Not surprisingly, senators and representatives are looking around at what's happening now in the financial markets to see if there is any place they should be jumping in to address regulatory problems before they get out of hand. They seem to have fixed their sights on the credit card companies.

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