With just four days of government spending authority left, House Republicans are working hard on prepping for a shutdown. It's not clear how hard they're working on preventing one.
Yesterday, the Republican leadership distributed pamphlets "outlining the procedures congressional offices should take during a government shutdown." And late last night they introduced another stopgap, this one designed for political, not legislative, success. The stopgap would last for one week and cut a whopping $12 billion from discretionary spending over that period. In order to protect it from cuts, the Defense budget would be extended for the full fiscal year and increased by $7.6 billion over last year's level.Read Full Article Comments (7)
Roll Call has a good piece today on the "glacial" pace of the 112th Congress so far and the fact that it's going to get even slower from here on out. The problem, of course, is that neither the Republicans who control the House or the Democrats who control the Senate are working with an eye towards the other chamber. Particularly in the House, the legislative docket is being used more as a political platform than a means to make laws and solve the problems facing the nation.
"Where are the jobs?" is, of course, the relevant question here. So far this year we've seen votes on divisive program cuts, stopgap bills to patch the budget, extending the government's spying powers, and somecheap fluff, but there's been no honest work on legislation addressing the jobs crisis that could pass both chambers and actually help people. Below is a list of the bills that have been signed into law so far this year. We're facing a deeper and longer lasting jobs crisis than anything we've seen since the Great Depression, but you wouldn't know it looking at the output of the federal legislature:Read Full Article Comments (4)
We're now just five days out until the federal government's spending authority runs out and, if Congress does not pass a new bill, shuts down. Last week, Joe Biden said that congressional Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a topline number for keeping the government funded -- $33 billion below 2010 levels -- but House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] has denied that any such deal has been struck. Beyond the numbers, policy riders remain a huge barrier to a deal. Conservatives are pushing hard for the final spending bill to include amendments defunding Planned Parenthood, the new health care reform law, NPR, and more. Democrats have said that those those amendments would be deal breakers.Read Full Article Submit a Comment
Just a quick note to let you all know that we'll be having some intermittent downtime this weekend while we do some site maintenance. Everything should be back to normal by late Sunday night as we get ready for another week of Congress in session. Have a great weekend!...Read Full Article Submit a Comment
Every couple weeks, we go through all of the recent comments posted to OpenCongress and pick out a handful of particularly popular, insightful and timely ones to bump up to the OpenCongress Blog. OpenCongress users leave hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of comments each week, creating a treasure trove of political thought from around the country and across the ideological spectrum that reflects the moods and topics of the day. The idea of these posts is to highlight comments that have been voted up by users and provide valuable insights to legislation and politics at large. Get involved by commenting on bills, articles, senators and representatives, and rate other users' comments, to influence what gets highlighted here.Read Full Article Comments (6)
With no budget agreement in place and a government shutdown looming, House Republicans are bringing the Government Shutdown Prevention Act of 2011 up for a vote this afternoon. The bill seeks to prevent a shutdown by automatically deeming the House's budget bill to be the law of the land if the Senate fails to pass their own budget. So, shutdown prevented? Not quite.Read Full Article Comments (4)
If the government shuts down and Congress is still getting paid, it will be the House Republicans' faultMarch 30, 2011 - by Donny Shaw
A reader writes in with a good question. On March 1 Republicans and Democrats in the Senate pulled together to pass a bill that would amend current law so that members of Congress do not receive pay during government shutdowns; why isn't the House acting on this bill so that if a government shutdown does occur Congress will take a pay cut like other federal employees? The answer, of course, is that it has gotten tied up in a ploy to score political points.Read Full Article Comments (31)
In the midst of the conflict in Libya, the disaster in Japan, and the economic crisis at home that's still very much hitting the poor and middle class, a government shutdown could have dour consequences for the U.S. economy. Consumer confidence is already starting to dip and a shutdown could be just the thing to throw consumers and financial markets into a panic that could push us back into another recession. Yet, with just a handful of legislative days left for Congress to pass a budget and prevent a shutdown, Senate Democrats and the House GOP seem to be moving further apart from a deal. Instead of negotiating, they're preparing for the politics of the shutdown, each trying to pin the pain it would cause on the other party.Read Full Article Comments (2)
The House is just coming back into session from their week off, and in addition to continuing their battle with Senate Democrats on funding the government beyond next week, they'll be voting on terminating another foreclosure program, making it harder for aviation workers to form unions, and more. Take a look at the complete schedule below, click on the bill numbers to learn more about them, then get involved by commenting, sharing and contacting your members of Congress.Read Full Article Comments (1)
As Congress comes back into session this afternoon to find a way to keep the government up and running, one of the cuts on the table will be the $34-million e-government fund, which finances the federal cloud computing initiative, data.gov, and usaspending.gov, among other things. If Congress cares about making federal spending more transparent while creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and making the federal agencies more efficient, they'll restore funding for e-government and ensure that these programs stay alive.
We're happy to have added the Participatory Politics Foundation to an open letter from the Sunlight Foundation calling on House Republicans put the e-government funding back into the continuing resolution for the rest of the fiscal year. More than anything else the government spends money on, the e-government fund has the potential to improve society in profound and unpredictable ways. And it's relatively cheap -- like I said last week, a full year of e-gov costs just one-third of one day of missile attacks in Libya. If you care about keeping the e-gov fund alive, add your name/organization in the comments here and ask your members of Congress to restore full funding for the e-government fund in the FY 2011 continuing resolution and to make the fund a priority in future budgets.Read Full Article Comments (2)
For years, congressional Republicans have held back the Democrats' leading labor bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, by arguing that it goes against the basic democratic value of free and fair elections by allowing workers to unionize without holding a secret ballot election. Now that they have a majority in one chamber of Congress and more control of the legislative calendar, however, they're pushing anti-union legislation that would undermine the concept of fair elections by counting workers who don't show up to vote in union elections as votes against forming unions.Read Full Article Comments (13)
When Congress comes back from vacation tomorrow, it's going to be another mad rush to keep the government up and running. This time, they have until April 8th to strike some kind of deal, either short-term or for the rest of the fiscal year. So far Democrats and House Republicans are about $50 billion off on how much they'd like to cut below non-security discretionary spending from fiscal year 2010, but according to reports, the Democrats are prepared to move further in the Republicans' direction.Read Full Article Comments (3)
Back when Barack Obama was a member of the Senate, he had a reputation as a sharp critic of the expansion of presidential powers. For example, when the Bush Administration was looking into expanding the Iraq war into Iran, Obama introduced a resolution stating that Congress would have to authorize military action in Iran in order for it to be lawful. "Any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress," the resolution reads. It goes on to declare that no executive orders or laws previously adopted by Congress should be construed to authorize or encourage the use of military force in Iran.
But now that he is President, Obama doesn't seem to believe any longer that he needs the authorization of Congress to go to war. On Saturday, March 19, just as Congress was scheduled to go on vacation, he unilaterally authorized the U.S. military to lead a UN coalition in missile attacks on Libyan military infrastructure and troops that pose a threat to the rebel opposition.Read Full Article Comments (7)
Of all the federal government's investments, none have more potential to increase efficiency, save taxpayers money and stoke private-sector innovation than the E-Government Fund. The fund was created by Congress in 2002 to help bring agencies into the 21st century, both in how they use technology internally and how they disseminate government information to the public. Many of the initiatives begun by the fund are just now getting under way, but, unfortunately, when Congress passes their next budget, they may face termination. As Daniel Schuman at the Sunlight Foundation reports, the FY 2011 continuing resolution that Democrats and Republicans are currently working on would nearly eliminate the fund:
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When Congress comes back from recess they're going to have about a week and a half to pass another stopgap bill to prevent the government running. If the military operation in Libya are still going on at that point, as many expect they will be, the bill, which is considered a "must pass," will give Congress an opportunity to use their authority over federal budget to wind it down. That effort is going to be led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10], who announced his intention to introduce a defund Libya amendment in a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday:Read Full Article Comments (9)