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Posts tagged ‘Patty Murray’

GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz’s 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid.


Image: GOP Senate Leadership Bucks Cruz's 60-Vote Debt Ceiling Bid

After a dramatic Senate tally in which top GOP leaders cast the crucial votes, must-pass legislation to allow the government to borrow money to pay its bills cleared Congress Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s signature.

The Senate approved the measure by a near party-line 55-43 vote. All of the “aye” votes came from Obama’s Democratic allies.

But the vote to pass the measure was anticlimactic after a dramatic 67-31 tally — held open for more than an hour — in which the measure cleared a filibuster hurdle insisted on by tea party Republican Ted Cruz of Texas. The Senate’s top two Republicans — both facing tea party challenges in their GOP primaries this year — provided crucial momentum after a knot of Republicans in the Senate well were clearly unhappy at having to walk the plank.

Urgent: Do you support Ted Cruz for the Republican nomination for President? Vote Now 

After Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Minority Whip John Cornyn, voted “aye” several other Republicans switched their votes in solidarity. Twelve Republicans ultimately voted to help the measure advance but the tally appeared to be in doubt for several anxious minutes.

“A lot of people stepped up and did what they needed to do,” said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who voted to advance the bill, as did Mark Kirk of Illinois, who said: “Members didn’t want to” vote for it.

The 12 Republicans who voted against Cruz’s measure were: John Barrasso, Wyo.; Susan Collins, Maine; Bob Corker, Tenn.; John Cornyn, Texas; Jeff Flake, Ariz.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; Mike Johanns, Neb.; Mark Kirk, Ill.; John McCain, Ariz.; Mitch McConnell, Ky.; Lisa Murkowski, Alaska; John Thune, S.D.

Cruz’s demands irritated Republicans because it forced several of them, particularly McConnell, to cast a difficult vote. McConnell faces a May primary against tea party candidate Matt Bevin, whose supporters adamantly oppose increasing the debt limit.

“In my view, every Republican should stand together against raising the debt ceiling without meaningful structural reforms to rein in our out of control spending,” Cruz said.

After the tally, Cruz said he had no regrets, saying the “Senate has given President Obama a blank check.”

Asked about forcing a difficult vote upon McConnell, Cruz said: “That is ultimately a decision … for the voters of Kentucky.”

The legislation would permit Treasury to borrow normally for another 13 months and then reset the government’s borrowing cap, currently set at $17.2 trillion, after that.

It passed the House Tuesday after Republicans gave up efforts to use the debt ceiling measure to win concessions from Obama on GOP agenda items like winning approval of construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay bills like Social Security benefits, federal salaries, and payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers.

Quick action on the debt limit bill stands in contrast to lengthy showdowns in 2012 and last fall when Republicans sought to use the critically necessary measure as leverage to win concessions from Obama. They succeeded in 2011, winning about $2 trillion in spending cuts, but Obama has been unwilling to negotiate over the debt limit since his re-election, and Wednesday’s legislation is the third consecutive debt measure passed without White House concessions.

Republicans have been less confrontational after October’s 16-day partial government shutdown sent GOP poll numbers skidding and chastened the party’s tea party faction. Republicans have instead sought to focus voters’ attention on the implementation and effects of Obama’s health care law.

The measure is required so that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills, including Social Security benefits, federal salaries, payments to Medicare and Medicaid providers and interest on the accumulated debt. Congress has never failed to act to prevent a default on U.S. obligations, which most experts say would spook financial markets and spike interest rates.

Most Republicans say any increase in the debt ceiling should be accompanied by cuts to the spiraling costs of costly benefit programs like Medicare.

“We need some reform before we raise the debt ceiling. We need to demonstrate that we are taking steps that will reduce the accumulation of debt in the future,” said Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, top Republican on the Budget Committee. “And the president and the Democratic Senate have just flatly refused. So they’ve just said, `We’ll accept no restraint on spending’.”

Some Republicans seemed irked that Cruz wouldn’t let the bill pass without forcing it to clear a 60-vote threshold that required some Republicans to walk the plank and help it advance..

“I’m not going to talk about that,” said Orrin Hatch when asked if Republicans are annoyed with Cruz.

Passage of the debt limit measure without any extraneous issues comes after House GOP leaders tried for weeks to find a formula to pass a version of their own that included Republican agenda items like approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and repeal of an element of the health care law. But a sizable faction of House Republicans simply refuse to vote for any increase in the government’s borrowing abilities, which forced House Speaker John Boehner to turn to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to pass the measure on the strength of Democrats.

The debt measure permits Treasury to borrow regularly through March 15, 2015, putting the issue off until after the November elections and setting it up for the new Congress to handle next year. If Republicans take over the Senate, they’re likely to insist on linking the debt ceiling to spending cuts and other GOP agenda items, but for now at least, the issue is being handled the old fashioned way, with the party of the incumbent president being responsible for supplying the votes to pass it but with the minority party not standing in the way.

“I think we will go back to the responsible way of making sure that our country does not default,” said Democratic Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray.

Senate action Wednesday would safely clear the debt issue off of Washington’s plate weeks in advance of the Feb. 27 deadline set last week by Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. The debt limit was reset to $17.2 trillion after a four-month suspension of the prior, $16.7 trillion limit expired last Friday. Lew promptly began employing accounting maneuvers to buy time for Congress to act.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

GOP’s Heller Pushes Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits.


Image: GOP's Heller Pushes Bill to Extend Jobless Benefits

By Drew MacKenzie

Nevada Sen. Dean Heller has raised eyebrows among his Republican colleagues by putting his name to a bill to extend unemployment benefits to 1.3 million jobless Americans.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the legislation fails to offset the costs of the welfare with any proposed cuts to the federal budget — so breaking GOP pledges to keep entitlements and government spending down.

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

The legislation, which could be introduced in the Senate in early January, has been hailed by President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but is likely to upset many Republicans, especially conservatives, says Rhode Island’s Providence Journal.

Republicans have argued that they will vote against extending benefits unless other cuts are put forward to counter the cost of the unemployment benefits.

The object of the emergency bill is to give the government time to come up with a comprehensive plan to make changes to the program and find ways to pay for it.

The benefits available to workers unemployed for 26 weeks or more are set to expire on Saturday.

Democrats had hoped to include a one-year extension to the benefits, at a cost of $25 billion, to the two-year federal budget, which was negotiated by the Senate and House finance committee chairs, Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

But the extension was omitted from the legislation, which was signed into law Thursday by President Barack Obama during his Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

Heller and Reed have a particular interest in the unemployment problem because their two states have the highest jobless rates in the country. Extensions to unemployment benefits are given to jobless workers in states with the worst unemployment rates, with Nevadans eligible for the maximum 73 weeks, says the Las Vegas Sun.

On Reed’s official website, Heller said, “Providing a safety net for those in need is one of the most important functions of the federal government. As Nevada’s unemployment rate continues to top the charts nationwide, many families and individuals back home do not know how they are going to meet their basic needs.

“I am pleased to join Senator Reed on this legislation, which aims to help people across the nation who have fallen on hard times.”

Reed said he had introduced the “emergency spending” measure so that the unemployed aren’t “cut off, thrown off the cliff starting literally this week.” He suggested that a year-long extension of jobless benefits could be paid for by closing tax loopholes and reducing offshore tax breaks.

The legislation has already received the support of leading Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Reid said he was “pleased and proud of my colleague Sen. Dean Heller” for introducing “a good bill, and it deserves a vote.”

And White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett has declared that Obama’s administration “strongly support” the bill, adding, “We think it’s very important; we think they’ve made a very good case for it.” She also said the president would help “galvanize support for it.”

Editor’s Note: ObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Vacationing Obama Signs Bipartisan Budget Deal.


President Barack Obama on Thursday signed a compromise budget that reduces the risk of another government shutdown and a defense bill that cracks down on sexual assault in the military and smooths the path for transferring detainees from the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The two-year budget agreement, negotiated by Congress earlier this month, and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2104 were among seven pieces of legislation signed by Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii.

The Senate passed the budget deal on Dec. 18 to ease automatic spending cuts and reduce the risk of a government shutdown. It was negotiated by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Obama at that time praised the measure — the first budget agreed to by a divided Congress since 2009 — saying it was “a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy.” He did not comment further on Thursday.

The Senate approved the annual defense policy bill on Dec. 20, one of its final actions before leaving for the Christmas break.

The act authorizes a Pentagon base budget of $526.8 billion in the 2014 fiscal year. That amount will have to be reconciled early in the new year with the $498 billion agreed to in the budget deal.

The wide-ranging bill also included several measures to reform the way the military justice system responds to sexual assaults among members of the military and boosts the Pentagon’s ability to help destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.

The bill also makes it easier for the White House to transfer prisoners from the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to countries willing to accept them.

The budget accord set federal government spending levels for two years. It ended, at least for the time being, three years of bitter bipartisan warfare over spending, taxes and Obama’s healthcare law that twice brought the nation to the brink of defaulting on its debt.

Widely viewed as a modest deal, it blunts the effect of automatic “sequestration” spending cuts by allowing spending to rise by $63 billion over scheduled levels in fiscal 2014 and 2015.

The accord was hailed as a welcome but rare example of bipartisan compromise and came after Congress’ approval ratings sank to historic lows because of seemingly never-ending brinkmanship over spending and taxes.

The deal avoids raising taxes, an important goal for Republicans, and provides more funding for education and other domestic programs championed by Democrats.

It raises revenues by increasing airport security fees, trimming federal retirement benefits and curtailing some military pensions.

However, the pact omits an extension of long-term unemployment benefits favored by Obama. A projected 1.3 million people will lose extended unemployment benefits when they expire on Saturday.

It also leaves for lawmakers to work out an increase in the federal debt ceiling, which, if left unchanged at its current $16.7 trillion level, could again put the United States at risk of default.

The deal was seen by conservative Republicans as a missed opportunity to make significant cuts to the federal budget deficit, which was $680.3 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. It has since narrowed in absolute terms and as a percentage of the economy as employment rises.

Congress now has the task of slicing the more than $1.012 trillion pie to determine funding levels for individual government programs.

Without new spending authority, the federal government could partially shut down on Jan. 15, as it did for 16 days in October when Republicans sought to tie spending legislation to delays or cutbacks in the president’s signature Affordable Care Act healthcare law, also known as Obamacare.

The administration has warned Congress that the government could run out of borrowing authority as soon as February if lawmakers do not raise the debt limit.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Rep. Fitzpatrick: Take Budget Burden Off Military Retirees’ Backs.


Republican lawmakers are seeking to undo military retirees’ pension cuts that were included in congress’ new budget agreement by closing a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to claim cash payments through an IRS tax credit.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick says the the Bipartisan Budget Act,  which passed this week, should not place the burden on veterans, reports Fox News.

“This nation desperately needs a return to fiscal normalcy and bipartisan cooperation. While the Bipartisan Budget Act is a step in that direction, it does so partly on the backs of our brave military veterans,” said Fitzpatrick, who proposes closing the immigrants’ tax loophole. “What I’ve done is introduce a bill to remove that burden from our military retirees and replace it with common sense reforms.”

The legislation offsets added spending for programs such as Head Start and education with about $85 billion cut from other places in the budget, including a provision that reins in cost of living increases for military retirees under the age of 62. That planned cut would save the government $6.3 billion over the next decade.

The IRS mailed out some $4.2 billion in child credit checks to undocumented immigrants in 2010, according to a 2011 Treasury Inspector General Report.

“Millions of people are seeking this tax credit who, we believe, are not entitled to it,” the report said.

On Wednesday, just before the Senate voted to pass the budget act, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions attempted to force a vote on an amendment to undo the military retirees’ cuts and close the loophole.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., who worked on the bipartisan package with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., accused Sessions and Republicans of coming up with the amendment to kill the budget bill.

The bill did not pass without continuing opposition from several powerful lawmakers, including Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida; Rand Paul of Kentucky; and Ted Cruz of Texas, all of whom are potential presidential candidates in 2016.

Republican party leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas also opposed the budget bill.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sen. Rand Paul Votes Against Budget Deal, Says Sequester Better.


Sen. Rand Paul voted against the Ryan-Murray bipartisan budget deal on Wednesday, partly because he says current law is better than that legislation.

Current law includes budget caps from the 2011 sequester, and the new agreement gives relief to those.

“I think this is a step backwards for the country,” Paul told CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” after Wednesday’s 64-36 vote to pass the bill.

The House approved the bill last week, and it now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Blitzer asked whether it wasn’t good that the bill prevents another government shutdown for the next two years, but Paul called that a “false choice.” There are more alternatives, he said, than the budget deal or a shutdown.

“A shutdown’s not good, but I’m worried about the future of the country,” Paul said. “I’m worried about a $17 trillion debt, and I’m worried about the fact that we’re borrowing $1 million every minute.”

Paul also opposed the bill because it cuts retirement benefits to current military veterans under age 62 – including combat-wounded veterans. Paul was among a group of Republican senators who wanted an amendment to restore those benefits.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, one of the deal’s architects along with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, has said cutting benefits to wounded vets was a mistake that will be corrected after the law is passed.

“Right now, there’s not much collegiality going on. It’s a poisonous atmosphere where the majority is just shoving things down the throat of the minority,” Paul said. “And because of it, we can’t fix legislation like this.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

Senate OK’s Budget With $63B in Spending Cuts.


The U.S. Senate cleared and sent to President Barack Obama the first bipartisan budget produced by a divided Congress in 27 years, resolving for now spending issues that had helped spur a government shutdown in October.

The $1.01 trillion budget deal passed 64-36 today eases $63 billion in automatic spending cuts, raises user fees and lowers the U.S. deficit over 10 years. The plan keeps in place about half of the spending reductions known as sequestration for next year, and about three-quarters of the planned cuts for 2015.

Neither party liked the cuts, which in January would have pinched Pentagon spending as well as domestic programs. Neither party could find a way to erase them all in this compromise, which does little to address the nation’s $17 trillion debt.

“The bargain rolls back the painful cuts of the sequester — including devastating cuts to education, medical research, infrastructure investments and defense jobs,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said before the vote today. “This isn’t a perfect bargain. No compromise is ever perfect.”

The deal crafted by Senator Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, and Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, doesn’t include tax increases Republicans oppose or entitlement- program changes that Democrats resist. It will help prevent another government shutdown for the next two years, and Obama said he will sign it into law.

The deal sets discretionary spending at $1.01 trillion for this fiscal year, higher than the $967 billion in the 2011 budget plan, leading some Republicans to vote against it. The deal raises fees including for airline passengers and cuts the deficit by $23 billion over 10 years.

Veterans Benefits

Lawmakers plan to make a technical correction to the law after passage to ensure that disabled veterans aren’t hurt by a rollback in military pension benefits, Murray said today on the floor. Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire had complained that the law cut benefits of veterans forced to retire as a result of injuries.

The House on Dec. 12 passed the plan 332-94, with backing from 73 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats.

The last time Congress reached a budget agreement with the two chambers run by separate parties was in 1986, when Democrats controlled the House and Republicans ran the Senate.

Congress must now pass legislation by Jan. 15 that spells out the spending plans to avert a second government shutdown in four months. Lawmakers have begun drafting an omnibus appropriations bill that will implement the budget accord.

Working Holiday

Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski of Maryland told fellow Democrats during a closed-door meeting yesterday that she plans to have a catchall spending bill ready for lawmakers to consider when they return to Washington in January, Reid said.

“She’s going to work during the Christmas break, all the subcommittees will work and when we come back, she believes we will have an omnibus,” Reid said.

The plan leaves the door open to a possible fight over raising the debt limit as U.S. borrowing authority is set to lapse in February.

Congress suspended the debt limit through Feb. 7 as part of a deal to end a partial shutdown in October. After that date, the government can use so-called extraordinary measures to prevent missed payments. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said those steps can last for about a month.

Republican leaders are considering several proposals they want to include with a debt-limit increase, including a delay or repeal of the individual mandate in the health-care law and energy and tax-code changes. Republicans probably will set their plans after an annual policy retreat in late January.

‘Trifled With’

“This is not something to be trifled with,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said today about raising U.S. borrowing authority. “It is not something to be horse-traded over. It’s the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Some Republicans balked at supporting the budget measure because the accord pushes savings into future years and includes the user fees that some groups are labeling a tax increase.

Much of the deficit reduction will come in later years, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The plan would lower the deficit by $3.1 billion in 2014 and $3.4 billion in 2015 and exceed $20 billion a year in 2022 and 2023, the CBO said.

A big portion of the savings is tied to extending the cuts in Medicare provider payments into 2022 and 2023, rather than letting them expire in 2021 as under current law.

Doctor Payments

The accord spared doctors for three months from cuts in the Medicare reimbursement rates set to start in January. The measure doesn’t extend emergency benefits for 1.3 million unemployed workers, an omission that frustrated Democrats, who say they plan to continue the fight in January.

It doesn’t continue more than 50 tax breaks that will lapse on Dec. 31 including the research and development tax credit used by companies such as Intel Corp.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, said she wants to replace the provision cutting military pensions, worth $6 billion, that takes effect in two years. Shaheen introduced a bill that would replace the cost-of-living benefit cuts by ending a tax break used by U.S. companies with overseas addresses to avoid paying taxes.

 

© Copyright 2013 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Paul Vallely: Military Benefit Cuts in Budget Deal ‘Atrocious’.


Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely says budget cuts that trim the benefits of military retirees are “atrocious,” especially considering the vast waste of money in Washington.

“It is atrocious, and somebody told me yesterday, it’s like we’re living in the Twilight Zone in Washington, D.C. What is wrong with these people?” Vallely told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“With all the billions of dollars of waste in the government . . . All the agencies that are just burning money like mad . . . I mean, this is a travesty of justice,” he said Wednesday.

Story continues below video.

Vallely was critical of Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who were instrumental in putting together the bipartisan budget deal that passed the House last week.

“What is Paul Ryan doing? Patty Murray? [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid? The vast majority of them have never served in the military, do not understand what military families go through,” he said.

“I mean, someone’s got to finally stand up and put this down. This is just terrible.”

The cuts may see military personnel losing up to a full percentage point from their cost-of-living raises when they retire. That would mean a more than 20 percent reduction in retiree pensions over 20 years.

Vallely, chairman of Stand Up America and a Fox News military analyst, says lawmakers should concentrate on cutting from the “billions of dollars of waste throughout all of the other government agencies.”

“They won’t address most of those. Again, they must be in the Twilight Zone. I can’t figure out any other reason. It has no logic to it,” Vallely said.

See the “Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV each weekday live by clicking here now.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Bill Hoffmann

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