After spending roughly half a trillion dollars on his failed Iraq policy and increasing debt by more than $3 trillion, President Bush is picking a contrived political fight with Congress over spending. Even before seeing a single appropriations bill, the President threatened to veto legislation that exceeded his budget. Unfortunately, that budget would shortchange the middle-class and America’s future, while spending billions more for Iraq and wasteful tax breaks for multi-millionaires. Democrats believe that it is long past time to put the middle class first, to change course in Iraq, and to focus on America’s needs here at home.
Middle-class Americans and working families should come first. Democrats are seeking a modest and reasonable level of funding for initiatives that address the long-neglected priorities of middle-class Americans. These include education, health care, veterans, health care, counter-terrorism, economic development, and renewable energy. Such investments, combined, would require $22 billion more than the President’s $2.9 trillion budget, an increase of eight-tenths of one percent. This increase was fully accommodated in the Democratic budget resolution, which balanced the budget without raising a penny in taxes.
While shortchanging middle-class families here at home, the President has already spent hundreds of billions on Iraq and tax breaks for multi-millionaires. The President has already spent $450 billion on Iraq and is expected to request another $200 billion to continue his failed policies. The President also wants to spend $49 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 to provide tax breaks for those fortunate enough to earn more than $1 million per year. At the same time, the President is actively opposing efforts to support police officers, and teachers, and the priorities of middle-class Americans.
President Bush has little credibility to criticize Democratic fiscal policy. The President has the worst fiscal record in American history, having increased spending by nearly 50 percent, increased debt by more than $3 trillion, produced the three largest annual deficits in the nation’s history, and more than doubled borrowing from foreigners. When Republicans ran Congress, their record was one of fiscal failure, abuse of earmarks, and mismanagement of the budget process. By contrast, since assuming the majority, Democrats have passed a balanced budget, adopted strong rules to promote fiscal discipline, and made earmarking more transparent.
This Special Report provides background information on: 1) Democratic appropriations initiatives to address middle-class priorities, contrasted with the President’s funding for Iraq and tax breaks for multi-millionaires; 2) Democrats’ work to pass a balanced budget and restore fiscal discipline; and 3) Republicans’ record of fiscal failure, abuse of earmarks, and mismanagement of the budget process, and President Bush’s record of doling out “presidential pork.” This is followed by a set of “Questions and Answers” that respond to Republican attacks.
Democrats’ Commitment to America’s Middle-Class and Working Families
Within the framework of a budget resolution that produces a balanced budget by 2012, Democrats are holding discretionary spending to tight limits. The spending levels proposed in pending appropriations bills would restore harmful Administration cuts and make important investments in areas neglected by Republicans.
President Bush has prioritized runaway spending on the war in Iraq and tax breaks for multi-millionaires, but neglected the needs of families and the future.
· Taxpayers have already paid $450 billion for the war in Iraq and President Bush is expected to request another $190 billion for 2008 alone to continue his failed policies. We are spending about $10 billion per month on Iraq. Thus, the cost of the war for two months is roughly equal to the combined costs of all the domestic investments that Democrats support and the President opposes. (CRS Report, 7/16/07, available here)
· Forty-four billion dollars has already been spent on Iraq’s reconstruction – double the amount in Democratic domestic investments that the President opposes. (Special Inspector for Iraq Reconstruction, July 2007, available here)
· The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported in July that the total cost of maintaining the President’s “surge” for twelve months would be $22 billion – the same amount in Democratic domestic investments that the President opposes. (Congressional Budget Office, 7/31/07, available here)
· President Bush has proposed spending $49 billion in Fiscal Year 2008 to provide tax breaks averaging $130,000 for those with incomes greater than $1 million – more than twice the amount in Democratic domestic investments that the President opposes. By 2012, the Bush tax breaks for those with incomes greater than $1 million would cost $73 billion, and amount to an average of $162,000 for each of these wealthy households. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/6/2007, available here)
Bush’s discretionary budget threatens middle-class priorities. President Bush’s budget request included a variety of spending cuts that target priorities of America’s middle class and working families. A few examples include:
· $1.25 billion cut in education;
· $1.2 billion cut in first responder grant programs to help fight terrorism;
· $735 million cut in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that help strengthen local communities;
· $279 million cut for the National Institutes of Health to help fight diseases and improve the health of all Americans;
· $1.4 billion cut in programs that help state and local law enforcement fight crime, drugs and gangs;
· $420 million cut in energy assistance for those with the greatest needs; and
· $396 million cut for new sewers and wastewater treatment plants.
Democrats are pushing for modest increases to invest in our hard-working middle-class families and America’s future. The difference in discretionary spending between the Democratic budget and the Bush budget is approximately $22 billion, or eight-tenths of one percent of federal spending. This difference is about what U.S. taxpayers spend on Iraq in two months. Compared to the CBO baseline, the Democratic budget increases domestic discretionary spending only by about two percent. The President asserts that the $22 billion increase above his request represents Democratic desires to grow the government. In fact, $19 billion of the increase is used to restore the President’s irresponsible cuts in the budget.
The Democratic appropriations agenda prioritizes initiatives that will ensure a better future for our country. A few examples include –
Homeland security priorities:
· Addressing unmet needs for border security and immigration enforcement, including hiring new Border Patrol agents ($2.2 billion difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Makinggrants that would protect American families and homes by improving the capabilities of fire departments and better equipping firefighters – 28 percent of firefighters per shift do not have adequate self-contained breathing equipment; 36 percent of first responders do not have portable radios ($405 million difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request); and
· Providingfundingfor aviation security to purchase and install explosive detection devices at U.S. airports($89.4 million difference between Homeland Security appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).
· Providingservices to children with disabilities throughout the nation ($748 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Covering children who are currently eligible for Head Start, but who do not receive services due to a lack of funding. Due to inadequate funding, Head Start currently serves only about half of all eligible preschool children and fewer than five percent of eligible infants and toddlers. Increased funding will help to provide America’s neediest children with cognitive, social-emotional, and academic skills to help prepare them for success in school ($300 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request); and
· Supporting Safe and Drug Free Schools (SDFSC), whichhas been the primary source of funding for the majority of our nation’s school-based drug and violence prevention and intervention infrastructure. The SDFSC program has contributed to a 23 percent decline in drug use over the past five years according to a recent survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. ($200 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).
Health care investments:
· Reversing theAdministration’s proposed cuts to military hospitals($486 million difference between Defense appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request for the Veterans Health Administration);
· Increasing funding for the Veterans Benefits Administration to hire additional claims processors to address the backlog of almost 400,000 disability claims and to ensure that veterans do not have to wait as much as six months to have their claims processed ($131 million difference between MilCon/VA appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Increasing funding for veterans’ health care to treat the estimated 5.8 million patients in 2008, including more than 263,345 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan ($2.5 billion difference between MilCon/VA appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Funding NIH research to study cancer, diabetes, and heart disease and ensure NIH’s ability to provide leadership and financial support to biomedical researchers in every state and throughout the world, resulting in medical discoveries that improve people’s health and save lives ($1.2 billion difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Enhancing our nation’s ability to train qualified health care professionals, particularly when many areas/fields are faced with shortages reaching crisis proportions ($1.3 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Providing funding for primary prevention activities and health services that address urgent health problems in local communities through the Preventive Health and Health Services block grants ($99 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request); and
· Providing significant funding increases to the Food and Drug Administration to work to keep America’s food safe in light of an obviously broken and shortchanged food safety system, which has resulted in a decrease in inspections of foreign and domestically produced food ($37 million difference between the Agriculture appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).
Energy and environmental programs:
· Supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that produce almost $20 in returns for every dollar spent through energy savings, new jobs, and new products ($479 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Providing assistance to low-income households to help meet their home energy costs. Approximately 6.25 million households have received assistance from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program($379 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Addressing the nearly 50 percent of surface waters in the United States that fail to meet or are at risk of not meeting environmental standards that stop raw sewage and other pollution from washing into our nation’s waterways through the Clean Waterrevolving loan fund program) ($199 million difference between Interior appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Developing technologies to bring enough geothermal energy for 5.5 million homes to the market ($25 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Providing weatherization grants for homes to reduce heating bills by 31 percent and overall energy bills by $358 per year at current prices. These grants would be applied to energy efficiency improvements to insulation, windows, water heaters, air conditioning and space heating, and electric appliances ($96.6 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request); and
· Investing in water and sanitation projects to provide for water infrastructure, flood protection, improve the safety of levees, and increase hurricane protections – especially along the Gulf Coast ($577 million difference between Energy and Water appropriations bill funding for all Army Corps of Engineer projects and Bush’s budget request).
· Strengthening the capabilities of local law enforcement to reduce and solve crime, including violent crime and crimes against children, and empowering neighborhoods and community organizations to work with law enforcement to create safer communities across America ($1.6 billion difference between Commerce-State-Justice appropriations bill for State and Local Law Enforcement and Community Oriented Policing Services and Bush’s budget request);
· Providing CDBG block grants to state and local governments for the funding of local community development programs through the Community Development Fund. A wide range of physical, economic, and social development activities are eligible – with spending priorities determined at the local level ($1.02 billion difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill for Community Development Fund and Bush’s budget request);
· Supporting programsto alleviate the causes of poverty and assist low-income individuals and families to become self-sufficient through the nationwide network of Community Action Agencies located in 99 percent of our nation’s counties that provide services, including Head Start, literacy and job training programs, health care, child care and after-school programs ($670.43 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill for Community Services Block grants and Bush’s budget request);
· Supporting low-income families through the nationwide network of Community Action Agencies that provide services, such as Head Start, literacy and job training programs, health care, child care and after-school programs, in 99 percent of our nation’s counties ($670 million difference between Labor-HHS appropriations bill for Community Services Block Grant and Bush’s budget request);
· Alleviating the needs of 4.58 million low-income elderly or disabled Americans who have housing needs ($272 million difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request);
· Providing affordable housing vouchers to 7,500 homeless veterans ($75 million difference between Transportation-HUD appropriations bill (for the HUD portion of the program) and Bush’s budget request);
· Helping to create and maintain jobs, develop or rehabilitate affordable housing units, provide home mortgages, extend checking and savings accounts to low-income individuals, and offer financial literacy training to underserved populations and economically distressed communities ($61 million difference between Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill and Bush’s budget request).
Democratic appropriations support the troops. The supplemental appropriations bill approved by Congress increased funding above the President’s requests for National Guard equipment, and for protection against improvised explosive devices, military housing, and military readiness. Congress provided $1.2 billion more than the President’s request for the purchase of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAP) – vehicles designed to withstand roadside bombs.
The Bush Administration has made irresponsible and inflexible veto threats over these important, modest investments, even though spending greatly exceeded Bush requests in Republican Congresses. Even before seeing a single appropriations bill, the Bush Administration threatened a veto of any spending bill until Congress agreed to the President’s proposed level of discretionary spending. This inflexible “take it or leave it” approach stands in stark contrast to the Administration’s approach to spending when Republicans controlled the Congress.
· Just since 2003, President Bush has signed supplemental appropriations bills that exceeded his requests by more than $11 billion (with the extra spending totaling $4.4 billion in Fiscal Year 2003, $3.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2004, $3.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2005, and $48 million in Fiscal Year2006). (Congressional Budget Office, CBO Data on Supplemental Budget Authority for the 2000s, available here)
· The President was willing to sign legislation in three of the past five years that cut defense spending to levels below his requests. (CBO Analyses of President’s Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Years 2002-2007, available here)
· Despite the significant changes to his requests passed by Republican Congresses, President Bush never once vetoed an appropriations bill sent to him by the Republican-led Congress. (Congressional Research Service)
The President’s new inflexibility raises suspicions about whether the Administration is more interested in provoking a partisan fight for political purposes than in working with Congress to find reasonable compromises and in advancing the interests of the American People.
Democrats Have Restored Fiscal Discipline and Transparency to Government
The Democratic Budget Resolution balances the budget. On May 17, 2007, the House and Senate approved the conference report on S. Con. Res. 21,the Budget Resolution for Fiscal Year 2008. The budget resolution, which passed the Senate with the votes of only two Republican Senators, represents a fundamental change in the direction of federal fiscal policy, and includes –
· A balanced budget: The Democratic budget resolution will balance the budget by 2012.
· Restoration of tough PAYGO rules: The Democratic budget resolution restores strong PAYGO rules to require all new mandatory spending and revenue reductions to be offset, so that the deficit does not increase.
· Cuts in spending: The Democratic budget resolution reduces spending as a share of the economy in every year after 2008, even while addressing top national priorities, as discussed below.
· Middle-class tax cuts: The budget resolution cuts middle-class taxes by, for example, providing marriage penalty relief, an expanded child tax credit, and extension of the 10 percent tax bracket, along with relief from the Alternative Minimum Tax.
· No tax increases: The Democratic budget resolution includes no tax increases. Its revenue totals are virtually identical to those proposed by President Bush (using the President’s own numbers).
Democrats took care of the Republican mess and passed strong new ethics laws, including earmark reform. After acquiescing in an explosion of congressional earmarks under the Republican Congresses, President Bush is now insisting on shifting spending decisions to Bush Administration political appointees and bureaucrats. By contrast, most Democrats want to give elected officials an appropriate role in setting spending priorities, but eliminate abuses by dramatically increasing transparency and accountability, while ending financial conflicts.
After Republican Senators blocked the legislation for many months, Congress has now approved and the President has signed into law major ethics reforms that require transparency and end financial conflicts. The new law creates a point of order against a motion to proceed to consideration of appropriations bills if the names of sponsors are not disclosed in advance and prohibits sponsors from personally benefiting from earmarks. And, under the new rules, information about earmarks and their sponsors must be posted online, so that citizens have access to the information in a timely manner.
In addition, Democrats have substantially reduced the number earmarks in reported bills.
Republicans Presided Over a Record of Fiscal Failure
Spending and the deficit exploded under Republican rule. President Bush is the biggest deficit spender ever, increasing spending by nearly 50 percent while turning record surpluses into record deficits, including the three largest annual deficits in the history of the United States. (Congressional Budget Office)
At the same time, Congressional Republicans abandoned strong pay-as-you-go rules that require all new mandatory spending and revenue reductions to be offset, to avoid increasing the deficit. These rules played a major role in restoring fiscal discipline in the 1990s.
Debt skyrocketed under Republican Rule: Federal debt has increased by more than $3 trillion, to $9 trillion by the end of the year, or more than $29,000 for every man, woman and child in America. More debt has accumulated under President Bush than under any president in history. By 2012, the federal debt is expected to exceed $12 trillion. (U.S. Department of the Treasury, “The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It”; Congressional Budget Office and analysis by Senate Committee on Budget Democratic Staff)
Debt held by foreigners has more than doubled under Bush, from $1 trillion to about $2.2 trillion. (U.S. Department of Treasury, Major Foreign Holders of Treasury Securities)
Higher debt forces taxpayers to pay more interest to creditors. This year, such interest is expected to exceed $247 billion. (Congressional Budget Office)
Republicans raided Social Security: More than $1 trillion of Social Security surpluses have been spent for other purposes since President Bush took office.
Republicans engaged in massive spending on tax breaks for multi-millionaires. As noted above, in Fiscal Year 2008 alone, President Bush is proposing to spend $49 billion to provide $130,000 tax breaks for those fortunate enough to have annual incomes over $1 million. CBO found that the total cost of the Bush tax cuts in Fiscal Year 2008 will be $233 billion, more than the entire unified budget deficit ($226 billion). (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Congressional Budget Office, The Budgetary Costs of EGTRRA and JGTRRA Compared with Projected Deficits, 7/20/07, available here)
Republicans’ earmark explosion was historically unprecedented and linked to ethical abuses. According to an analysis by the Congressional Research Service, between 1994 and 2006 earmarks tripled from about 4,200 to about 13,000. In addition, top Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was closely aligned with the House Republican leadership, was convicted of several corruption-related charges after engaging in a variety of unethical activities, including those linked to his work on earmarks.
Meanwhile, President Bush and congressional Republicans made no real attempt at reform while the Republicans controlled Congress. According to one watch-dog group: “In September 2006, the Republican-led House passed an internal rule change requiring disclosure of some earmarks and their sponsors. That rule had almost no impact and expired at the end of the year.” (Citizens Against Government Waste, 1/3/07, available here)
Republican earmarking continues. House Republicans made 10,000 requests for earmarks to the House Appropriations Committee. (Center for American Progress, 7/12/07, available here)
Despite his frequent criticisms of Congress for pork-barrel spending, President Bush’s own budgets have included a wide variety of earmarks and been subject to criticism for lack of transparency. Here are just a few examples from the last appropriations cycle (which, like many congressional projects, may have merit):
· 21st Century Librarian program (First Lady’s project) – $24 million;
· Preserve American heritage tourism grants (First Lady’s project) – $10 million;
· Helping America’s Youth Initiative – $50 million;
· Points of Light – $8.9 million;
· America’s Promise – $4.4 million;
· Army Corps of Engineers – $5.3 billion request “includes scores of proposed water and wetlands projects” (Wall Street Journal, 2/21/06); and
· HUD prisoner re-entry program – $25 million.
Many of the earmarks included in Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bills actually were requested by the President. For example:
· In the Senate Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies appropriations bill, the White House made 580 earmark requests. Funded White House requests amounted to $15.6 billion, or 96 percent of the funding provided in the bill for earmarks.
· Of the 321 earmarks in the House Interior Appropriations Bill, 93 were requested by the President. (The Hill, 6/28/07, available here)
· President Bush requested 17 special projects worth $947 million in the House Financial Services bill, more than any member of Congress. (The Hill, 6/28/07, available here)
The Administration has doled out presidential pork by handing out government contracts to Bush Cronies.
President Bush hasmore than doubled “no-bid” contracts. Spending on no-bid contracts has increased 121 percent since 2000, to $103 billion in 2006. In addition, spending on both no-bid and limited competition contracts, together, has more than tripled, from $67.5 billion in 2000 to $206.9 billion in 2006. The 2006 total is about ten times the amount that was spent on Congressional earmarks. Federal spending on no-bid and limited-competition contracts represented more than half (50.2 percent) of federal procurement spending in 2006. (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “More Dollars, Less Sense: Worsening Contracting Trends Under the Bush Administration,” 6/2007, available here)
Halliburton has been enjoying windfalls from the Bush Administration despite major abuses. Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney, has been the fastest-growing major federal contractor during the Bush Administration. In 2000, Halliburton was the 28th largest contractor, receiving $763 million in federal dollars. By 2006, the company had leaped to the sixth largest federal contractor, receiving over $6 billion in federal dollars. This is an increase of 700 percent over the six-year period, despite contracting abuses that harmed US troops and wasted taxpayer dollars. (House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, “More Dollars, Less Sense: Worsening Contracting Trends Under the Bush Administration,” 6/2007, available here)
· Halliburton had $1.4 billion in questioned and undocumented costs: “[G]overnment auditors at the Defense Contract Audit Agency have identified more than $1 billion in ‘questioned’ Halliburton costs. DFAA challenged most of these costs as ‘unreasonable in amount’ after completing audit action because they ‘exceed that in which would be incurred by a prudent person.’…The magnitude of these questioned costs significantly exceeds previously known estimates. The DCAA auditors have also found that an additional $442 million in Halliburton’s charges are ‘unsupported.’ As a result, Halliburton’s total ‘questioned’ and ‘unsupported’ costs exceed $1.4 billion.” (Joint Report of Democratic Policy Committee and House Government Reform Committee Minority Staff, 6/27/05, available here)
· Halliburton wasted transportation equipment: “We compromised security by allowing contractors to lease most of our trucks and equipment without appropriate maintenance plans. In the Halliburton contracts alone, more than 400 trucks were abandoned in Iraq, due to poor quality of equipment and nonexistent maintenance. Every truck that broke down on a convoy because of poor maintenance is a truck that put the lives of soldiers and other contractors in danger.” (Statement of Marie deYoung, former Halliburton employee, Democratic Policy Committee Oversight Hearing on " Contracting Abuses in Iraq," 9/10/04, available here)
· Halliburton charged for meals never served: “KBR [Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root] charged the government for meals it never served to the troops. Until late 2003, Anaconda was a transition site for army personnel. Because there could be large numbers of extra personnel passing through every day, KBR would charge for a surge capacity of 5,000 troops per meal. However, KBR continued to charge for the extra headcount even after Anaconda was no longer a transition site. When I questioned these practices, the managers told me that this needed to be done because KBR lost money in prior months, when the government suspended some of the dining hall payments to the company. The managers said that they were adjusting the numbers to make up for the suspended payments.” (Statement of Rory Mayberry, former KBR Food Production manager, Democratic Policy Committee Oversight Hearing on "Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in U.S. Government Contracting in Iraq," 6/27/05, available here)
· Halliburton put a whistleblower under armed guard: “When I went to Baghdad, I gave an administrator a three-sheet report where I stated some of the observations that I’ve told this committee today, in regard to the accounting that was being done in the [Morale, Welfare & Recreation] department. In fact, I called it ‘cooking the books in true Enron style.’ It was at that point that I was put under guard.” (Statement of Julie McBride, former KBR Morale, Welfare & Recreation Officer, former KBR Food Production manager, Democratic Policy Committee Oversight Hearing on " Accountability for Contracting Abuses in Iraq," 9/18/06, available here)
The Administration’s response to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina was also fraught with cronyism. According to the New York Times, after the Hurricane Katrina disaster, “FEMA and the Army Corps awarded at least seven no-bid contracts, most for up to $100 million, to a number of companies that had also received no-bid contracts for work in Iraq, including the Kellogg, Brown & Root subsidiary of Halliburton.” (New York Times, 10/13/05, available here)
The New York Times also reported that: “[t]he first results are in on who is set to profit from the Katrina cleanup, and – surprise – many of the firms winning major contracts have big political connections…Questions have also been raised about the political connections of two other major contractors: the Shaw Group, and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Both companies have been represented by Joe Allbaugh, President Bush’s former campaign manager and the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – although Mr. Allbaugh says he does not help any of his clients obtain federal contracts.” (New York Times, 9/27/05, available here)
Congressional Republicans have mismanaged the federal budget.
Republicans abdicated responsibility for funding the government in Fiscal Year 2007. In December 2006, the Republican-led Congress adjourned after completing only 2 out of 11 appropriations bills After the Republican Congress left town without approving appropriations bills for 13 of the 15 Departments, the Democratic Congress stepped in and secured enactment of a long-term funding resolution to fund domestic agencies in Fiscal Year 2007.
The funding resolution was passed without a single earmark and increased funding for national priorities, including veterans’ medical care, Pell grants, elementary and secondary education, the National Institutes of Health, state and local law enforcement, global AIDS prevention and treatment, and critical housing assistance and transportation safety programs.
The Democratic Congress moved more quickly to get an emergency funding bill to the President than the Republican-controlled Congress did last year (86 days to send H.R.1591 to the White House versus 119 days for the Fiscal Year 2006 supplemental). It was the President’s veto that threatened to delay/withhold funds from our troops.
Republicans failed to finish appropriations bills on time. In each of the past four years, on average, Republican Congresses have enacted fewer than two appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year:
Fiscal Year 2007: 2
Fiscal Year 2006: 2
Fiscal Year 2005: 1
Fiscal Year 2004: 2
The last time all individual appropriations measures were signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year was 1994, under Democratic leadership. Short-term continuing resolutions were needed in 11 out of the last 13 appropriations cycles (or 84.6 percent of the time). (Analysis of Congressional Research Service data)
Republicans regularly resorted to CRs and omnibus/consolidated bills. Since coming to power in 1995, not only did Republican Congresses never once complete action on all the individual appropriations bills by the beginning of the fiscal year, they also repeatedly failed to approve many individual appropriations bills even after a new fiscal year began, resorting to consolidated or omnibus bills or a long-term continuing resolution to fund the government. Eight times since Fiscal Year 1996, Congress failed to complete action on each individual appropriations bill. (Congress eventually completed action on each appropriation bill only four times: Fiscal Years 1998 and 2001, when President Clinton was in the White House; Fiscal Year 2002, when Democrats controlled the Senate; and Fiscal Year 2006).
Since Fiscal Year 1996, only 60 percent of the individual appropriations bills were signed into law. Between Fiscal Year 2004 and Fiscal Year 2007, only 46 percent of the individual appropriations bills were signed into law. The remainder were rolled into consolidated or omnibus appropriations measures or covered by long-term continuing resolutions. (Analysis of Congressional Research Service data)
Questions and Answers
Question: Is President Bush correct that Democrats are returning to “tax and spend” policies?
· Having increased spending by nearly 50 percent and run up more than $3 trillion in debt, including roughly half a trillion dollars for Iraq, President Bush has no credibility to attack Democrats, who are restoring fiscal sanity to the federal budget.
· In contrast to the Republicans record of historic deficits, Democrats passed a balanced budget and have re-established fiscal discipline through strong pay-as-you-go rules.
· The Democratic budget cuts middle-class taxes and includes modest, but important, increases for domestic needs like veterans’ health care, terrorism prevention, and student assistance that amount to less than one percent of the budget.
· Under the Democratic budget, by 2012 nondefense discretionary spending will fall to 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the lowest level in many decades.
· The real debate isn’t over how much to spend, but over people and priorities. Democratic increases for veterans, police officers, teachers and middle-class Americans combined cost about what President Bush wants to spend on Iraq in about two months, and less than half of what he wants to spend on tax breaks for those with incomes over $1 million.
Question: Why haven’t Democrats completed all of the appropriations bills?
· Two words: Republican obstructionism.
· Each senator has the power to virtually shut down the Senate, and Republican Senators have repeatedly filibustered routine measures, like motions to proceed, merely to obstruct and delay. Their political strategy apparently is: “filibuster and blame Democrats.”
· Republican complaints about appropriations delays are not just political, they’re hypocritical: during the last five years of Republican rule, they adopted, on average, fewer than two appropriations bills before the beginning of the fiscal year. Last year, they failed to approve a single domestic appropriations bill. President Bush didn’t complain about that, and he has no standing to complain now, when his own party is creating the delays.
Question: Why not just eliminate earmarks altogether?
· We should eliminate all wasteful earmarks. There should be zero tolerance for wasteful pork, whether presidential or congressional – only contracts and projects that serve the public interest deserve public funding.
· Having said that, there’s nothing unethical about elected representatives allocating a reasonable share of funding, rather than leaving those decisions entirely to Bush political appointees and Executive Branch bureaucrats.
· Republican rhetoric on earmarks is pure politics and hypocrisy: what they’re really saying is that only Republicans should decide what gets funded. After all, when congressional Republicans controlled Congress, they tripled earmarks and the President was happy to go along. In fact, he didn’t veto a single earmark.
· Not only did earmarking explode under Republican rule, but it was marked by three major problems: 1) earmarks funded wasteful and low priority projects; 2) earmarks were adopted in secret with no accountability; and 3) earmarks served the private interests of lobbyists and lawmakers like Duke Cunningham rather than the public interest. Democrats are directly attacking each of these problems.
· Democrats have committed to substantially reducing the number of earmarks and have adopted historic reforms to dramatically increase transparency and accountability.
Question: What spending programs are Democrats proposing to cut?
· The most important spending cuts that Democrats have supported are those related to changing course in Iraq. Every month, we spend another $10 billion on Iraq, because of President Bush and his congressional supporters.
· Democrats also want to cut down on the Bush Administration’s massive spending on special interest tax breaks, which by 2012 will cost $73 billion to hand out $162,000 for those making more than $1 million.
· Many Democrats have also been pushing to eliminate excessive and wasteful subsidies that are being provided to private health plans through Medicare, and to private lenders that make student loans.
· In addition, Democrats have cut spending for a variety of programs, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and Reading First, a program which has been plagued with mismanagement, according to the Education Department’s Inspector General.
Question: What are Democrats doing about the rising costs of entitlements?
· Democrats have adopted strong pay-as-you-go rules, to require all new entitlement spending to be offset with savings, to prevent increases in the deficit.
· The budget also includes program integrity initiatives to eliminate waste, establishes a new point of order against any legislation that would increase long-term deficits, and prohibits fast track bills that worsen deficits.
· The most problematic entitlements are the wasteful tax subsidies that Republicans enacted for special interests and multi-millionaires.
· As for benefits, the primary reason that entitlement costs are increasing is the rapid rise in health care costs. Reducing those costs will require a major bipartisan effort, and Democrats have begun work on measures such as promoting improved health care information technology and promoting greater use of health care approaches that have already proved to be effective.
Question: Are Republicans correct that the budget resolution increased taxes?
· No. The budget cuts middle-class taxes, including extensions of marriage penalty relief, the child tax credit and the 10 percent bracket, along with AMT relief and estate tax reform for small businesses and family farms.
· The budget contains no tax increases.
· By contrast, deficit-financed Republican tax breaks for special interests burden ordinary taxpayers by forcing them to pay billions in additional interest to foreign lenders.
· The budget raises revenues only by cracking down on tax cheats, closing loopholes, preventing the wealthiest Americans from hiding income overseas, and improving taxpayer services to assist honest taxpayers who need help complying with the tax code.
Question: Is it really possible to generate significant revenue without raising taxes?
· Yes. According to the Treasury Department, about $300 billion in taxes were owed, but not paid, just in 2001. Most likely, the actual figure was higher and has since increased.
· Note that this is a one year figure that does not include substantial savings available from closing overseas shelters and other legal loopholes.