Congress only has a few more days to act before they take their much UN-needed vacation from Washington. This Congress is on pace to reach a new record setting low, as the most unproductive Congress in history.
The biggest issue right now — aside from immigration, the ACA, jobs, and the economy, which they are not even talking about right now – is the Federal Budget. What will be the spending level for the next six months, year, or decade? That is the million-dollar or should I say trillion-dollar question.
To end the forced government shutdown the parties agreed to finally sit down and hammer out the details of a budget. Sen. Patty Murray would present her Senate budget and Rep. Paul Ryan would present the House budget. They were tasked with leading a committee of conference between the two chambers and finalizing a deal that would pass through both houses. The budget committee has until Dec 13th to report back to the House and Senate leaders with a compromised budget plan.
The key is that if they do not pass a budget on Dec 13 (oh thats Friday the 13th , eerie) they are scheduled to leave for winter break and return in early January. This would mean that Congress would have about one week to get the budget passed through the House, the Senate, and be signed by the President by January 15th when current funding resolution expires.
This week the beltway press has started reporting on the budget deals being tossed around and there is good news and bad news. Government Executive is reporting that Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan are very close to a two-year deal that “set spending levels and soften sequester cuts.” Of course that is if Murray and Ryan can come to an agreement first.
“In a meeting with conservative lawmakers on Thursday morning, Ryan told them to expect the framework of a budget agreement to be announced on Tuesday, giving both parties time to study its components.
“If we don’t have a deal by Tuesday, we probably won’t have a deal at all,” Ryan said, according to people in the room.” (GovExec)
Ezra Klien’s Wankblog is also reporting some good news about the proposed budget.
“The budget deal Patty Murray and Paul Ryan are crafting isn’t a “grand bargain.” It doesn’t put the nation’s finances on a vastly different path (or even any different path). It doesn’t reform the tax code or overhaul Medicare. It doesn’t include infrastructure spending or chained-CPI. It doesn’t even replace all of sequestration.”
This means that Social Security, and Medicare are safe for another day! This is good news for millions of seniors and those who are close to retirement.
Now the bad news, the budget does not end the draconian sequester cuts. It ‘eases’ the cuts. The budget deal would add $40 billion dollars back into the budget ($25 Billion in the 2015 budget), with half going to military spending and the other half to domestic spending.
This year the GOP cut $4 billion from the SNAP or Food Stamps program. Not to mention the $40 million from head start programs. The list goes on and on with more and more cuts and forced furloughs and layoffs to federal workers. This budget will not fix that problem either, only force agencies to operate at a reduced budgetary level.
The irony here is that currently Sen Murray and Rep Ryan are haggling over $65 Billion dollars in the budget. That is exactly how much we are adding from the current Sequester levels. Is it a coincidence that, that is how much they are haggling about?
So where are the Republicans going to come up with the extra money to give back to the domestic spending programs? You guessed it, their favorite secret stash, the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERs).
Rep. Paul Ryan is proposing a dramatic 2% increase on employee contributions to the FERs program, while federal employees have not seen a pay raise in almost 5 years. Federal workers who were hired in 2013 already got whacked with a 2.3% increased contribution over existing employees. Couple the lack of pay raises with the average inflation of around 2%, federal workers are losing money every year just staying in their jobs. Now Rep Paul Ryan wants workers to take an additional 2% pay cut — I mean increased retirement contribution — because he does not want to increase taxes on the wealthy or corporations?
“The only working people that have paid a price so far in trying to bring down the deficit have been federal workers…. It is inappropriate to further look to the pockets of federal employees at this point in time,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
When will the Congressional Republicans stop using the federal employees retirement accounts as their personal piggy banks. When will they do what is right an start making the corporations pay their fair share?