So the deal for the "largest spending cut in history" that no one knew the components of until ~5 minutes ago is coming up for rubber-stamping today, to avoid a government shutdown. The votes are expected to be there. But maybe we'll get lucky and the government of the greatest nation in the history of the world will shut down anyway, over confusing math.
The framework for deficit reduction President Obama will lay out Wednesday is a mixed bag for members of his party. It borrows heavily in some areas from the conservative-leaning Bowles-Simpson recommendation, but commits elsewhere to enhancing the cost-cutting programs in the health care law and rejects Republican proposals to privatize entitlements, or maintain or reduce the tax burden on the upper class.
Funding for the federal government will only last three more days, and leaders of both parties say they have no interest in working out a stop-gap measure for another week or two. "Secret negotiations led by Joe Biden" — which in the late '70s, at least, was Capitol Police code for late night swingers' parties in the Congressional Gym — haven't proven to be very successful. Will these dumpheads ever agree on a compromise to their $30-$60 billion in harsh social services cuts that won't have any significant effect on budgets during a time with massive unemployment and suffering and death everywhere?
National Tea Party groups had planned to make a statement to lawmakers today with a well-publicized rally on Capitol Hill. Hordes of attendees were going to demand that wavering Republican members of Congress not compromise halfway with Democrats on a budget deal. A compromise for $33 billion in cuts instead of the Republicans' maximalist proposal of $61 billion, Tea Party folks believe, would be a betrayal of promises made during the 2010 election. So the Tea Party held its big important rally this afternoon as planned — but it only drew "perhaps a couple hundred" attendees. C'mon, Tea Party! Get your act together, or go extinct.
Oh, those House Republican freshmen. They're furious at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his Democratic caucus for not passing the full $61 billion in budget cuts that they want. Why can't Senate Dems just listen to the American people, they ask, and eliminate funding for every program Democrats like? Because until this happens, 30 House Republican freshmen promise to stand on the Senate steps everyday, just straight-up making a ruckus.
It's been almost a week since House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House last sat down to hammer out a budget agreement, and the schedule's still blank. Accusations of bad faith are now flying from both sides. Republicans are poised to reject a White House offer, TPM has learned, that would cut over $30 billion in current spending because of disagreements over whether the package should include cuts to mandatory spending programs. Democrats are pushing for such cuts, which include the big entitlement programs, though the specific cuts they're proposing remain unclear. In an ironic twist, Republicans oppose those cuts and want to limit the negotiations to non-defense discretionary spending, a smaller subset of the federal budget.
One of the House Republicans' budget cuts that got the most attention while they were crafting their spending bill for the next six months was the elimination of all federal funding to Planned Parenthood. The organization, which provides women's health and family planning services up to and including scary abortions, was obviously a popular target for the Republicans to satisfy their base with. Go to any conservative protest, over health care reform, taxes, Mexicans, whatever, and the anti-abortion folks are always the last ones there, screaming and hollering deep into the night.
Maybe you news junkies have been paying so much attention to the actual major news events in Japan, North Africa, the Middle East and various state governments that you forgot about the incompetent dumpheads in Washington, who haven't been able to accomplish anything beyond funding the government every couple of weeks after days of serial posturing about nothing. So let's get this update out of the way and then return to the news: The federal government will probably get funded for another three weeks. Thank your members of Congress!
Republican Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim DeMint have introduced a bill to cut that program that they always want to cut: subsidies for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, overlord of PBS and NPR. We already know why Republicans want to cut NPR funding so badly, because the liberal snob station fired a reporter last fall over his patriotic belief that Muslims are terrifying. And PBS! They're downright socialist, and Jim Lehrer is a Muslim spy.
Among the 400+ amendments filed earlier this week for the House Republicans' upcoming spending package was this little gem from GOP Rep. Steve Womack: cutting funding for the president's teleprompter. This machine has been the source of many hilarious Republican jokes over the last two years, like, "Did you see how Barack Obama read his speech off a teleprompter? Bwah ha ha, what an idiot."
The MTA has passed its "doomsday budget" this morning and a "punishing slate of service cuts" will now follow as the agency looks to make up for a $400 million shortfall in its budget. (Also coming soon: even more painfully crowded subways.) But considering your Metrocard will soon sport the word "Optimism" on the back, you should have no problem keeping up a positive attitude, right? [NYT, NY1, previously]
Hope you don't rely on the W or Z trains to get to work. As part of the MTA's effort to make up for the $400 million gap in its budget, it's proposing eliminating both those lines, as well as reducing subway service at off-peak hours, eliminating discounts for the disabled, and ripping the free bus passes that are given to city schoolchildren out of their tiny hands. [NYT]
If you're currently job hunting and you figured that if all else fails you could always end up working for the city, you may need to come up with a new backup plan. The stalemate in Albany has led Mayor Bloomberg to resort to "drastic measures" and impose a city-wide hiring freeze. The move has already led to the postponement of tomorrow's graduation of 250 NYPD recruits, and a long list of other hires will now be put off, including the recruitment of 150 firefighters and 34 emergency 911 operators. It also means 151 traffic agents won't get hired anytime soon, although we're guessing car owners won't be complaining very much about that. [WCBS]