Week of June 21, 2004

» Please view "The Weekly Whip" for the week of June 21, 2004

» All referenced documents are bundled in a PDF here

Items that you may want to do press on:

Short-term Extension of Transportation Bill
 
Due to political pressure from a White House trying to appear "fiscally responsible" and internal Republican squabbling, this important job-creation bill has been bogged down for months.  In fact, it should have, and could have, been passed in 2003.
 
Republicans are in such disarray on this issue that this will be the fourth extension of the current authorizing language.  The current extension runs out on June 30th, and it is not clear at the time of emailing for how long the extension considered on the Floor next week will be.
 
Democrats should talk about the importance of passing this bill to meet our nation's infrastructure needs, as well as the potential to create millions of jobs in an economy that is struggling to create well-paying jobs.  Republican infighting caused by their misguided budget and economic policy have delayed delivering these benefits to the American people.
 
Attached are:

  • A letter from Democratic Leaders to the President regarding his "zero-pecent growth" proposal for highway and transit funding
  • Talking points prepared by the Democratic Leader (these talking points are from the last extension but are still relevant to next week's bill)
  • The Statement of Administration Policy issuing a veto threat for any bill over $256 billion
Budget Enforcement
 
Republican leaders expect to bring a "Budget Enforcement" Bill to the Floor next week.  The Republican leadership had to promise conservatives action on this legislation during the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Resolution debate in order to gain their support for it to be considered on the Floor.  Republican conservatives feel they need the bill to provide cover for the record deficits and mounting debt that reckless Republican fiscal policies have created.  This bill is an incomplete budget enforcement sham that lacks real "pay-as-you-go" budget enforcement provisions.
 
First, Congress has yet to complete action on the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget Conference Report.  Republican infighting has paralyzed their party to the point where, for the first time since enactment of the 1974 budget law, a budget will not be passed when one party controls both houses of Congress.
 
This failure is due to serious divisions within the Republican Party over extending "pay-as-you-go" (PAYGO) language to both revenue and mandatory spending, which 193 Republicans voted for in 1997 and which the President supported in his first three budgets.  This language was the key in the 1990s to tackling the ballooning budget deficits and returning to fiscally responsible budgets.  
 
Second, the proposal will likely only apply budget enforcement rules, or "pay-as-you-go," to the spending side of the ledger and not tax cuts, paving the way for further tax giveaways that will increase the deficit.  Setting limits on only one side of the ledger simply cannot work, and is contrary to past support by the President, Budget Chairman Nussle and other Republicans for applying PAYGO to tax cuts as mentioned above.
 
And third, the entitlement cap could lead to cuts in important programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and veterans programs.  During the past two budget cycles, House GOP leaders have advanced hundreds of billions of dollars of entitlement cuts to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans only to retreat from those entitlement cuts when confronted with a lack of support for their policies.
 
As outlined by a document (linked below) prepared by the staff of House Budget Committe Ranking Democrat John Spratt, Democrats "will take to the Rules Committee an amendment to reestablish the effective PAYGO rules - for both spending and tax cuts - which helped turn record deficits into record surpluses in the 1990s."
 
The fight over the budget and the sham budget enforcement bill that Republicans are planning to bring to the Floor are clear demonstrations of their inability to govern and refusal to address the problems that their own policies have created.
 
The American people are sure to be the biggest casualty of this budget battle.
 
Attached are:
  • Flawed Budget Process Legislation Expected on Floor, prepared by the House Budget Committee Democrats
  • The Republicans' Fiscal Flip-Flop, a compilation of quotes from President Bush and other Republican Leaders in support of applying "pay-as-you-go" rules to spending and tax cuts prepared by the Office of the Democratic Whip