For whatever reason, the House chose to whip out ye olde Balanced Budget Amendment for another vote today, after it was voted down a couple of times this summer. It failed. The vote was 261-165 in favor of it, but—oops!—you need 2/3 support to amend the Constitution. That's because amending the Constitution should be hard, and not done whenever Eric Cantor and a few buddies think something on Fox News sounds cool.
Here's a brief guide to congressional debt politics in 2011: In the debt ceiling deal, $1 trillion in spending cuts (or caps on future spending, mostly) was made, while punting at least $1.2 trillion in additional savings to be determined by a supercommittee, later. The supercommitee, now, is considering this brave solution as its deadline nears: Making trillions in additional spending cuts, while punting decisions on additional tax revenue to be determined by congressional finance committees, later.
President Obama continued his series of small tweaks to the broken system via executive order this week by asking agencies "to cut about $4 billion per year from the federal government's budget for travel, cellphones, conferences and 'swag' like agency-branded mugs and clothing." This sounds painfully modest. But, like everything else, not modest enough to keep major trade groups from raising hell in its wake.
The city of Topeka, Kansas, which is broke because it exists in America, maybe won't prosecute domestic battery anymore because those cases are too expensive. City officials want the county district attorney to handle them now. But the DA just said last month that he's not going to prosecute any misdemeanors committed in Topeka at all, due to office budget cuts.
That nice Boy Scout from down the street who's politely offered to fix America's finances, Rep. Paul Ryan, visited the White House today along with many, many other invited House Republicans. And Ryan, who has been known to sport a sad face when people say mean things about his policy ideas, had some tough words himself for that "demagogue" Barack Obama.
There is some lightly sourced babble at Reuters today about "desire at the highest ranks of the Republican Party" for House Budget Committee chair Rep. Paul Ryan to launch a presidential bid. This is partially confirmed by more lightly sourced babble on Twitter. There's a slim chance of this ever happening — Paul Ryan, for one, has no interest — but with Obama's poll numbers slinking further into the crapper, Republican elites are still looking for new candidates with scalable support. If they decide he's their guy, they'll force him to do it.
President Obama pledged not to attach any signing statements, or little notes saying you'll ignore certain legislative language on constitutional grounds, to new laws back when he was a candidate. He broke that pledge in about two seconds. And in his latest signing statement — appended to the just-passed budget deal to fund the government through September — Obama announced that he's just going to ignore that bit of legislative language defunding his "czars," a terribly Russian term for "advisers."
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.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and 40 other protesters—including members of the city council—were arrested by Capitol Police on Monday after they blocked Constitution Avenue near the Capitol in protest of aspects of the budget deal reached by Congress which limit the city's autonomy, specifically prohibiting the use of DC public funds for abortions.
If a government shutdown happens, it'll be because Republicans are demanding policy restrictions in addition to spending cuts before agreeing to fund the government through September. These policy restrictions would target abortion providers and seek to limit the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency.