Super Committee "Failure" Is Anything But

On Monday evening (Nov. 21), the Super Committee formally announced that it was unable to reach an agreement for reducing the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion. While others are decrying the lack of agreement by the Super Committee and calling it a failure, we at OMB Watch believe that each of us should, instead, be relieved.

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Congress Passes Year's First Spending Bill With Plenty of Riders, Declares Pizza a Vegetable

Late last week, Congress passed the first spending bill for fiscal year (FY) 2012, 48 days after it began. The bill, known as a minibus, is a bundle of three smaller appropriations bills, and collectively, the three bills are about a billion dollars lower than their level last year. Because the remaining nine spending bills required to keep the government running have yet to be approved, the minibus includes another stopgap spending measure, designed to keep the government open until Dec. 16. However, tucked inside the minibus is a litany of restrictions on spending designed to change non-budgetary federal policy.  Even though congressional rules are supposed to prevent the practice of slipping policy initiatives into funding bills, the minibus includes 75 policy riders that affect everything from gun regulations to the weight of planes flying into New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, and even declare that pizza is a vegetable.

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Open Government Leaders Support Funding for Key Transparency Initiatives

OMB Watch and the Sunlight Foundation today released an open letter to the U.S. Senate supporting continued funding for the Electronic Government Fund's important transparency projects. The letter echoes the Obama administration's policy statement issued Nov. 10.

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Budgets Are about Choices

Earlier this month, the city council of Topeka, KS, voted to decriminalize domestic violence in what has become a national-headline-grabbing budget dispute between the city and its county seat, Shawnee. Some are arguing that it's a sad spectacle when a couple of local governments within our nation play jurisdictional games with such a serious issue, but it's important to point out that the standoff didn't have to occur.

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Appropriations Policy Riders: They’re Ba-ack!

Earlier this year, when Congress was finishing the long-overdue budget for fiscal year 2011, the House tried to use the must-pass spending bill to force adoption of dozens of "policy riders." These provisions would have done everything from preventing the regulation of greenhouse gases to prohibiting certain loans to mohair farmers. Fortunately, almost all of them were stripped out of the final bill. However, now, as Congress moves toward finishing the FY 2012 budget, Republicans in the House and Senate are once again attempting to bend the budget process to enact non-budget policies that can't pass on their own merits. Riders have no place in congressional spending bills.

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Public Meetings of Super Committee Few and Far Between

It's been 48 days since the Super Committee's last public meeting on Sept. 8 (and over a month passed between the Super Committee's second and third public hearings). For those of us who have been watching the Super Committee since day one, eagerly awaiting information on the specifics of its proposal for cutting $1.5 trillion dollars from the federal deficit, 48 days of radio silence not only has us on edge, it also has us questioning the Super Committee's commitment to transparency and the democratic process.

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IRS Enforcement Likely to Take Hit in 2012 Approps

The tax mans taken all my dough / and left me in my stately home / lazing on a sunny afternoon.

Reporting last week in a piece titled, "Bipartisanship lives! And it will likely cost taxpayers money," Suzy Khimm of the Washington Post notes that although Democrats and Republicans are battling over the fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget, "there's one big thing that both parties already agree on: cutting funding for the [Internal Revenue Service (IRS)]." This shortsighted move is likely to end up costing the government money (at a time when every penny is needed) because roughly half of the cuts are coming out of the agency's enforcement budget.

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Obama's New Deficit Reduction Plan Unapologetically Balanced

Earlier today, President Obama released a new plan for reducing the federal deficit, or the shortfall between revenues and spending. The plan is technically a set of recommendations for the Super Committee, which Congress created last month to find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. Obama’s plan isn’t ideal, but it is easily one of the best set of deficit reduction recommendations to come out of Washington in a while.

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Senate Committee Proposes Transparency Cuts

There’s a grand tradition in DC: the Friday afternoon news dump. Press secretaries from across the District save up any bad news, and then release it on Friday after the major news deadlines have passed. That way, articles won’t show up until the weekend, when most people aren't paying attention. In yet another example of this, the Senate Appropriations Committee, responsible for the government’s yearly funding bills, released four bills this afternoon, all of which had passed out of committee yesterday. And, sure enough, there, buried in one of the bills, is the Senate effectively slashing funding for transparency projects.

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How Prepared is the Budget for a Disaster?

In the past week, the East Coast saw two natural disasters, both of which were thankfully much less destructive than they otherwise could've been. These disasters do, however, remind us that the federal government plays major roles in preparation, information dissemination, emergency response, and recovery aid for natural disasters and provide people with the assistance they need and expect when catastrophe strikes.

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