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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Buffett is Right, the Rich Should Pay More in Taxes

We're coming for your loot, Scrooge.

Warren Buffett's op-ed last week calling on Congress to raise taxes on the wealthy has struck a nerve with conservatives, stirring charges of class warfare and zingers about how the billionaire investor should write a check to help Uncle Sam. Exemplifying the right's opprobrium, the reactionary Tax Foundation has been lambasting Buffett in a series of recent posts and has actually gone so far as to call on low- and middle-income Americans to pay more before the rich do.

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First Glance at the Super Committee

As per the debt ceiling deal, the Budget Control Act of 2011, a 12-member special joint committee is to be created to produce legislation that will cut the deficit by $1.5 trilliion. The majority and minority leadership of both houses are tasked with selecting three members each to sit on this so-called Super Committte. Sen. McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Reid (D-NV), and Speaker Boehner (R-OH) made their appointments earlier this week, and by making her appointments today, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) rounds out the Super Committee roster.

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Frequently Asked Questions on the Debt Ceiling Deal

As you might have heard, last week Congress finally negotiated an end to the debt ceiling crisis. The basics of the deal are well-known: Republicans agreed to raise the debt ceiling through the next election in exchange for significant spending cuts. But how does the deal actually work? Our new FAQ should help you understand the details behind the deal.

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The Threat to Our Democracy from the Debt Ceiling Deal

The U.S. Capitol

Bob Greenstein, president of the well-respected Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), lays out the broader consequence of the self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis and, in short, it's a "terrifying" new framework of federal budget politics that enshrines minority rule and threatens to "undermine democracy."

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