Fiscal Responsibility, War Critics Take a Back Seat in House War Supplemental

When the House Democratic leadership introduced a supplemental appropriations bill the week of June 16, chock-full of popular spending measures, it ensured easy passage of the $257 billion package. The Democrats and President Bush can each claim they won items in the negotiation over the bill: the Democrats won increased spending on domestic programs; Bush was able to kill any requirements for withdrawal of soldiers from Iraq. Yet the bill remained controversial because the Democrats refused to include fiscally responsible measures or accede to the opinion of 63 percent of Americans that soldiers should return home within two years.

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Congress Adopts Mixed-Bag Budget Resolution

A rare event occurred in Washington on Thursday, June 5: Congress approved a budget resolution during an election year, a feat not seen since 2000. This fact and a human needs-oriented approach to spending signal that Congress is addressing national priorities while attempting to more responsibly manage the country's finances. However, Congress's eliding of pay-as-you-go rules and unrealistic assumptions about war spending and Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) relief have marred an otherwise responsible budget resolution.

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War Supplemental Bill Awaits Final House Approval

When Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, the House will take up the Senate's $250 billion supplemental war spending proposal. After the Senate added on $165 billion for war funding to the House's bill (which contained no money for the wars), it also tacked on some $10 billion in additional non-defense discretionary spending above the House's level of $21.1 billion. Although similar to the House version, the Senate's bill differs in a few key aspects, and the House will have to approve the Senate version or continue negotiating by amending it and passing it back to the upper chamber.

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Lack of Action in Congress on Pivotal Fiscal Policy Issues

Congress continues to wrestle with a number of high-profile budget and financial bills that will have broad impact on citizens throughout the United States and around the world, including legislation on war funding, economic stimulus, housing, and the last budget of the Bush presidency. Despite significant congressional rhetoric and media coverage of these efforts, Congress has made little real progress on reaching compromise or instituting policies.

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Contract Reform Takes Center Stage in House

A group of reform bills that would bring accountability and transparency to the federal contracting process has been approved by the House in the last few months, potentially setting the stage for federal contracting reform to be a major area of legislative action in the remaining months of the 110th Congress.

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GAO Report Examines Overuse of Supplemental Spending

In a recently released report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined ten years of supplemental spending (FY 1997-FY 2006) and found not only a five-fold increase in the amount of expenditures funded through the supplemental process, but also that procedures that enable legislative deliberation are bypassed when Congress funds government operations through supplemental spending. Supplemental spending has become an alternative funding process, parallel to the normal annual appropriations process. This allows certain expenditures to elide close congressional and public scrutiny and allows Congress to escape debate over federal funding priorities.

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Budget Resolution: Recap and the Road Ahead

Late on March 13 and early in the morning of March 14, the House and Senate adopted $3 trillion budget resolutions for Fiscal Year 2009 by votes of 212-207 and 51-44, respectively. While the resolutions are similar in terms of broad policy outlines and priorities, they differ on a few major points, including the total amount of discretionary spending and whether to offset the cost of a one-year patch to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).

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FY 09 Budget Resolution: Goals, Strategies, and Challenges

The House and Senate Budget Committees will soon turn to the congressional budget resolution for Fiscal Year 2009. The draft versions of the budget resolution, to be offered by House Budget chief Rep. John Spratt (D-SC) and Senate Budget head Kent Conrad (D-ND), are likely to be considerably different from President Bush's unrealistic budget proposal submitted to Congress in February.

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Emergency War Spending Lacks Transparency, Increasingly Used for Non-Emergency Items

The Bush administration's emergency supplemental spending requests for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have lacked the transparency that normally accompanies the appropriations process, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). In addition, the CBO war spending report, however constrained by available data, revealed the composition of the war funding requests has been evolving into broader Defense Department spending initiatives, such as acquiring next-generation aircraft and replacing aging aircraft.

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The Bush Budget Legacy: Misleading Claims and Misguided Priorities

On Feb. 4, President Bush laid out, in a rather slender volume, his federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2009, which begins on Oct. 1. Unfortunately, Bush has made little progress toward constructing an honest, fiscally responsible budget that meets the needs of America's communities. In fact, criticisms identical to those levied a year ago against his FY 2008 budget are still quite suitable in their application today — Bush's assumptions about war spending and Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) reform are unrealistic if not outright spurious. His attempt to balance the budget by 2012 requires massive cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other popular domestic investments Congress will certainly not enact. His proposal to terminate or radically cut 151 federal programs is fantastical — wholesale cuts to popular discretionary programs are not only unlikely but are irresponsible in the face of worsening economic conditions.

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