Monday, March 30, 2015

Senate Budget Votes

Last week the US Senate voted on S Con Res 11, the Republican drafted budget for fiscal years
2016-2025, plus a number of amendments to that bill.  Of course, this is not the final budget for those years, as it would need House review and Presidential agreement, but it certainly reflects the current thinking of those elected to this Senate, specifically the Republicans who drafted the bill.

The main bill which passed 52-46 (I guess no need for 60 votes for this kind of bill), included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, increased military spending, decreased spending on entitlements and domestic programs, a prohibition on tax increases, converting Medicaid and food stamps to state-run block-grant programs, and required an unspecified reform of the tax code.   Not sure why they think the American public still supports spending more money on overseas conflicts and less on our crumbling infrastructure, poverty among working class Americans, and the stagnation of the income and buying power of the middle class, but perhaps the Fox media propaganda machine's ability to inflate the threat of whatever foreign evil they pick for that week actually works in Washington.

One interesting amendment would have enabled the 30-40 million students with interest rates in the 6-7% range to refinance to a more reasonable rate.  While I am sure that most Senators would have liked to pass that amendment, it was to be paid for by a tax on those with at least $1 million in income from salaries and/or investments.  I imagine that the 53 Senators who voted against this, felt that the newest generation of college graduates earning $20-100K per year didn't need the break as much as those earning $20-100K per week.

Another interesting vote adopted an amendment ensuring that all legally married same sex spouses would have access to spousal social security and VA benefits, even if their state of residence did not recognize same sex unions.  Not sure why the 43 Senators who voted against thought that the most loved people of the elderly and men and women who risked their lives for our country didn't deserve such consideration, but I assume their religious beliefs had something to do with it, although I imagine those beliefs do not include the lessons involving "do unto others..".

No surprise that the Senate voted to give the Republican approved budget the authority to prohibit federal taxation of carbon emissions.  I imagine the 58 Senators who voted for that believe that it is OK for the coal and fossil fuel industries to pollute our environment as long as they provide jobs that eventually kill the employees, and contribute large quantities of funds for said Senators election campaigns.

One slightly surprising vote concerned road repairs.  A Democratic amendment sought to allocate $478 billion over the 10 years to road and bridge repairs.  Frankly, I haven't heard anyone, Democratic or Republican, that hasn't admitted that our infrastructure needs major league attention, and fast.  Ah, but how to pay for it?  The defeated amendment, 52-45, would have offset the increased spending by eliminating certain corporate taxes.  Perhaps, since so many of those big corporations have headquarters and offices overseas, they managed to convince those 52 public servants who voted against the plan that they don't use the roads and bridges of America so they don't need to participate in the repair and maintenance. 

In essence, it appears that the current edition of the US Senate, continues to absolve the fossil fuel industry from its involvement in the changing climate and its responsibility to participate in the solution to this problem, values the profits of corporations over the standard if living of the middle class, thinks there religion grants them an excuse for discrimination, and prefers spending obscene amounts of money fighting the devil du jour rather than improving the financial and physical states of the everyday Americans they were elected to serve.

Sadly, the good news is that the Senate budget and votes seem sane compared to the lunacy passed in the House where a 10-year plan that seeks a balanced budget that not only rules out tax increases, but offers additional tax decreases along with massive spending cuts, details of which will be decided in the various House committees and involve literally trillions of dollars.  Yea, like that is a good, solid, specifics laden plan.  The really maddening, craziness of this "plan" is that the House Republicans probably applauded themselves after passing it, as if they actually did something useful.  


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