Steve Austria on Budget & Economy
Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Biggert, R-IL]: The HAMP Termination Act would put an end to the poster child for failed Federal foreclosure programs. The program has languished for 2 years, hurt hundreds of thousands of homeowners, and must come to an end. This bill would save $1.4 billion over 10 years. To date, the HAMP program has already consumed $840 million of the more than $30 billion of TARP funds that were set aside for the program. For this extraordinary investment, the administration predicted that 3 to 4 million homeowners would receive help. HAMP has hurt more homeowners than it has helped. The program has completed about 540,000 mortgage modifications. Another 740,000 unlucky homeowners had their modifications cancelled.
Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Capuano, D-MA]: This is a program that I'm the first to admit has not lived up to what our hopes were. This program we had hoped would help several million people. Thus far we've only helped about 550,000 people. But to simply repeal all of these programs is to walk away from individual homeowners, walk away from neighborhoods. I'm not going to defend every single aspect of this program, and I am happy to work with anyone to make it better, to help more people to keep their homes, & keep their families together. To simply walk away without offering an alternative means we don't care; this Congress doesn't care if you lose your home, period. Now, I understand if that makes me a bleeding-heart liberal according to some people, so be it.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. LEWIS (D, GA-5): This bipartisan bill will provide the necessary funds to keep important transportation projects operating in States around the country. The Highway Trust Fund will run out of funding by September. We must act, and we must act now.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. CAMP (R, MI-4): [This interim spending is] needed because the Democrats' economic policy has resulted in record job loss, record deficits, and none of the job creation they promised. Democrats predicted unemployment would top out at 8% if the stimulus passed; instead, it's 9.5% and rising. In Michigan, it's above 15%. The Nation's public debt and unemployment, combined, has risen by a shocking 40% [because of] literally trillions of dollars in additional spending under the Democrats' stimulus, energy, and health plans.
We had a choice when it came to the stimulus last February. We could have chosen a better policy of stimulating private-sector growth creating twice the jobs at half the price. That was the Republican plan. Instead, Democrats insisted on their government focus plan, which has produced no jobs and a mountain of debt.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. PETER WELCH (D, VT-0): Citigroup supports this bill. Why? They're a huge lender. They understand that we have to stabilize home values in order to begin the recovery, and they need a tool to accomplish it. Mortgages that have been sliced and diced into 50 different sections make it impossible even for a mortgage company and a borrower to come together to resolve the problem that they share together.
Sen. DICK DURBIN (D, IL): 8.1 million homes face foreclosure in America today. Last year, I offered this amendment to change the bankruptcy law, and the banking community said: Totally unnecessary. In fact, the estimates were of only 2 million homes in foreclosure last year. America is facing a crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Sen. JON KYL (R, AZ): This amendment would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages by lowering the principal and interest rate on the loan or extending the term of the loan. The concept in the trade is known as cram-down. It would apply to all borrowers who are 60 days or more delinquent. Many experts believe the cram-down provision would result in higher interest rates for all home mortgages. We could end up exacerbating this situation for all the people who would want to refinance or to take out loans in the future.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R, MN-6): Of the foundational policies of American exceptionalism, the concepts that have inspired our great Nation are the sanctity of private contracts and upholding the rule of law. This cramdown bill crassly undercuts both of these pillars of American exceptionalism. Why would a lender make a 30-year loan if they fear the powers of the Federal Government will violate the very terms of that loan?
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. DAVID OBEY (D, WI-7): This country is facing what most economists consider to be the most serious and the most dangerous economic situation in our lifetimes. This package today is an $825 billion package that does a variety of things to try to reinflate the economy:
Opponent's argument to vote No:
Rep. JERRY LEWIS (R, CA-51): Most of us would agree that the recent $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is an illustration of how good intentions don't always deliver desired results. When Congress spends too much too quickly, it doesn't think through the details and oversight becomes more difficult. The lesson learned from TARP was this: we cannot manage what we do not measure. We cannot afford to make the same mistake again.
Sen. THAD COCHRAN (R, MS): We are giving the executive branch immense latitude in the disbursement of the spending this bill contains. We are doing so without any documentation of how this spending will stimulate the economy. Normally, this kind of information would be contained in an administration budget. For items that have a short-term stimulative effect, most of us will feel comfortable debating their merits as an emergency measure. But there is a great deal of spending that is not immediately stimulative.
Proponent's argument to vote Yes:Rep. BARNEY FRANK (D, MA-4): Last year, after we responded to the urgent pleas of the Bush administration to authorize the $700 billion deployment of Federal funds to unstick the credit markets, many of us became very unhappy, [because Bush] repudiated commitments to use a significant part of the fund to diminish foreclosures. If we do not pass this bill today, we will make no progress in what is the single biggest economic problem we've been facing, namely, the foreclosure crisis.
Opponent's argument to vote No:Rep. RON PAUL (R, TX-14): There has been a lot of money spent to try to bail out the financial industry, and nothing seems to be working. I think it's mainly because we haven't admitted that excessive spending can cause financial problems, & excessive debt and inflation can cause problems.
Actually, the recession is therapy for all of the mistakes, but the mistakes come, basically, from a Federal Reserve system that's causing too many people to make mistakes. Interest rates are lower than they should be, so they don't save. That contributes to what we call "moral hazard" as well as the system of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac system. With the assumption that we're all going to be bailed out, people say, "Well, no sweat because, if there is a mistake, the government will come to our rescue." A private FDIC would never permit this massive malinvestment. There would be regulations done in the marketplace, and there would not be this distortion that we've ended up with.
Constitutional Amendment to prohibit outlays for a fiscal year (except those for repayment of debt principal) from exceeding total receipts for that fiscal year (except those derived from borrowing) unless Congress, by a three-fifths rollcall vote of each chamber, authorizes a specific excess of outlays over receipts.
The House Committee on Appropriations is in charge of setting the specific expenditures of money by the government of the United States. As such, it is one of the most powerful of the committees, and its members are seen as influential.
In 1865, the House of Representatives separated the appropriating and banking and currency duties from the Committee on Ways and Means, which was first established in 1789, and assigned them to two new committees - the Committee on Appropriations and the Committee on Banking and Currency. Until 1865, all "general" appropriations bills had been controlled in the House by the Committee on Ways and Means--which is now in charge of revenue measures (taxation).
Until recent years, large sustained spending increases of the Federal Government usually occurred only in connection with wars. By 1940, spending in appropriations bills had climbed to $14.6 billion as a result mainly of various New Deal legislation - when we began meeting local problems with national programs. Since 1934, our national wealth has increased 41 times.
By the early 1970's, deficits were mounting; so-called "uncontrollable" spending was climbing; and "back door" spending, i.e. spending provided other than through the Appropriations Committee, was increasing. It was also becoming clear that there was little, if any coordination between raising and spending revenues.
A 1975 reorganization resulted in the current committee structure: the Budget Committee for fiscal planning; the Budget Committee for fiscal planning; the Ways and Means Committee for taxation and other revenue; and the Appropriations Committee for spending.
This article shall take effect beginning with the later of the second fiscal year beginning after its ratification or the first fiscal year beginning after December 31, 2016.
Congressional Summary:JOINT RESOLUTION: Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives: That Congress disapproves of the President's exercise of authority to increase the debt limit, as submitted on Jan. 12, 2012.
Congressional Vote:Vote #4 in the House: 239 Yeas; 176 Nays; Senate declined to vote on the Resolution.
OnTheIssues Explanation: On Jan. 12, 2012, Pres. Obama notified Congress of his intent to raise the nation's debt ceiling by $1.2 trillion, two weeks after he had postponed the request to give lawmakers more time to consider the action. Congress then had 15 days to say no before the debt ceiling is automatically raised from $15.2 trillion to $16.4 trillion. Hence the debt ceiling was increased.
In Aug. 2011, the US government was nearly shut down by an impasse over raising the debt ceiling; under an agreement reached then, the President could raise the debt limit in three increments while also implementing $2.4 trillion in budget cuts. The agreement also gave Congress the option of voting to block each of the debt-ceiling increases by passing a "resolution of disapproval." The House disapproved; the Senate, by declining to vote in the 15-day window, killed the Resolution. Even if the resolution were passed, Pres. Obama could veto it; which could be overridden by a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate. The House vote only had 57% approval, not enough for the 67% override requirement, so the Senate vote became moot. The same set of actions occurred in Sept. 2011 for the first debt ceiling increase.
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