‘Successful Conclusion’ in Afghanistan

Usually, when you try to please everybody, you please nobody.

Last week, President Obama learned that lesson when he announced his strategy for a “successful conclusion” to the war in Afghanistan.  The speech had something to enrage both liberals and conservatives.  The President declared:  “As Commander-in-Chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”  

Sen. Jim Bunning (R.-Ky.) responded, “I have serious concerns about President Obama’s commitment to actually winning the war given his troubling decision to set a timetable for troop withdrawal.”  The President hopes his new strategy will bring unity, yet he may get bipartisan push-back if he locks in a timetable for withdrawal of troops and massive new tax increases to pay for the war.  

Obama declared this effort will likely cost “roughly $30 billion for the military this year, and I will work closely with Congress to address these costs as we work to bring down our deficit.”  Expect Congress to vote soon on new funding for the surge in Afghanistan.  Democratic Representatives David Obey (Wis.), John Murtha (Pa.) and John Larson (Conn.) want to impose an income surtax to pay for the war effort, although this approach strikes many as playing politics with the troops. Most Republicans will support the funding for sending the additional 30,000 troops, but will fight ideas to use the troops as an excuse to raise taxes.  

Will Stupak Amendment Kill Obamacare in Senate?

Senators Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) say they’ll offer an amendment to attach the House-passed “Stupak Amendment” to the Senate version of Obamacare currently being debated on the floor.  This amendment, authored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D.- Mich.), would prevent federal funds from being used to fund abortions under Obamacare.  Such a move could kill the bill because, under the Senate’s unique rules, if the amendment gets between 50 and 60 votes Senate Republicans would be in a position to force pro-abortion forces in the Senate to filibuster their own beloved Obamacare bill. 

Here is how it works:  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) will file a petition to shut down debate (cloture) on the amendment.  It takes two days from filing the petition to the vote on cloture.  If there were, say, 51 votes for an amendment, then the attempt to shut down debate would fail.  Republicans could then still keep that amendment on the floor and force an infinite number of cloture votes  Eventually, one of three things would happen:  1) Reid would give up and allow the amendment to be added to bill; 2) Reid would convince enough Democrats to vote to table (kill the amendment) which would end the filibuster; 3) pro-lifers would collect 60 votes and force Reid to allow a final, up-or-down vote, on the amendment.  If opponents of Obamacare are smart, they could take this bill down over the issue of federal funding of abortion.

Death to the Death Tax

Next year, if current law is not changed, the death tax will disappear for one year.  Leave it to Congress to wait until days before a tax law changes to attempt to increase the death tax in the name of “reform.”  If the House and Senate don’t pass any change in current estate-tax law, next year there will be no tax on death.  

Sessions’ Common-Sense Budgeting Act

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) is readying legislation based on the bi-partisan 1990 Budget Enforcement Act and 1997 Balanced Budget Act to restrain the growth of the federal government.  Session’s legislation would impose limits on discretionary spending in the years ahead, and Congress would need two-thirds majorities to override these caps (except during time of declared war.).   The federal government is already in the hole a staggering $12 trillion, yet Congress quietly wants to raise the amount it’s allowed to borrow before the end of the year.  Instead, lawmakers should consider using Sessions’ common-sense approach to restrain the out-of-control growth of the federal government beast so they can restrain spending and stop passing more and more debt on to future generations.  

Rare Bipartisanship

The House, by a 421-to-0 vote, last week passed a bill to strengthen oversight of the so-called Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).  Authored by liberal Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D.-N.Y.), this new legislation requires the Treasury Department to provide information on how your tax dollars are being spent under that wasteful program. Transparency is a bipartisan issue and Sen. John Thune (R.-S.D.) has it right:  It’s time to end the TARP program and start the process of restoring American’s faith in the federal government. 

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