Lawmakers Deserve Lumps of Coal

The American people want their representatives and senators to shrink government, keep taxes low, fully fund national defense and get work done on time. Every few months Washington is embroiled in another needless crisis, and the members don’t seem intent on reforming spending in our Nation’s Capitol.

This year-end fight over taxes and spending is reminiscent of the battles fought in 2011 on the FY 2011 spending bills, debt limit increase, the Supercommittee and tax policy. In almost all of these fights, conservatives have been losing. Maybe Santa should give every lawmaker a lump of coal this year. They certainly deserve it.

Appropriations Mess

Within hours of another potential government shutdown, both Republicans and Democrats are posturing over extending a payroll tax cut and end-of-the-year appropriations measures. How did we get here and who’s to blame?

President Obama tops the list because of his actions in making the impasse worse. First, he inserted a class-warfare tax on job creators into the payroll tax debate. The President has demanded a permanent surtax on millionaires’ income as the price for continuing a one-year reduction in Social Security taxes. This demand stalled the debate on both the payroll tax and appropriations bills. There is a good chance that all Americans will have a lighter paycheck next year as a result of Obama’s insistence on a class-warfare tax as a condition of a maintaining middle-class tax cut.

Senate Democrats have dug in their heels to demand the Obama surtax on millionaires. They have refused to move appropriations bills until they get the class-warfare tax signed into law. Democrats were willing last week to risk a government shutdown because they didn’t want to anger the party’s Occupy Wall Street ground troops.

2011: Year of Gridlock

Don’t get me wrong, I love gridlock. What was wrong with the gridlock this year, is that it seemed needless, and conservatives always lost the policy battles in the end. They were successful in keeping President Obama and liberals in Congress from raising taxes, but we lost big battles on spending issues in 2011.

CNN had a great piece last week discussing all the fights over possible government shutdowns. The first major failure of the 2011 Congress was senate Democrats, refusing to pass a budget for fiscal year 2012. When President Obama’s 2012 budget was voted on in the Senate, it was defeated unanimously. Senate Democrats then gave up and Congress has gone more than 900 days without a budget. Conservatives such as Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-Ala.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) fought hard, but lost in the end.

On April 8, the federal government came within minutes of a government shutdown after a continuing resolution was passed for two weeks while Republicans and Democrats worked out a spending deal. The resulting deal cut projected increases in spending, but no serious or permanent reforms to the federal government were signed into law. Conservatives lost again.

A fight over raising the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling raged over the summer, culminating in an August 2 deal with almost $1 trillion in promised cuts over 10 years for a $1.2 trillion hike in the borrowing authority of the federal government. Conservatives lost twice in this deal, because the deal set up the Supercommittee and conservatives failed to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.

The bipartisan, bicameral Supercommittee was set up to find $1.2 trillion in cuts over 10 years. If it failed, defense was scheduled for massive cuts. Liberal members of Congress and the President wanted to use the leverage of defense cuts to force the Supercommittee to increase Medicare payments to doctors, increase eligibility for unemployment benefits and raise taxes. Needless to say, conservatives lost again when the Supercommittee failed to prevent cuts to defense programs during a time of war.

Distracted Legislating

Get ready for a fight next year. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended a nationwide ban on using electronic devices while driving. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee authorized money for states to study the problem, but the members refused to mandate the ban on the states. This is a classic states’ rights battle and conservatives need to watch this debate play out when a transportation bill is considered early in 2012.

The NRSB has gone as far as to demand the banning of hands-free devices because of a concern about distracted driving. Will the nanny state NTSB next recommend that no radios be installed in new cars? Issue a ban on crying babies? This is a silly idea. The police functions of the nation’s highways should be left to the states.

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