The Spending Branches of Government
By Tommy Purvis
So far the 112th session of Congress, or the Tea Party Congress as it will be known to the grandchildren of the often teary-eyed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), has taken the penny-wise, pound foolish approach to federal budget reduction. In an effort to reach cuts that total $100 billion in the next operating budget, numerous government programs and grants are on the chopping block and the outcome is likely to cost more than the short-term savings. With a government shutdown scheduled for Friday–unless a budget or another extension is passed–the Speaker has three IE representatives in his back pocket that are power brokers in key committee positions.
Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) was dethroned from his role as chairman of the elite and all powerful House Appropriations Committee when the Republicans recaptured the majority, but still remains a ranking member. The Appropriations Committee writes the bills that control over $1 trillion of the federal budget. Lewis is the also the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Defense. Inside the beltway the chairman of the subcommittees are called “Cardinals” for the control they have over the government’s pocket book. At current levels over half of the annual federal budget goes towards military costs and we spend more than almost every other country combined in military expenditures.
House Republicans want to eliminate a $75 million voucher program that provides housing to veterans.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Corona) is not too far behind on the House Appropriations Committee member list. He is also the vice-chair on the Subcommittee for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. In an effort to reduce $4.5 billion of the subcommittees budget a bill has been introduced that would cut funding for the Environmental Protection Agency by 30 percent. The bill would also eliminate 41 percent of climate change funding across the agencies under the subcommittee’s jurisdiction.
During the last election the Calvert camp came under fire when it mailed campaign literature in the weeks before election on the taxpayers’ dime in a process called “franking.”
Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) is the chairman of the Rules Committee and controls when bills are brought to the floor for consideration. The position is compared to being a traffic cop on Capitol Hill that controls the flow of legislation. Since the Congressman was left without a budget to slash he stayed in the debate when he attacked the public funding of NPR in a floor speech. The House has introduced legislation that would strip funding for the agency and is red meat for FOX News listeners. Juan Williams was given a contract from the right-wing propaganda network when he was let go from NPR because he told Bill O’ Reilly viewers he gets nervous and worried when he sees people in Muslim garb on his airplane.
House Republicans have also proposed budget cuts that would eliminate websites that allow citizens to track government spending. The legislation would reduce the operating budget from $34 million to $2 million for websites like data.gov and USAspending.gov that allow public access to recently internal government records.
“We would not be able to track how the government spends tax dollars on contracts,” says Gabriela Schneider, the communication director for the Sunlight Foundation, a non-partisan Washington D.C. based group that advocates for transparency in government. “Without access you cannot find the problems and start working towards solutions.” (Tommy A. Purvis)