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Out-of-control government spending is the most pressing issue of our day. The Coalition to Reduce Spending is dedicated to advocating for reducing federal spending and balancing the budget. Continuing to live beyond our means will only jeopardize our country's future prosperity and security.

Whatever happens tonight, Planned Parenthood fight isn’t going anywhere

Tonight, the Senate is set to consider a procedural motion that would bring up legislation to strip funding from the controversial Planned Parenthood. They’re facing tough odds, and CNN suggests that the fight is likely to shift into the fall funding debates. Even if the measure does pass, some tough practical questions remain.

For instance, Dustin Siggins, writing at The Federalist, lists a few issues of concern for those wishing to strip the group of funding. For one, it’s unclear how much federal money goes to the organization in the first place; for another, there’s a history of additional reimbursements going to it — which would be difficult to stop in practice.

This is not the first time that political controversy has led to an agency being stripped of funds — and several efforts have been partially successful. In 2009, the House passed an amendment to defund the controversial community organizing group ACORN, while
in 2005, President Bush submitted a budget proposal aimed to cut all federal subsidies to Amtrak. That fight was revisited this year after seven people died in a train derailment and Rep. Tom McClintock introduced an amendment to defund Amtrak entirely. There have also been efforts in recent years to defund Planned Parenthood itself: The House approved an amendment cutting funds in 2011.

However difficult such controversy-driven defund efforts have been, as Congress heads into the August recess, the issue is unlikely to go anywhere. With many Senators vowing not to support a spending measure without Planned Parenthood defund, it will probably add fuel into the fire of fall budget crises.

Does government drive up college costs?

It’s looking increasingly likely that it does, and the idea is no longer confined to one side of the political spectrum.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Imagine a scenario in which the federal government helps households pursue the American dream with ultra-loose credit, only to see prices skyrocket and families take on loads of debt they can’t repay.

Yes, it sounds like the housing market of a decade ago, but some say it is also the challenge of today’s higher-education system.

The federal government has boosted aid to families in recent decades to make college more affordable. A new study from the New York Federal Reserve faults these policies for enabling college institutions to aggressively raise tuitions.

The implication is the federal government is fueling a vicious cycle of higher prices and government aid that ultimately could cost taxpayers and price some Americans out of higher education, similar to what some economists contend happened with the housing bubble.

In a sense, this news should be obvious to fiscal conservatives. We know government spending tends to have a gaggle of unintended consequences. It is notable, however, to see unintended consequences so obvious that they are accepted across the ideological spectrum.

Reasonable leaders on all sides should seek real solutions instead of calling for more government funding to fix a problem government helped create.

Planned Parenthood controversy could affect fall spending fights

With ongoing controversy over Planned Parenthood raging,  a group of 18 Senators has released a letter suggesting that the fight could end up playing a part in a looming budget showdown expected this fall.

The Senators wrote that they “cannot and will not support any funding resolution … that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood.” And according to Politico, some in the GOP have indicated they’ll consider attaching a rider to a spending bill this fall that will defund the organization.

It’s unclear what direction this fight will take, but fiscal conservatives should keep a close watch — and make sure the eventual deal maintains progress on reducing spending.

Highway fix should concern fiscal conservatives

UPDATE, July 29: The House has passed its short-term measure, and the Senate is expected to pass the House’s version, which the President intends to sign. Congress will revisit the matter in October.

On Wednesday the Senate passed their long term version of a bill for highway and transportation funding; an alternative to the short term House transportation bill passed last week which would provide an $8.1 billion short-term patch until December 18.

The Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act (DRIVE Act) authorizes $317 billion over six years for highway and transit programs. However, revenue from the 18.4 cents a gallon gas tax and other transportation taxes and fees is forecasted to bring in only $240 billion in revenue, leaving a $77 billion gap between funding and spending. Over ten years, 47.5 billion is identified, which is still 29.5 billion short of full funding.

Supporters claim that the bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) does not increase the deficit or raise taxes. Instead, the bill relies on multiple offsets and tax compliance strategies. Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), among others, have bashed the bill for relying on raising revenue instead of cutting spending.

A major portion of the funding offsets in the DRIVE Act, $9 billion, comes from the sale of Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPR). Selling the crude oil in these reserves has been called a short sighted move by some, who argue that we will be vulnerable to future disruptions in the oil market. (this comes after Congress has already planned to finance part of the Cures Act by selling $5.4 billion worth of the SPR).

$1.9 billion of the offsets comes from extending G-fees increases, which are guaranteed fees used as a risk management tool by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to protect against credit losses from borrower defaults. Certain senators have argued against this funding tactic in the past, with Mark Warner (D-VA) criticizing the practice of raiding Fannie and Freddie G-fees to pay for unrelated federal spending. Warner also referred to the practice as a “backdoor tax” on homeowners.

The Senate has already struck one of the Social Security offsets from the original bill. That offset was to finance $2.3 billion by not allowing those with an outstanding felony warrant or those receiving unemployment payments to receive Social Security payments. This $2.3 billion offset had come under fire from Democratic Caucus chairman Xavier Becerra, who believes that using Social Security to pay for infrastructure projects is untenable for Democrats.

There are other offset provisions, including $1.8 billion identified by requiring lenders to report more information on holders of outstanding mortgages, and $2.4 billion by using private debt collectors to collect overdue tax payments. These plans have also been criticized.

Seeking long-term solutions for highway funding is a daunting task, both politically and practically. However, regardless of one’s stance on entitlement reform or the federal government’s role in various projects, funding Transportation with disputed offsets from unrelated departments (and no real spending cuts, to boot) is worth some serious skepticism.

This post originally appeared at the Institute to Reduce Spending

Congress fails to force vote on ACA defund

Congress on Sunday failed to force a procedural vote to defund the controversial Affordable Care Act, reports The Salt Lake Tribune:

Sen. Mike Lee failed Sunday to use a procedural method to force a vote on repealing Obamacare as his fellow Utahn Orrin Hatch pleaded with senators to calm the political squabbles.

Lee, R-Utah, had attempted a vote during debate of a must-pass highway-funding measure that would have led to another showdown over the Affordable Care Act.

Lee and Hatch voted to continue with the effort to repeal Obamacare, but with eight senators missing, it couldn’t reach a majority.

The Senate voted 49-43 to proceed to an amendment killing the health care measure, falling shy of the 60-vote threshold required.

Read more details here.

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