Jonathan Bydlak in Rare: Time to fix infrastructure

Writing today in Rare, Jonathan Bydlak takes on the need for fiscal conservatives in Congress to find permanent infrastructure solutions, not keep kicking the can down the road.

This week, the House passed the 12th temporary transportation fix in the last six years, funding highways and bridges for the next two months, after which it’s likely the same exercise will be repeated yet again.

While it’s good that Members are trying to avoid hiking spending and taxes, their job involves much more than stopgap solutions. Relying on endless temporary measures requires a huge leap of faith that a major tragedy will not happen again and force public opinion irrevocably away from the free market side.

We shouldn’t be naïve – any long-term solution is likely to be politically difficult, but there are dozens of ideas for fixing our infrastructure that don’t involve hiking taxes, including reforming how funds are currently spent and empowering local and state governments to take more responsibility for their roads.

Read the rest here.

Sen. McCain seeks to reform procurement

Senator John McCain isn’t always in line with fiscal hawks, but as Rare‘s Matt Purple points out, he’s making big spenders very nervous with his latest legislation.

Now McCain is eyeing one of the Pentagon’s gaudiest spectacles: its inefficient and extortionate procurement system. He’s introduced a new bill that would radically overhaul how the Pentagon gets weapons from defense corporations:

In a sharp rebuke to defense contractors, Pentagon bureaucrats, and his own House counterpart, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain is moving to strip substantial authority for acquiring new weapons from Pentagon leaders and empower the military branches to oversee their own programs. …

The reform plan, already rolled into the National Defense Authorization Act that was approved in a closed committee session last week, would set up a streamlined acquisition process geared toward fielding new weapons in just two to five years. Committee aides say that provision is in part a response to turbulent development programs like the F-35 fighter jet that have taken decades to materialize and cost far more than predicted.

The bill would also give preference to contracts that place the burden of cost increases on the contractor.


Big fight on Pentagon spending looms

From Politico:

House Republicans rolled out their $578.6 billion Pentagon appropriations bill Tuesday, a giant measure that goes to the heart of a budget dilemma for not just President Barack Obama but also the bill’s manager, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen.

The total dollars are only marginally above Obama’s request, but to get there the GOP adds billions in overseas contingency funds to circumvent the very same Budget Control Act that is being used elsewhere to rein in the president’s domestic agenda.

Left short-changed are not just Obama’s priorities but also Frelinghuysen’s. Only last week, the centrist New Jersey Republican had to swallow reductions from rail and urban programs important to his state because of the BCA caps. Now, in the bill released Tuesday, he has an extra $37.4 billion in OCO funds to spread around, and his biggest challenge is to make it all look rational.

It’s worth noting that the President hasn’t exactly advocated for lower spending here. This fight, though, is set to be the biggest direct showdown between those who want to maintain some responsible spending caps and those who want to avoid them — or do away with them entirely.

New debt limit fight heats up?

Originally published at Institute to Reduce Spending

A somewhat unforeseen debt limit fight is heating up in Congress.

Representative Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, issued subpoenas to the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for documents described as contingency plans to avert a default in case Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling.

Hensarling, a Texas Republican, also sent a subpoena to the Justice Department for documents related to financial institutions considered “too big to fail.”

“These three government agencies have chosen to unlawfully obstruct, delay and withhold information that our committee and the taxpayers have the right to know,” Hensarling said in a statement Monday in Washington.

Hensarling is “using the power of his committee” to seek greater accountability from the administration over a 2012 leak of monetary policy information.

Will this development meaningfully impact how the debt limit process plays out? Perhaps not. But it certainly adds a level of intrigue to the predictable debt standoff.

Appropriations battles could stretch over summer, cause another fiscal cliff

Passing a budget blueprint was difficult enough. But now, with appropriations season heating up and various lines in the sand being drawn, the prospect of getting regular budgeting again seems to be getting dimmer.

The heart of the batting order is due up in the House Appropriations Committee beginning Wednesday: four major spending bills that will capture all the contradictions in the new Republican budget over the next month.

A $55.3 billion transportation and housing bill will be voted on first, even as the GOP rolls out an almost equal measure covering the departments of Commerce and Justice as well as major science agencies. The giant Pentagon bill follows next week, and Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) swears he will deliver a labor, education and health bill in June.

Read the rest here.

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