This morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) set the record straight:
We’re not going to need a [disaster relief] bill. … Most of the property damage was insured. This is a 250, 300 million dollar cost for the federal government out of the FEMA fund … [this is] Washington creating a crisis when none exists; when we have $11.6 billion sitting in the fund… [transcript]
Most of the fiscal hyperbole surrounding the massive tornado that swept through Moore, Oklahoma was generated by big-spending politicians and reporters looking for eye-catching headlines.
The permanent legislation is totally unworkable, and it is ridiculous that Congress has not repealed it. — Robert Thompson, University of Illinois professor emeritus of agricultural policy
[R]everting to permanent law would re-introduce a radically different farm program, one with much higher support prices (through nonrecourse loans instead of payments) that would require much smaller crop production and much higher consumer prices… [Permanent law] is widely considered so extremely anachronistic as to be unworkable. — National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
Yet, year-after-year, lawmakers insist on passing nearly trillion-dollar food and farm welfare bills to avoid the archaic underlying series of laws known as “permanent law.” As Heritage explained more than a decade ago, “The failure to repeal permanent farm law provides a strategic advantage for those who support a return to traditional subsidy and supply-control programs.”
That assessment is shared by the Congressional Research Service, which recently wrote, “The existence of permanent law thus likely forces Congress to take action, because inaction generally is considered to have unacceptable consequences — that is, reverting to a policy that almost everyone would regret.”
Fortunately, there are some in Washington looking to end this madness.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has filed an amendment to the Senate food and farm welfare bill that would repeal underlying “permanent law,” thus removing the threat of reversion altogether. Whether or not Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) allows a vote on the amendment remains to be seen. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand precisely what these laws—collectively known as “permanent law” — actually entail.
STUDENT LOANS. For Congress, the best solution on student loans would be to work toward getting the government out of the student loan industry all together. This would prevent taxpayers from being on the hook for student loans that are never repaid. Nonetheless, they are considering options that would keep the federal government involved to varying degrees to determine student loan interest rates (sub. req’d):
Another partisan fight over federal student loan interest rates looms on the House floor today as Republicans try to shift the program to a market-based approach. The GOP bill was based on a proposal in Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request to peg interest rates to 10-year Treasuries. The key distinction is the bill would allow rates to fluctuate with the market and be reset each year. Democrats want to eliminate some uncertainty by setting rates on the Treasury’s actual cost of borrowing and then fixing them for the life of the loan. In its veto threat, the White House said the bill would burden students from lower-income families with potentially onerous rate increases. Critics have also noted the legislation lacks Obama’s proposal to extend repayment options to borrowers who have already left school. Even if the bill makes it out of the House, its prospects are grim in the Democratic Senate, which could adopt a plan (S 953) to simply extend the current 3.4-percent rate or to address rates as part of a reauthorization the Higher Education Act.
With our national debt approaching nearly $17 trillion, we simply cannot afford for conservatives in both the House and Senate to allow such legislation to saddle American taxpayers with even more spending on subsidies and entitlement programs.
The dynamics of the debate have thus far focused (sub. req’d) on the out-of-control food stamp program, a component which comprises nearly 80% of the bill. Make no mistake, the “farm” bill is really a food stamp bill tied to corporate welfare subsidies.
AMNESTY. Last night the Senate Judiciary Committee brought us one step closer to giving amnesty to the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States (sub. req’d):
After five days of debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee backed a bipartisan immigration overhaul Tuesday evening that would create an incremental path to citizenship for most of the roughly 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally.
The panel sent the sweeping legislation (S 744) to the full Senate by a 13-5 vote, prompting applause and chants of “Yes we can” from onlookers in the packed committee room. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he’ll move to bring the bill to the floor in June.
Republicans Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona joined all panel Democrats in support of the measure. Graham and Flake are members of the bipartisan “gang of eight” that crafted the proposal, and Hatch’s support — in committee at least — was cemented earlier in the evening, when the panel tacked on a compromise measure on high-skilled worker visas.
Yesterday’s vote is further evidence that some in Washington seem intent on repeating the mistakes of the past. In 1986, Congress granted amnesty to three million people with the promise of enforcement and border security. Since then the population of illegal immigrants has nearly quadrupled.
The Senate Judiciary Committee missed an opportunity to get immigration reform right. America can get the benefits of a reformed immigration system without the costs of amnesty. The American people deserve a system that works.