The war over the “war on coal” has been postponed after Democrats pushed off a second fiscal 2015 spending bill in the Senate.
Late Wednesday, the Appropriations Committee decided not to move forward as scheduled with Thursday’s markup of the bill that funds the Energy Department, as well as water development projects.
The move avoids a potentially problematic vote for Senate Democrats and the Obama administration that could have stopped the Environmental Protection Agency’s bid to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants — regulations that have the affect of targeting pollution from coal.
I have worked at two federal agencies—the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. At both agencies, I was involved in internal investigations of employees accused of wrongdoing in which we had to obtain all of their email records. The “loss” of emails the IRS is describing is hard to fathom: Both agencies where I worked backed up all email communications every day, and those backups were separately stored so there could be no loss of these records. And neither the main server nor the backup tapes differentiated between internal emails and external emails that I’m aware of.
Even if Lois Lerner’s computer hard drive crashed, as the IRS claims, there should be backup tapes. But there, the IRS’s claim gets even more bizarre. The IRS says that the “back-up tapes from 2011 no longer exist because they have been recycled (which [is] not uncommon for large organizations in both the private and public sectors).” But the IRS is not an organization in the private sector. It is a government agency subject to federal records preservation requirements. IRS officials knew the agency would be under scrutiny and obligated to preserve all of its records related to the inappropriate targeting of conservative organizations by May 2013, when the Inspector General report was released and Attorney General Eric Holder announced he was opening a criminal investigation.
This week’s markup by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services of the $21.3 billion fiscal 2015 spending plan for financial agencies will revive two of the most divisive issues on Capitol Hill: the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of groups applying for tax-exempt status and backing for the health care overhaul.
The text of the bill is expected to be released Tuesday, with a markup following Wednesday morning. The financial services bill typically has not been among the most contentious of the annual spending bills, but the implementation of tax elements of the 2010 health care law and continued debate over potential political targeting at the IRS will likely bring partisan conflicts to the surface.
The IRS’ fiscal 2014 $11.3 billion budget saw a 4.4 percent reduction from its fiscal 2012 and 2013 funding levels amid anger on Capitol Hill over the controversy over the targeting of political organizations. The White House sought $12 billion in base funding for the IRS in its fiscal 2015 budget, with an additional $480 million for enforcement.
Here are five disputes that have recently blossomed, each of which has the potential to complicate this year’s budget debate until its closing days.
Young migrants. It took only a few minutes of discussion before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee agreed last week to freeze the combined budgets for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. But the most expensive domestic spending bill would starve several other areas in order to nearly double funding, to $1.9 billion, for medical care for the unaccompanied child migrants who have been surging across the Mexican border in record numbers.
The money will be a proxy war for the stalled debate over an immigration policy overhaul. Democrats will hold fast to the increase, describing it as the only humane way to respond to the needs of thousands of innocent victims of congressional gridlock. Republicans will try to pare it back, arguing the spending will only exacerbate administration immigration policies that are enticing parents to send their kids into the United States alone and illegally.
Major Floor Action:
- H.R. 4870, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015
Senate Analysis: This week the Senate will continue consideration of judicial nominations and will begin the appropriations process with a “minibus.” All eyes will once again be on Harry Reid to see how many amendments, if any, senators are allowed to offer. Budget watchers will also be looking at the bill for gimmicks that hide spending increases, in violation of the established budget caps.
Major Floor Action: