This week the Senate will vote on the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 1982) sponsored by Sen. Bernard Sanders (I-VT)Heritage ActionScorecardSen. Bernard SandersSenate Independent Average6%. Allegedly designed to extend and expand health care programs for veterans as well as job-assistance and education benefits, this multibillion dollar bill fails to make necessary reforms to the Veterans Affairs system that is already overburdened and flawed, harming both veterans truly in need of assistance and taxpayers in the process.
Today the Senate will vote on the so-called Temporary Debt Limit Extension Act (S. 540), which would suspend the nation’s debt ceiling until March 15, 2015. During that time, President Obama and Congress will have a blank check to spend and borrow. This is extremely reckless given our nation’s $17.3 trillion debt. Every American household already owes more than $140,000 on the debt.
The Heritage Foundation explains the act “renders the debt limit inoperative,” which matters “because when Congress fails to limit the debt it effectively abdicates its Constitutional power to control borrowing.”
This week, the Senate will vote on the Agricultural Act of 2014 (H.R.2642), commonly referred to as the Farm Bill but more accurately described as the Food Stamp and Farm Bill. Despite claims of reform, the bill continues to spend nearly $1 trillion on a variety of programs, including significant taxpayers subsidies to agribusiness, green energy handouts, conservation programs and of course the massive food stamp program.
Once again, about 80 percent of the bill’s spending goes towards the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), more commonly known as food stamps. There are now nearly 48 million individuals on food stamps, compared with nearly 31 million in 2008 and 17 million in 2000. Even after the dramatic loosening of eligibility standards contributed to one in seven Americans now collecting food stamps, the conference report contains minuscule reforms. All told the proposal is expected to save just one percent. That is below the 5-percent cut passed by the House last September and well below the 17-percent reduction outlined in the House-passed budget.
When Congress reauthorized the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) in 2012, it also required the phase out of subsidies on insurance premiums so that policyholders would eventually begin paying actuarially sound rates. The innocuously named Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act would delay the start of that much needed reform for four years, setting a terrible precedent that this promising reform may never be allowed to go into effect and taxpayers would be left holding the bag.
This week, the House and Senate will vote on the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R.3547), better known as the omnibus appropriations package. The $1.111 trillion spending bill would fund the federal government’s discretionary functions and overseas contingency operations (OCO) through September 30, 2014.
Base discretionary spending (which does not include OCO or other emergency spending) increases by $24 billion to $1.012 trillion in fiscal year 2014. That is a $45 billion increase over the 2014 sequestration level set by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which was altered by the recently passed Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. As a result, the omnibus increases spending, in some cases dramatically, beyond most of the House-passed allocations for FY14 appropriations cycle: