Big News from Social Security Administration

Never fear, your tax dollars are hard at work!  This morning, the U.S. Social Security Administration announced some big news: the most popular baby names for 2011.  Jacob topped the list for boys, while Sophia topped the list for girls.  The official press release has the glorious details

This is the thirteenth year in a row Jacob tops our list for boys and the first year for Sophia, who knocks Isabella to number two after a two-year stint at the top of our list for girls. There is only one new name in the top 10 on either list this year. Mason rocketed to number two from outside of the top ten to replace Anthony on the boys’ side. 

As one astute observer noted, the most popular name inWashingtonis should be “Waste.”


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Did the State Department Mislead Reporters on LOST?

Yesterday, Victoria Nuland, a spokesperson for the Department of State, appeared to mislead reporters when responding to a question on the administration’s renewed effort to ratify the long-stalled Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).

Here is the relevant exchange:

QUESTION: Is this why this timing? Is this about the South China Sea dispute?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that for many years the Administration has supported the Law of the Sea Treaty. We are working with the Congress now on a new push to see what we can do. And we think that we’ve always honored it in practice, so we think it would be a good thing for the United States if we could ratify it ourselves, but we also think it serves as a very good underpinning to help in mutual understanding and some rules of the road on these kinds of issues. (emphasis added)

Presumably, Ms. Nuland was referring to maritime navigation when she uttered the phrase “we think that we’ve always honored it in practice.” But that characterization is likely misleading to any layperson since the controversial treaty deals with much more than navigational rights and freedoms.

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It’s the Earmarks

Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham and COO Tim Chapman have written a piece for the Daily Caller about Congress’s earmark faltering. Some in Congress believe that miscellaneous tariff bills (MTBs) do not count as earmarks, and want to include them in legislation moving forward:

“Republicans included “limited” MTBs in the earmark definition because the process of requesting an MTB, the lobbyist involvement and potential for corruption, are similar. Alarmingly, the Ways and Means Committee is asking lawmakers to self-certify that their requests are not in violation of the very specific language of the moratorium. It is a nearly impossible task for small congressional offices, which must then rely on the assertions of the very lobbyists whose companies would benefit from the sought-after MTB.

“The damage MTB’s are causing to the earmark moratorium is clear. Even as members of the Ways and Means Committee make the argument that the MTB bill does not reopen the earmark ban, House Appropriators Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and appropriations cardinal Jack Kingston (R-GA) are making the argument in the press that it does open up the moratorium.

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Letter to Speaker Boehner: Keep Appropriations Open

Upon being elected Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Let’s do away with the concept of ‘comprehensive’ spending bills. Let’s break them up, to encourage scrutiny, and make spending cuts easier.” Speaker Boehner also became known for his phrase “let the House work its will.” The new speaker quite rightly believed the House should represent the will of the American people, even if that occasionally leads to chaos on the House floor.

Prior to Republicans taking over the House in the November 2010 elections, Democrats controlling the lower chamber refused to allow amendments to be attached to spending bills.  The House floor was tightly controlled, depriving Republicans and Democrats alike the ability to represent their constituents and offer serious amendments.  As noted In the House Republicans Pledge to America:

“By forbidding amendments on spending bills, Democrats have denied lawmakers the opportunity to tighten Washington’s belt and slash wasteful and duplicative programs. Structure dictates behavior, so we will let any lawmaker — Democrat or Republican — offer amendments to reduce spending.”

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How to Fund Pet Projects without Earmarks

Earmarks may be banned, but there are still ways lawmakers can secure funds for pet projects back home they can tout as a legislative accomplishments and reason for reelection. As we have seen, simply reinstating earmarks is out of the question because the practice has become toxic – especially in an election year. But for a handful of lawmakers, there is a creative workaround that allows funds to flow to those prized pet projects: a commemorative coin bill.

Every few weeks in the 112th Congress, lawmakers have introduced a new commemorative coin bill representing a national icon usually relevant to their district. It works like this: once approved by Congress and signed into law, the commemorative coins are minted by the Treasury, which is refunded the cost of the coins as they are bought by collectors. Here is the catch: on top of what the coin is worth (50 cents, $1, or $5) there is a surcharge, and all proceeds from the surcharge goes toward the icon featured on the coin.

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