Congress Passed a Budget Deal. Now What?

by Harry Stein – After threats to shut down the government and default on the national debt, Congress instead chose to work with the White House to pass a bipartisan budget agreement that finally delivers some stability for the country. While the budget deal is not perfect, it is a positive step for the economy, and it includes most of the recommendations that the Center for American Progress made in a recent report—“Setting the Right Course in the Next Budget Agreement.” However, lawmakers still must resolve several lingering issues. First, Congress needs to pass a spending bill to implement this budget deal without ideological policy riders. And when crafting future budget deals, lawmakers will need to include more significant reforms to ensure that the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share. Finally, after this budget deal expires, the White House and Congress will need a plan to remove programs that are not...

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With Billions for Back-Door Slush Fund, Military Dodges Austerity in House Budget

By Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams – The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday narrowly passed a $612 billion war spending bill, relying on a back-door slush fund to dodge the austerity cuts that are gutting domestic programs from education to health care. The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed 269 to 151, largely along party lines. The roll call can be viewed here. The budget circumvents cuts passed in 2011, known as “sequestration,” by shifting $89 billion into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Fund, which was first created in 2001 as an “emergency” fund for the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The OCO was supposed to temporary but has since become a permanent fixture that allows the military to sidestep cuts — and maintain seemingly limitless war spending. Many Democrats voted against the bill — and President Barack Obama threatened to veto it — because of its reliance on...

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Understaffed government pipeline regulator is shrinking its workforce 9 percent by mid-June

Sequester and higher private sector salaries cited By Meteor Blades, Daily Kos –  At a time when more crude oil is being moved through aging pipelines and in outmoded railroad tanker cars, the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is chopping 40 people off its staff, which many people already view as too small to do its task effectively. PHMSA is handling the cuts by means of buy-outs, typically used in the private sector to incentivize employees, especially higher-paid employees, to retire early, thus saving on payroll expenses whether or not those who are bought out are replaced. Elizabeth Douglass at Inside Climate News reports: … the job cuts come at a time when PHMSA is already under considerable duress. Politicians and the public have been pushing the agency to more rigorously regulate the nation’s aging pipeline network as well as the many new pipelines tied to surging domestic oil...

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