Legislative News for the Week of February 26, 2013

President: Rae Chornenky

Editor: Maria Jeffrey

This Week on the Hill: 

The sequester is set to go into effect on Friday. Senate Republicans and Democrats have rival bills to handle the sequester, which are likely to come up for a vote on Wednesday or Thursday. Neither is expected to garner the 60 votes needed to pass.
 
The senate voted to end the filibuster against Hagel, and is scheduled to vote on his nomination this afternoon.  

An Update on Wasteful Spending in Washington from the House Majority Whip's Office

 

          As Washington Democrats make dire predictions about the impact of President Obama's sequester, Republicans are pointing out some seemingly obvious examples of needed spending reductions:

  • Reduce Improper Payments: In 2011, by its own estimates, the federal government made $115 billion in improper payments. These are instances where people receive benefits or payments they are not entitled to receive or for which proper documentation hasn't been provided. 
  • Reduce Duplication: According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the federal government administers 94 federal initiatives to foster green building; 15 significant financial literacy programs across 13 agencies; 173 STEM education programs across 13 agencies; and 47 job-training programs. Consolidating these programs would improve their effectiveness and save taxpayers billions of dollars.
  • Reduce Government Waste: The federal government wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year, including:
    • Free Cell Phones: This program cost $2.2 billion in 2013 alone.
    • ObamaCare Promotion: The federal government spent $51.6 million last year promoting ObamaCare and paying public relations firms.
    • IRS TV Studio: The IRS has a full-service TV production studio which costs $4 million annually to operate.
    • Vacation Getaways: The 183 Conferences paid for by federal agencies over the last several years cost taxpayers more per attendee than the infamous October 2010 GSA conference in Las Vegas, NV.
    • Property Maintenance: The federal government spent $1.7 billion in 2010 to maintain property that is not in use or underutilized.
    • EPA Grants to Foreign Countries: The EPA has given more than $100 million in grants to foreign countries over the last ten years.
    • Pay to Play Video Games: The National Science Foundation spent $1.2 million paying seniors to play "World of Warcraft" to study the impact it had on their brain.
    • Smoke Up! The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $47,000 on a cigarette smoking machine that holds up to 40 cigarettes at a time.

          The President would raise your taxes for the second time in eight weeks, rather than consider these bipartisan alternatives:

  • Reduce Medicaid Loopholes: By reforming the Medicaid provider tax, we could save at least $9.8 billion.
  • Increase Medicare Means Testing for Upper-Income Earners: By asking the upper-income to pay more for Medicare, we could save approximately $20 billion.
  • Make Federal Retirement Match the Private Sector: By updating the federal employee retirement system to more closely track with the private sector, we could save approximately $21 billion.
  • Require the Return of Over payments: By requiring that individuals return over payments for exchange subsidies in ObamaCare, we could save approximately $44 billion.
  • Eliminate Slush Funds: By eliminating the Public Health Slush Fund in ObamaCare, which Democrats have supported reducing, we could save approximately $10 billion.
  • Require Food Stamp Eligibility: While ensuring those who need food stamp support get it, we can save approximately $26 billion by simply requiring recipients prove eligibility.

U.S. Troops Forced to Turn to Civilian Suppliers

                

            NBCNews.com reported last week that a civilian military depot in California, TroopsDirect, a non-profit organization with one full-time employee, says service members in Afghanistan "are increasingly strapped for basic equipment."  TroopsDirect states that

                     

           "An Army unit slated to deploy to Afghanistan to clear

            roadside bombs has asked ... for 30 special vests                   designed to carry armored plates because, according             to the unit's commanding officer, the Army will only               outfit half of his 60 members with those vests."

 

           While the unit already has armored plates necessary for protection, without the vests to slip the plates into, the troops have no way of cloaking themselves with the necessary protective armor. 

           

            TroopsDirect has also told of similar circumstances in which medic packs were sent to a Marine Special Operations unit that had been "issued stuff that was ineffective for a medic out in the dirt tending to the wounded."  Last month, TroopsDirect heard from the commander of an Army mortar unit outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan, who had been issued such worn-out ear protection that troops were having their eardrums blown out by weapons percussion's and were bleeding from their ears.

 

            Defense Department budget constraints are the reason cited for the failure to supply all troops with necessary equipment according to one unit's sergeant.  Another sergeant under the company commander of the vest-needing unit was told that "there was a budget issue tied to this."

The Army's media relations division did not respond to NBC's interview request when NBC sought a comment on the work being done by TroopsDirect.  

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