Morning Action: Reforming Entitlements and Cutting Spending

DEBT CEILING.  Many of the same dynamics that have played out in the past in previous debt-ceiling fights are bound to happen again this year.  What conservatives recommend that Congress get as a concession from the President is not tax reform – though that is important – but spending cuts and entitlement reforms:

We will hit the debt limit again on May 19. Treasury is expected to exhaust its cash management tools sometime in September or October. In the meantime, Washington’s periodic debt ceiling ritual will play out. Whatever happens, the debt limit should not be raised unless we are put on a path to balance the budget in 10 years. That’s the bottom line.

Reforming entitlements and cutting spending—while funding America’s vital defense needs—should be top priorities. The debt limit is an imperfect vehicle, but right now it appears the best we have for making progress on spending reductions and deficit-reducing entitlement reforms.

FARM BILL. The Senate farm bill will be very costly and a burden to taxpayers as it has been in years past:

A new drafted farm bill, released by the Senate Agriculture Committee late Thursday, reflects concessions to powerful pork and beef lobbies as well as an effort to secure Southern Republican votes with target prices for rice and peanut producers.

The Midwest Corn Belt would retain its costly new Agricultural Risk Coverage program—which was the mainstay of the commodity title approved last summer by the Senate in the last Congress. But the ARC payments have been trimmed back modestly and more importantly, the standard index changed from a five-month average market price to the 12-month average.

LABOR.  Thomas E. Perez has faced stern opposition from many Senators, and for good reason, as Josh Robbins has explained.  Now, it appears that Senate Democrats may not be able to get enough votes to prevent a filibuster on his nomination (sub. req’d):

After a week of intensifying Senate Republican opposition to Labor Secretary nominee Thomas E. Perez, it’s unclear if Democrats could pick up the handful of GOP votes they likely would need to derail a possible filibuster.

Several Republicans said Thursday that they would either oppose invoking cloture on Perez’s nomination or are still in the process of making that decision, implying they have not ruled out a filibuster entirely. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said last month that he will demand a 60-vote threshold on Perez, putting the 55-member Democratic caucus in a bind.

When asked whether he plans to support Perez in a cloture vote, Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said flatly, “No.”

Republicans have leveled multiple charges against Perez involving his role at the Justice Department and in prior positions.

They contend that Perez, while at DOJ, improperly brokered a deal with the city of St. Paul, Minn., in which the city withdrew from a Supreme Court lending discrimination case in exchange for the federal government agreeing not to join a pair of housing-related False Claims Act lawsuits against the city that were instigated by a whistle-blower.

Republicans have also seized on a 258-page report by DOJ Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz in March cataloguing widespread mistrust and “deep ideological polarization” in the Voting Rights Section of the Civil Rights Division, a trend that dated back to the George W. Bush administration but that continued in the Obama era under Perez.

BENGHAZI.  Democrats are actively trying to undermine the Benghazi whistleblowers:

NBC’s Lisa Myers said this morning on TV that Democrats have been calling her to attempt to undermine the testimony of Benghazi whistleblower Gregory Hicks.

“There is something called Benghazi going on,” said Myers. “And I think the Democrats now are starting to worry about it. I started–I got calls from a number of Democrats yesterday trying to undermine Greg Hicks’s testimony, saying he wasn’t demoted, etc. So I think they feel that some damage was done by those three witnesses on Wednesday.”

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