Two pieces of news provide a flicker of hope amid the doom and gloom.
WASHINGTON, June 20 -- The office of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., issued the following news release:
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) yesterday filed 30 amendments to cut $1.8 billion from H.R. 4660, the minibus appropriations bill. One of those amendments expresses the Senate's desire for answers regarding lost emails to and from IRS employees involved in the inappropriate targeting of social welfare organizations.
"Contrary to claims of bone-deep spending cuts, there is clearly plenty of fat left to be trimmed from the federal budget," said Flake. "The Senate also needs to hold agencies such as the IRS accountable before simply cutting a $126 billion check to fund them. I urge Democrats in the majority to let us debate and vote on these and all other amendments offered to the bill."
Summaries of all 30 of Flake's amendments to H.R. 4660 can be viewed below:
Sense of the Senate on the IRS Investigation Amendment: This amendment would add sense-of-the-Senate language regarding recent revelations of lost emails, and requests the full cooperation of the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service and other administration officials involved in the investigation of the IRS's inappropriate targeting of social welfare organizations.
Presidential Involvement in UAC Issue Amendment: This amendment would reduce the budget of the attorney general by one-third unless a video is produced and disseminated with President Obama explaining that current and recent illicit border crossers - including unaccompanied alien children - are not covered by, and will not receive consideration of, deferred action for childhood arrivals, and any legislation Congress may adopt to provide immigration benefits to aliens who entered the United States illegally as children will likely require the alien to have resided in the United States for an extended period.
Crime Victims Amendment: This amendment would make Congress' intent clear that money from the Crime Victims Fund should only be used to assist victims of crime. It makes clear that it is Congress' intent that the funds authorized for victims' services are limited to those dedicated to victims' services and their direct support staff. This will ensure that none of the funds available is used for purposes that do not benefit crime victims.
No More DOJ Parties Amendment: At a time when our federal deficit is over $17.5 trillion, we should ensure not one dollar is wasted on unnecessary expenditures. This amendment would prohibit parties at DOJ agencies by eliminating money for "official reception and representation expenses," saving the government $394,000. In the current bill, the following dollars are allocated for parties: $50,000 for the attorney general, $90,000 for the DEA, $36,000 for the ATF, $184,500 for the FBI, $5,400 for the Federal Prison System, $7,200 for U.S. attorneys, $6,000 for U.S. Marshals, $5,000 for National Institute of Standards and Technology, $9,000 for INTERPOL, and $900 for the PTO.
Prosecutorial Decision-making Cutting Amendment: This amendment eliminates $5 million in funding for an initiative to enhance prosecutorial decision-making. The initiative is appropriated through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Program, which provides grants to states and local governments. Enhancing state and local prosecutorial decision-making is not a federal priority.
Community Relations Service Reduction Amendment: The Department of Justice'sCommunity Relations Service is directed to assist state and local governments and private and public organizations with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions. This amendment would keep the budget for CRS the same as it was last year, saving $972,000.
National Center for Campus Safety Elimination Amendment: This amendment strikes $2 million in funding for the new National Center for Campus Public Safety (NCCPS). The director of the NCCPS issues grants to institutions of higher education and other nonprofit organizations to assist in carrying out the functions of the center, providing education and training to campus public safety agencies, developing protocols to respond to natural and man-made emergencies, and serving as a clearinghouse for best practices and information. The federal government should not be making policy recommendations on what are the best practices in the area of campus public safety.
Lab-to-Market Technology Elimination Amendment: This amendment prohibits funding to the Lab-to-Market Technology Transfer and reduces the National Institute of Standards and Technology budget by $6 million. This program is intended to transition federally funded research and development into market-ready products, thus incentivizing additional federally-funded research and development. This spending is duplicative and wasteful, and is not the role of the federal government.
SelectUSA Elimination Amendment: This amendment prohibits funding for SelectUSA activities and reduces Commerce's operation and administration account of the International Trade Administration by $15 million. This initiative to link international investors with U.S. opportunities is not the role of the federal government.
Economic Development Administration Elimination Amendment: This amendment eliminates funding for the Economic Development Administration, saving $247.5 million. The EDA seeks to promote or save private-sector jobs by providing taxpayer dollars for distressed communities. This program is duplicative of many existing federal programs and agencies.
HOME Investment Partnership Program Reduction Amendment: This amendment would reduce funding for the HOME Investment Partnership Program by $250 million, to bring in line with the House-passed level. The program provides formula grants to states and localities to fund a wide range of activities, including building, buying, and rehabilitating affordable housing for rent or homeownership or providing direct rental assistance to low-income individuals. There has been significant mismanagement of this program in recent years.
TIGER Grant Funding Reduction Amendment: This amendment would reduce funding for National Infrastructure Investment program (TIGER Grants) by $450 million, allocating $100 million for the program. Since 2009, the Department of Transportation has awarded these grants to states, local governments, and other entities. There have been ongoing concerns regarding how the administration awards these dollars. In 2011, GAO found that DOT developed comprehensive selection criteria, but did not document key decisions, including its rational for selecting projects with lower technical rating for half the awards over more highly rated ones. GAO recently came out with another report in May 2014, finding that DOT still failed to document key decisions made in evaluating grant applications and selecting projects.
DOT Office of the Secretary Salary and Expenses Reduction Amendment: This amendment reduces funding for the Office of the Secretary's salary and expenses by $1 million. A reduction of $1 million would make funding consistent with FY14 levels.
Federal Transit Administration Expenses Reduction Amendment: This amendment reduces the Federal Transit Administration's administrative expenses by $4,567,000, putting this account in line with FY14 levels.
Transformation Initiative Elimination Amendment: This amendment would strike all funding ($40 million) for the Department of Housing and Urban Development Transformation Initiative (TI). The TI program would transfer 0.5 percent from each program account to the TI Fund to conduct research, demonstrations and technical assistance. he House-passed bill would strike all TI funding, noting that the Office of Policy Development and Research is the appropriate account to provide funding for such efforts.
Amtrak's Capital Grants Reduction Amendment: This amendment would reduce Amtrak's capital grants by $200 million, bringing funding in line with the House appropriation recommendation. According to the House THUD report, Amtrak'sOIG identified significant weakness in Amtrak's capital planning processes. Amtrak runs a deficit each year and requires a federal subsidy to cover both operating losses and capital investments.
Amtrak Food, Beverage, and First Class Services Prohibition Amendment: This amendment would prohibit the use of federal funding to subsidize Amtrak food, beverage, or first class services. Amtrak consistently incurs a loss on this service. According to the House report, "Amtrak's net loss totaled $387,700,00 from fiscal years 2010-2014." Taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing Amtrak's loses in general, especially not losses in food, beverage and first-class services.
Ending Amtrak Free Riders Amendment: This amendment would prohibit funding from being used for Amtrak routes that offer free ridership, specifically including the Amtrak Residency program. With Amtrak running a deficit every year, taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for Amtrak's PR campaigns that allow "creative professionals" free round-trip travel on long-distance routes.
Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant Elimination Amendment: This amendment would strike all funding ($10 million) from the Native Hawaiian Housing Block Grant program. This program provides grants to the State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for housing for low-income Native Hawaiian families. Eligible activities include new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, infrastructure and various support services. This program provides preferential treatment to one group of Americans, which some believe to be unconstitutional. It is also duplicative of other federal housing programs.
HUD Policy Development and Research Reduction Amendment: This amendment would reduce funding for research and technology under the Department of Housing and Urban Development'sPolicy Development and Research account by $6 million and in line with the House-passed level. This account provides funding for research to improve HUD programs, evaluation and monitoring activities, and housing surveys. This is a $6 million reduction in funding from the FY14.
USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program Reduction Amendment: This amendment reduces funding for the USDA Single Family Housing Direct Loan program by $540 million, which is the reduction requested in the president's FY15 budget. The most recent omnibus provided $900 million for the program, which is wasteful and duplicative. Through this program, the USDA provides direct loans to low-to-moderate income (less than 80 percent of median income) homebuyers in qualified rural areas. The homebuyer must be unable to obtain credit elsewhere. Borrowers may receive 100 percent financing and interest-rate subsidies for homes that do not exceed area loan limits. This program duplicates or overlaps 160 housing assistance programs and tax expenditures within 20 departments and agencies.
Reforested Hardwood Tree Striking Prohibition Amendment: This amendment strikes $600,000 for the USDA's use of technologies for reforested hardwood tree growth in Hurricane Katrina damaged areas. Nearly a decade after Hurricane Katrina, this appears to be a completely unnecessary federal expenditure best left to state and local governments.
Value-Added Producer Grants Elimination Amendment: This amendment eliminates $15 million in funding for Value-Added Producer Grants. This program assists agricultural producers increase their income by expanding marketing opportunities, creating new products or developing new uses for existing products. The amount provided in the Senate bill is in addition to the $63 million provided in the Farm Bill and 27 percent above both the House and president's requests. This amounts to the government funding marketing expenses for private industry and duplicates existing wasteful spending such as the Market Access Program.
Quality Samples Program Elimination Amendment: This amendment prohibits funds from being used to implement the Quality Samples Program. This is a wasteful USDA program that provides funding to provide samples of their agriculture products overseas.
Prohibiting Advanced Payments for New Crop Insurance Amendment: This amendment prohibits advanced payments for new crop insurance products. Individuals or entities submitting "private sector plans of insurance can get up to 50 percent of their anticipated R&D costs paid by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) before the applicant submits the policy for approval. If the FCIC rejects the proposed policy, the FCIC is prohibited from seeking reimbursement for these advance payments.
Crop Insurance$750K AGI Eligibility Amendment: This amendment would reduce the level of premium support for crop insurance policies by 15 percentage points for farmers with an adjusted gross income of more than $750,000 in FY15. This amendment was passed by the Senate during the recent Farm Bill debate, but was removed during the bill's conference. With our national debt at $17 trillion, it is irresponsible to provide this amount of premium support for the wealthiest farmers.
Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program Elimination Amendment: This amendment eliminates funding for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program, a special-interest program included in the 2014 Farm Bill. A bipartisan overwhelming majority voted to eliminate the program during the House Farm Bill debate.
Ethanol Blender Pumps Prohibition Amendment: This amendment prohibits funding for blender pumps for ethanol, ensuring that the mature corn ethanol industry does not receive additional taxpayer subsidies for ethanol blender pumps. In the past, the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) has provided corn ethanol blender pump subsidies. However, the 2014 Farm Bill eliminated REAP funding for ethanol blender pumps. Other programs have taken over the subsidies for corn ethanol blender pumps such as the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels (BPAB), Repowering Assistance Program, and Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program). This program encourages wasteful subsidies for the corn industries, harms the environment, and damages vehicle engines that use ethanol. This amendment was adopted by voice vote during House consideration.
Harvest Price Option Prohibition Amendment: This amendment prohibits funding for the Harvest Price Option (HPO) program. Under an HPO, if the price of the covered crop increases between planting and harvest, the farmer's revenue guarantee is recalculated using the higher harvest price. As a result, HPOs can cause a farmer to receive more revenue than was guaranteed at planting. According to a recent analysis, this climbing revenue guarantee allowed corn and soybean producers to receive $6 billion more in 2012 crop insurance payouts than they were originally insured for. During the 2013 Senate Farm Bill debate, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that this amendment would save $7.7 billion over 10 years.
Crop Insurance Transparency Amendment: This amendment requires USDA to disclose names of crop insurance subsidy recipients in FY15. This is an important step in expanding transparency for crop insurance.
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