Unsettled Budget Threatens Crucial Programs

by Daniel Cooper
Columnist

The Grand Old Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that President Barack Obama has threatened to veto if it reaches his desk. The legislation proposes to cut approximately $60 billion from hundreds of different federal programs, as well as expedite the process for oil and coal companies to maneuver around new environmental regulations — because if there’s anything we need right now, it’s less regulation.

While this legislation has already passed the House, it faces strong opposition in the still Democrat-controlled Senate, which has pledged its support in the battle for higher spending levels than those the GOP hopes to establish, as well as for Obama’s health care reform, new environmental policies and the widely discussed overhaul of regulation for the finance industry.

As the March 4 deadline to approve a budget draws ever nearer, congressional Republicans seem intent to hold their ground when it comes to slashing spending, regardless of the value of or the public sentiment behind the federal programs that will become victims of defunding. And while I do admire them for holding their ground and standing up for what they were reportedly elected to do, I also admire the many services that the federal government provides for our nation, most of which can’t be performed without an approved budget.

There are a few things for which the president has the authority to maintain spending even when there is no operational budget, mostly departments directly responsible for public and national safety. The military, the Transportation Security Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the U.S. Postal Service and air traffic controllers, will all remain operational even if we go beyond March 4 without an approved budget.

Here is where it seems to me that the congressional Democrats are in a lose-lose situation. Members of the GOP have continued to pledge their resistance to practically anything that the Democrats send across the aisle, so it seems highly unlikely that their controlling stake in the House will allow an Obama-style budget across the rotunda into the Senate’s chambers. However, if they continue this game of volley-budget until after the previously approved operating extension for the federal government, they will achieve their ultimate goal of reducing federal spending to virtually zero.

But you can rest easy, America! While Planned Parenthood has been zeroed out by the Republicans in the House, a move that could leave tens of thousands of people who can’t afford health care without access to birth control, health screenings, and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections (Yes, Planned Parenthood is about more than abortions.), the U.S. Army will still be allowed to spend some $7 million (as it did in 2010) to sponsor the No. 39 stock car. That’s right, folks. Congressional conservatives have defeated a NASCAR-sponsorship ban that would have barred the use of Pentagon funds for such sponsorships, so there’s no fear of losing our most prized and most perpetually revolving Army logo.

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