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This Week in Washington – November 15, 2010

Congress is back in session in what is referred to as the Lame Duck session.  Lame Duck refers to the fact that a great number of Members of Congress have been retired, either voluntarily or involuntarily, yet they can vote on legislation and nominations.  Congress has not completed work on one of the 12 spending bills to keep the government running into next year and has yet to consider the extension of tax cuts for all.  There are many issues that need to be resolved before the end of the year and conservatives hope that tax increases are not part of the agenda.

The House is in session to vote on 33 legislative items on the suspension calendar and the Senate will commence work on three bills, S.3815, the Promoting National Gas and Electric Vehicles Act of 2010;  S.3772, The Paycheck Fairness Act; and, S.510, The FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act.  The work on taxes, spending, the President’s Debt Commission and the New START Treaty may slip into December.

The first issue on tap for Republicans in the Senate is the issue of earmarks.  The House has pledged to swear off earmarks for the next two years, but a fight is brewing in the Senate on a proposal by Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) for a two year moratorium on Senate Republicans.  This vote total is close and you can follow the totals over at Taxpayers Against Earmarks.  Brian Baker, President of Taxpayers Against Earmarks tells Red State: 

Perhaps members of the Republican Conference should invite Senators Bennett and Specter to brief them about how much the voters like “business as usual” in Washington before they vote on the DeMint-Coburn moratorium resolution.

Some argue that banning earmarks will not save a dime for the federal government, yet one look at the web site Citizens Against Government Waste refutes that claim.  Citizens Against Government Waste, a Congressional watchdog group, has put out a report on wasteful projects from Fiscal Year 2010.  They identify $16.5 billion in pork.

The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW’s annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. The 2010 Pig Book identified 9,129 projects at a cost of $16.5 billion in the 12 Appropriations Acts for fiscal 2010. A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.

Another big issue will be the President’s Debt Commission that may try to impose a $1 trillion tax increase on the American people.  As I wrote in Human Events today:

Under the Bowles-Simpson plan, taxes would rise substantially.  Alison Acosta Fraser of The Heritage Foundation writes that one of the flaws of the plan is that it adopts “a 50/50 approach to eliminating the deficits and lowering the projected trajectory of the debt through tax increases and spending cuts.”  According to Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform, “the report calls for a ten-year net tax hike of $961 billion, nearly a $1 trillion tax increase over the decade.”

The expiration of the 2001/2003 tax cuts may be on the agenda, because if Congress takes no action — taxes will increase on January 1st for all Americans.  More from my Human Events column:

David Axelrod, top advisor to President Obama, signaled last week to The “Huffington Post” that the President might be willing to accept a temporary extension of the 2001/2003 tax cuts, if the “middle-class” tax cuts are made permanent.  Sounds like the left has lost the messaging battle on extending the tax cuts and is resorting to Plan B.  This new plan would separate out tax cuts for job creators for two years while taking the Obama-favored “middle class tax cuts” out of the equation.  They want to kick the fight against tax cuts for job creators into 2012.

Add in the potential for the Senate to take up the New START Treaty in Lame Duck and you have a recipe for disaster.  Conservatives fear that the Treaty will lead to a dismantled missile defense.  Not much good shall come during the Lame Duck.  We can only hope that they get the appropriations bills done quickly, and without earmarks, then get out of town.

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