Bill that reopened government full of pet projects

Published: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 5:22 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 17, 2013 @ 5:22 PM


            Channel 2 Action News has learned that pet projects for some members of Congress were added in the final hours to the deal that reopened the federal government.

Pet projects for some members of Congress were added in the final hours to the deal that reopened the federal government, Cox Media Group's Washington D.C. Bureau reported Thursday.

The bill contains billions of dollars in spending tucked in at the last minute.

One  of those projects is the Olmsted Lock and Dam on the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois. With the approval of the bill, the project got nearly $3 billion.

"Whatever it was, it was not enough to say, we're not going to open up government because there's something (Mitch) McConnell put in about a road or something. I don't know what that was," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.

It's not a road, but massive locks and a dam that happen to be in Kentucky, the home state of Senate Minority Leader McConnell.

"Outside the beltway, the American people who are fed up with Washington's wasteful ways are going to say, 'What in the world has changed here?'" said Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayers Union.

Taxpayer watchdogs like Sepp said it's just one example of good old-fashioned pork barrel spending in the bill to reopen the government.

Another item added to the bill: A six-figure gift to the widow of New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg, one of the richest members of Congress, with a net worth of more than $50 million.

"They shouldn't have been in this bill," Sepp said.

Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Bill Shuster said he didn't like the bill or the questionable earmarks, but the clock was ticking to avoid a debt default.

"They put things in there that are a little bizarre, but at least we have the government up and running," Shuster said.

Contacted about the Kentucky project, McConnell's office said it was requested by the Army Corps of Engineers and that any senator could have asked it be taken out of the bill, but none did.

Trump budget plan calls for $3.6T in spending cuts; boost for defense

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 5:49 PM

In this photo taken May 2, 2017, Budget Director Mick Mulvaney speaks at the White House in Washington. The White House is finalizing a budget blueprint that promises a balanced federal budget within 10 years, doubling down on cuts to domestic agencies and adding a new round of cuts to the Medicaid program for the poor.
AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

President Donald Trump will release a budget plan Tuesday calling for $3.6 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade and a 10 percent increase in defense spending.

The budget plan presumes a 3 percent annual growth rate to the economy and, if its assumptions are correct, would balance the budget within the next decade.

Trump is proposing $3.6 trillion worth of cuts over the next decade – “the most proposed by any President in a budget,” according to summary sheets put out by the White House. The cuts would encompass both discretionary programs but also entitlement programs for low income Americans.

RELATED: House passes $1.1T spending bill

The budget includes at least $610 billion in cuts to Medicaid – but that could be more, assuming that the House-passed health care bill goes into effect as passed. It would cut $190 billion from the food stamp programs, cutting $272 billion overall from anti-poverty programs over 10 years.

But it would also cut other agencies as well, including 31.4 percent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget over one year, 29.1 percent out of State and other foreign programs and 19.8 percent out of Labor’s budget from 2017 to fiscal year 2018.

The bill would also defund Planned Parenthood and virtually eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, said White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.

Defense would see an increase in spending

Trump’s budget plan would boost defense spending by 10 percent and begin to pay for the border wall that Trump made a centerpiece of his campaign, according to Mulvaney.

The budget includes $2.6 billion for border security, with $1.6 billion going toward the “brick and mortar” construction of the wall, Mulvaney said, and the balance going toward enhanced technology and other infrastructure measures aimed at reducing illegal immigration.

RELATED: Top Air Force general says ‘all programs are at risk’

Mulvaney said the budget would boost programs encouraging school vouchers – which pay for public school students to go to private school – as well as a $25 billion program that would create nationwide child leave for mothers and fathers of newborn and adopted children.

The budget would also include $200 billion for infrastructure – another follow-up on a Trump promise.

In a briefing with reporters Monday, Mulvaney called the budget a “taxpayer-first budget,” that was “written through the perspective of people who pay taxes as much as the people who receive the benefit.”

He dismissed the notion that the budget would target the poor, saying many taxpayers would prefer to have their money go to pay for law enforcement or defend the nation rather than go for programs that have not been proven to work.

“People don’t mind paying taxes as long as they know their money is not being wasted,” he said. “And for too long the federal government has been unwilling to prove that’s the case.”

RELATED: Trump budget plan boost to military

“We are going to measure success by actually helping people,” he said, saying he considers that to mean “helping them get off programs and helping them get in charge of their own lives again.”

Mulvaney said that also meant requiring a Social Security number for the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit – a distinction which would effectively bar tax-paying undocumented immigrants from being able to use two tax credits that have been highly popular among the working poor. “How do you go to someone who has paid taxes and say, ‘hey, we want to give the Earned Income Tax to someone working here illegally,” Mulvaney said. “That’s not defensible.”

Will it get through Congress?

Members of Congress on both sides were skeptical Monday the budget plan would get through lawmakers.

“I do not believe the President’s proposed budget will be Congress’ starting point,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington.

Democrats were critical of the proposals.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, said the budget would be cut “on the backs of working people.”

“Ohio families know that making a budget is about choosing priorities,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, “and so far Ohio families have not been this Administration’s priority.

The budget is expected to be released mid-morning today. Mulvaney will testify before the House Budget Committee Wednesday and the Senate Budget Committee Thursday.

Trump would add over $3 trillion in debt before balancing budget in 2027

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 9:00 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 9:04 PM

President Donald Trump is sending Congress a spending plan for 2018 that would increase money spent on defense and border security, cut many areas of non-defense spending by Uncle Sam, and achieve a balanced budget by 2027, though it would add several trillion dollars to the national debt along the way.

Here are some of the early highlights from the Trump budget.

1. Over $3.1 trillion in new debt over 10 years. The Trump budget does get to a surplus – but it takes ten years to reach that point, in 2027. So, even if this President serves two terms in office, he would be gone from the White House before balancing the budget under this plan. Despite all the talk about cuts, the President’s 2018 budget would not get the yearly budget deficit below $400 billion until 2023. Here are the yearly deficit estimates under the Trump 2018 budget plan, which add up to $3.15 trillion in more debt over the next ten years:
2018 – $440 billion
2019 – $526 billion
2020 – $488 billion
2021 – $456 billion
2022 – $442 billion
2023 – $319 billion
2024 – $209 billion
2025 – $176 billion
2026 – $110 billion
2027 – $16 billion surplus

2. Real cuts in Trump plan, but beware the numbers.You will hear a lot of reporting that the President’s 2018 budget envisions $1.4 trillion in cuts over ten years in non-defense spending. Don’t believe that, because of the way Congress totals up spending cuts. But, the Trump budget will actually cut the amount of discretionary spending by 2027, not just have the budget grow by a smaller amount each year. For example, in 2018, the President’s plan would spend $1.244 trillion on programs outside of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (known as discretionary spending programs, which are voted on each year by the Congress) – that number would be trimmed to $1.151 trillion in 2027, according to figures provided by the White House. I know a little about math, as that is an actual spending cut of 7.5 percent – this is not just a reduction in a planned level of increase.

3. What areas will take the biggest budget hit? While the Pentagon, border security, Veterans Affairs and homeland defense will see overall increases under this Trump plan, a number of other federal departments and agencies would see cuts in 2018. (These would be real cuts, not just a reduction in a level of increase.) Here are the biggest losers in percentage terms:
+ EPA – 31.4% budget cut (from $8.2 to $5.7 billion)
+ State Department & foreign aid – 29.1% budget cut
+ Agriculture – 20.5% budget cut ($22.7 to $18 billion)
+ Labor – 19.8% cut ($12.1 to $9.7 billion)
+ HHS – 16.2% cut (from $78 to $65.3 billion)
+ Commerce – 15.8% cut (from $9.2 to $7.8 billion)
+ Education – 13.5% cut (from $68.2 to $59 billion)
+ HUD – 13.2% cut (from $46.9 to $40.7 billion)
+ Transportation – 12.7% cut ($18.6 to $16.2 billion)

4. Cool GOP reaction to parental leave plan. Pressed by his daughter Ivanka, the President’s budget sets aside $25 billion over ten years for a project that is sure to draw more support from Democrats than Republicans – allowing parents time off to be with a newborn baby. “For the first time ever – by any administration of any party – we are proposing a nationwide, paid parental leave,” said Mulvaney. The plan would allow for six weeks of time off – Democrats have proposed plans that have double that amount of leave and more. The initial reaction from Republicans was as you might expect – they’re not into the idea.

5. Federal workers would see retirement changes. The President’s budget would look to reduce retirement benefits for federal workers, saving an estimated $72 billion over ten years, according to figures released by the White House. Among the ideas, reducing retirement benefits by limiting and/or eliminating yearly cost of living adjustments; and increase the amount of money employees must contribute to their retirement plan. The details are sure to draw complaints from federal employee unions and lawmakers in the Washington, D.C. region.

Many more details will be available on Wednesday morning, as the budget – titled a “New Foundation for American Greatness,” is delivered to Capitol Hill.

“If I had sort of a subtitle for this budget, it would be the “Taxpayer First Budget,” said White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney will get the chance to defend the plan starting Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Infowars' Alex Jones apologizes for spreading fake 'Pizzagate' story

Published: Sunday, March 26, 2017 @ 2:23 AM

In this Dec. 5, 2016, file photo, the front door of Comet Ping Pong pizza shop in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Jose Luis Magana/AP

Alex Jones on Friday apologized to the owner of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria for spreading the fake story last year that linked the restaurant to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and human trafficking.

Jones, as the Austin, Texas-based host of Infowars.com, has a long history of pushing wild and false conspiracy theories, such as claiming that the U.S. government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a hoax.

But in a rare backtracking mea culpa, Jones apologized for his role in promoting the baseless “Pizzagate” story that went viral among right-wing bloggers and media sites during the 2016 presidential campaign.

>> Watch the clip here

The gist of the fake story accused Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta, of running a child sex abuse ring through the Comet Ping Pong restaurant owned by James Alefantis. Podesta’s comments about the pizzeria — made in Democratic Party emails exposed by WikiLeaks — became fodder for fake news web portals as well as popular user-generated content sites like Reddit and 4chan.

Jones, in a statement he read aloud for his online audience, tried to put some distance between himself and the fake story and blamed “scores of media outlets,” “third-party accounts of alleged activities” and “accounts of (Infowars) reporters who are no longer with us” for the “incorrect narrative” he discussed several times on his program.

>> Read more trending news

“In our commentary about what had become known as Pizzagate, I made comments about Mr. Alefantis that in hindsight I regret, and for which I apologize to him,” Jones said.

In language that was clearly sculpted by a legal mind hoping to avoid possible litigation, Jones added: “To my knowledge today, neither Mr. Alefantis nor his restaurant Comet Ping Pong, were involved in any human trafficking as was part of the theories about Pizzagate.”

For many people, the Pizzagate conspiracy theory became part of the mainstream political discussion only in December, after 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch of North Carolina reportedly brought a gun into a Comet Ping Pong packed with customers, and pointed it at an employee in hopes of finding proof of “Pizzagate.”

Welch surrendered to police when he found no evidence that children were being harbored there, D.C. police said at the time. He pleaded guilty to weapons and assault charges Friday, CNN reported.

Flynn invokes Fifth Amendment, decries “public frenzy” over Russia probe

Published: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 4:01 PM
Updated: Monday, May 22, 2017 @ 4:01 PM

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn invoked his Fifth Amendment rights on Monday, as his lawyers refused to honor a subpoena for documents from a U.S. Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 elections, the first time that someone with close ties to President Trump has refused to cooperate in the course of this politically charged investigation.

“In these circumstances, General Flynn is entitled to, and does, invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against production of documents,” wrote Flynn’s lawyers in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“He is the target on nearly a daily basis of outrageous allegations, often attributed to anonymous sources in Congress,” the letter stated, decrying an “escalating public frenzy against him.”

Flynn’s lawyers also cited the appointment last week of a special counsel to the probe into Russian influence in 2016 as reason to withhold testimony at this time.

The decision by Flynn did not surprise committee members; last week, panel chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) had told reporters that Flynn was not going to honor their subpoena for documents on meetings and communications with “any Russian official.”

It was not immediately apparent what the Intelligence Committee could do to compel Flynn to either testify, or turn over documents.

One option is holding Flynn in contempt of Congress – but that does not guarantee cooperation of a witness, either.

During the 2016 campaign, Flynn himself had made light of people who had taken the Fifth in the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server, as well as those who were granted immunity.

“When you’re given immunity, that means you probably committed a crime,” Flynn told NBC’s Meet the Press on September 25, 2016.

Democrats not only dug up old quotes of Flynn, but also some from President Trump, where he also raised questions about those same aides with ties to the Clinton email server.

“If you’re innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” Mr. Trump asked at a rally in Iowa last September.

Flynn has come under scrutiny for several things – his contacts with Russian officials during the Trump transition, not disclosing payments from Russian groups in 2015 as required for former top military officers, and belatedly disclosing that he was working as a paid agent of the Turkish government, even as he was campaigning for Mr. Trump last year.