$300-Billion Pork-Barrel Spending Bill Passed by Republicans and Democrats
On the day of the latest government shutdown, Congress passed a two-year $300 billion, 652-page budget in under 18 hours, much to the dismay of conservatives.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) struck a deal on Wednesday to fund the government for two years, featuring substantial increases in domestic and defense spending. Both the House and Senate passed the $300 billion two-year budget on Friday morning, halting a temporary government shutdown.
The House passed a stop-gap spending bill on Tuesday that funded the government through March 23; the bill funded the Defense Department for one year and financed community health centers for two years.
The Senate Appropriations Committee released the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 around 12:00 a.m. on February 7 and McConnell began the procedure to start voting on the budget around 6:00 p.m. on February 8, leaving roughly 18 hours for members of Congress to read the bill.
At 652 pages long, lawmakers would have had to read 36 pages per hour without sleeping to read the bill before the Senate proceeded to start voting on the budget.
The two-year budget also angered conservatives for being full of special tax breaks and subsidies.
It’s a “Christmas tree on steroids,” Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) said, suggesting that the spending bill is full of pork-barrel spending.
The Hill reported that the special tax provisions amount to $17.4 over the next four years; the bill contains $13.3 billion in tax credits in fiscal year 2018, according to an analysis conducted by the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
One provision in the budget limits an excise tax on investment income at private colleges with at least 500 students, which allegedly benefits small schools such as Berea College, based in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.
Another part of the bill extends the three-year depreciation for racehorses, allowing owners to depreciate the value of their horses. This tax appreciation was a top priority of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which also resides in Kentucky.
The budget also extends special expensing for film and television productions, giving a nice gift to Hollywood and Sen. Schumer’s home state of New York. This provision costs the government $1.3 billion alone.
Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also won with an energy tax credit for advanced nuclear power facilities, which $12.2 billion in 2018.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) chided the Senate for passing a two-year budget deal filled with excessive government spending.
Johnson argued in a statement:
Three days ago, the House Republican majority sent a bill to the Senate that fully funded all our military needs and other critical priorities without additional, unnecessary increases in federal spending. Unfortunately, the Senate sent back a bill that will expand our government and increase the federal deficit by as much as $1 trillion in the next year alone.
Club for Growth President David McIntosh charged that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 also contains extensions of “cronyist” tax extenders and subsidies to benefit special interests.
As if that’s not bad enough, this deal also includes $80+ billion in so-called disaster relief spending, cronyist tax extenders, an expansion of farm subsidies, and another suspension in the debt ceiling, conveniently timed to expire after the mid-term elections. Nowhere in this deal are the $54 billion in spending cuts outlined in President Trump’s budget. Instead, the big government freight train is running out of control.
The budget deal, known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, includes:
- Spending limits created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will be raised by about $300 billion over the next two years.
- Defense spending will be raised by $80 billion in the current fiscal year and by $85 billion next year.
- Domestic spending will increase by $63 billion this year and by $68 billion next year.
- Congress will suspend the debt limit through March 2019, putting the next debt limit vote past the 2018 midterm elections.
- $20 billion for additional infrastructure programs such as surface transportation, rural water, and wastewater systems.
- $6 billion to fight the opioid crisis.
- $4 billion for college affordability programs to help police officers, teachers, and firefighters.
- $90 billion in disaster aid for Texas, Florida, and Peurto Rico.
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UK: College Teacher Fired and Reported to Government Counter-Terrorism Unit for Expressing Christian Views
A Christian teacher in Bristol was fired and reported as a “radicalisation threat” after she answered questions from pupils about her beliefs, an employment tribunal has heard.
Svetlana Powell was dismissed from the T2 Apprenticeship Academy in Bristol in July 2016 after leaders at the government-funded college said students had been offended by comments the teacher made.
Bristol Employment Tribunal heard that a pupil who was being persistently disruptive brought up Mrs. Powell’s religion and proceeded to quiz her on her personal beliefs in an “argumentative” way, LifeSiteNews reported.
Asked her views on homosexuality, the teacher said that as a Christian, she “personally” believed homosexual activity was against the Lord’s will, but that God loves every person regardless of their sexual preference.
The same student, who had been warned about his misbehaviour throughout the day, told Mrs. Powell that another pupil in the class was a lesbian, to which the teacher replied that God loved her.
Two days later, Mrs. Powell, a teacher of some 17 years experience, learned she was fired for “gross misconduct”, and that she would not be allowed to appeal her dismissal.
Chief Safeguarding Officer at the college, Sian Prigg, told the tribunal students complained that they were “brainwashed and preached to” during the incident, prompting her to report Mrs. Powell to the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, Prevent.
The Christian Legal Centre (CLC), which is supporting the educator in suing the T2 Academy for loss of earnings, said Mrs. Powell was fired because of her Christian beliefs, comparing her dismissal to how the college dealt with complaints against a teacher described as an “outspoken left-wing atheist”.
US Defense Secretary Mattis Admits There Is No Evidence Assad Used Sarin Gas on Syrian People
AP on Feb 2, 2018, “US has no evidence of Syrian use of sarin gas, Mattis says”:
WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has no evidence to confirm reports from aid groups and others that the Syrian government has used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday.
“We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it’s been used,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon. “We do not have evidence of it.”
He said he was not rebutting the reports.
“We’re looking for evidence of it, since clearly we are dealing with the Assad regime that has used denial and deceit to hide their outlaw actions,” Mattis said.
He shifted the issue entirely by throwing out accusations that Assad used chlorine gas at some point during the Syrian civil war.
Mattis says it is clear that Assad’s government has weaponized and used chlorine gas in the Syrian civil war.
“We’re even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use,” he said. Sarin is a colorless and tasteless toxin that can cause respiratory failure leading to death.
Last April, the U.S. launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in response to what it called illegal Syrian use of chemical weapons. President Donald Trump said the attack was meant to deter further Syrian use of illegal weapons.