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Entries in federal funding (7)

Monday
Sep262011

Senate Passes Government Funding and FEMA Deal: Shutdown Averted

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In the end, they fought until there wasn’t much left to fight about.

“Let’s fight when there’s something to fight about, there’s nothing to fight about tonight,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor Monday evening. “We’ve basically resolved this issue.”

Or, to be more correct -- they fought until FEMA’s updated accounting really resolved the issue.

Monday’s afternoon announcement that FEMA would have enough money to keep it up and running until the end of the week paved the way forward for the Senate to reach a deal Monday night that will keep the government and FEMA running. Both Republican and Democratic leaders acknowledged that FEMA’s announcement unlocked the deadlock and gave both sides a way out.

“Today’s news story coming out saying that FEMA’s disaster aid has enough money to last through this fiscal year, and this afternoon I received word from Jack Lew of OMB and FEMA that they will be able to get though the week without additional funding,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “That means that they can get through the fiscal year without more money.”

Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell R-Ky., came to the Senate floor afterward and agreed, saying it is a “compromise” and a “reasonable way” to keep the government operational.

By a bipartisan vote of 79-12 Monday evening the Senate approved a clean, six-week Continuing Resolution with no supplemental FY11 funds and no offsets to fund the government through Nov. 18. The measure gives FEMA $2.65 billion in funds for the next fiscal year, starting next week, without any added emergency spending for the end of this fiscal year. In addition the Senate passed a one-week CR to fund the government through Oct. 4 by a voice vote that the majority leader’s office says is in case Speaker Boehner needs additional time to bring the House back into session to finish the job on the six-week CR.

Although both sides in the Senate Monday night seemed happy the brinkmanship was over, for the time being, McConnell found one last reason to tweak his Democratic colleagues in the Senate a bit before voting.

“In my view this entire fire drill was completely and totally unnecessary, but I am glad a resolution appears to be at hand,” McConnell said.

The Senate has wrapped up its work for this week and will adjourn until next week. This measure will now be sent to the House of Representatives. The hope is that the House can pass the whole six-week package unanimously, but the House may only be able to pass the one-week extension, so the Senate is giving that option to them as well.

If they do not, Reid said the one-week funding bill that the Senate passed Monday provides a short-term funding bill until Oct. 4.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep202011

Shutdown Showdown Redux? Congress Squabbles over Disaster Relief Money

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., are squaring off on a collision course threatening once again to shut the federal government down.
 
At issue is the amount of disaster relief funding Congress should enact.
 
The Senate last week passed a $7-billion FEMA relief bill. The bill was sent to the House of Representatives for passage but House Republicans have a different strategy for FEMA funding, attaching FEMA funding to a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through Nov. 18.

The House legislation provides a little more than half the Senate bill, with $3.65 billion for disaster recovery, including approximately $1 billion divided between FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to make up shortages in FY 2011, and an additional $2.65 billion for the full FY 2012.

Senate Democrats say this is not enough money for FEMA, and they chastised House Republicans for calling for relief aid to be off-set when they don’t require the same standard for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
So on Tuesday, Reid announced that when the House of Representatives sends over its CR, which the House will vote on Wednesday, he will amend it to include the $7-billion relief aid which passed in the Senate.
 
“I was disappointed to see that the House shortchanged the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by failing to provide the funding to adequately help Americans whose lives have been devastated by floods, hurricanes and tornados,” Reid said on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. “Tomorrow, when the Senate receives the House bill to fund the government for six more weeks, we will amend it with the language of the Senate FEMA legislation.”
 
That means that in order for the government to avoid shutting down next Friday, Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends, the House would need to pass the amended measure, including Reid’s extra relief money. Members of Congress want to get this done by this Friday, as next week they have a scheduled recess for Rosh Hashanah.
 
But now, as both sides stand firm, the path forward is unclear.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was asked how he thought the disaster relief funding battle would play out with Reid as the House moves to consider its continuing resolution Wednesday.
 
“The House bill has in it the disaster relief that the president requested and then some. As you know, we provide for $1 billion in emergency relief and starting the new fiscal year, Oct. 1, we also provide an additional $2.6 billion that will be available for delivering on the needs that the people are asking for us to address,” Cantor, R-Va., said. “You’ve got $3.6 billion combined there in the bill. The CR is going to be written at the level that we agreed at in terms of the debt ceiling agreement.”
 
“We are delivering on the disaster relief that has been requested. No one will go without their needs being addressed, and I think the House bill, at $1.043 [trillion] is what we agreed to,” he added.
 
Reid on Tuesday noted that the original $7 billion Senate funding bill had 10 Republican votes -- and that he expects the same out of those senators when faced with the funding now being tied to the CR.
 
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Sep162011

FEMA Bill Passes in the Senate, Faces Uphill Climb in the House

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- By a vote of 62-37, the Senate passed the $7 billion FEMA relief bill to provide aid to states across the country that have been ravaged by natural disasters this summer.

“It is a victory that still needs another step,” Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ., said after the vote.  “And I hope that the Senate sent a message to my House colleagues, particularly the Tea Party, that this is not a time to turn those people ravaged by the flood upside down once again by holding this legislation hostage.”

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives but faces a an uncertain future there.  Republicans in the House have a different strategy for FEMA funding.  They plan to attach disaster relief funding -- about half as much -- to a larger stop-gap spending bill that will fund the federal government through Nov. 18, which contains their $3.65 billion in disaster assistance for FEMA.  The House is expected to bring that larger government funding bill to the floor for a vote by Wednesday.

“That amount of money is not sufficient,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said Thursday night of the House’s proposed funding in the continuing resolution, adding that “FEMA is running on fumes.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Sep142011

Sen. Tom Coburn Questions Use of Funds

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- These are examples of how Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., took issue with the way funds were allocated on the Senate floor Wednesday to give more weight to his argument that the FAA/highway bill should not be passed in its current form in the Senate.

Coburn cited examples including $110,804 for an observation area for white squirrels in Tennessee, $250,000 for the construction of a twin dragons gateway to the Chinatown area in Los Angeles, $198,000 for a Corvette simulator at a museum in Kentucky and $3.4 million for a turtle and wildlife passage in Florida.

A key Democrat accused Coburn of obstructionism, but Coburn argued the examples show states across the country are using millions of dollars of federal funds in odd ways, while in many cases bridges are in need of fixing. Coburn deemed that questionable and unnecessary.

Coburn is trying to repeal the federal mandate in the House-passed bill that requires states to spend 10 percent of funding provided by the Surface Transportation Program for “Transportation Enhancement Activities.” Transportation enhancement activities can include museums, pedestrian walkways, bike paths, landscaping and scenic beautification. Or, as Coburn pointed out Wednesday, they can actually fund things like the white squirrel observation deck and the Corvette simulator.

“I’m not saying they’re necessarily bad,” Coburn said. “But when we have bridges falling down in this country and concrete, like the summer before last in Oklahoma, falling out of an interstate highway bridge, injuring somebody, falling into their car as they drive under it, I would think we would want to repair the 146,000 bridges rather than spend money redecorating a sign.”

Coburn’s amendment would provide states and communities the flexibility to enhance safety rather than beautification and to meet local needs at their discretion, his office said.

“All we’re saying is if your state wants to continue to spend money on something other than safety and bridges and roads, fine. You can,” Coburn said. “But don’t make those of us that already have a big problem with safety have to spend money on something that doesn’t protect our citizens, doesn’t enhance their highways, by spending money on something that’s called an enhancement but doesn’t enhance their safety or their ability to commute.”

During a Twitter town hall Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was asked if Congress will reauthorize funds for the FAA bill that is tied to the highway bill -- and took the opportunity to lay into Coburn over the most recent threat of a partial shutdown over the FAA funding, which expires Friday.

“We have a Republican senator here that is holding them both up,” Reid said. “Why? Because he’s mad. Because he thinks that there should be no money spent on bike paths.

“I said, ‘OK, I’ll give you a vote,’ and he said, ‘No I don’t want a vote -- I just want it in the bill,’” Reid said. “And so we’ve gotten so far now that people won’t even take a vote. They are holding everything up just because they want to hold things up.”

Reid said he would go out on the Senate floor and ask for consent to pass the two bills Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ll keep pushing until we get this done,” Reid said. “We can’t have another FAA shutdown.”

Coburn suggested that the Senate split up the two bills -- the FAA and the highway bill -- but it is not clear at this point what will be done.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Jun162011

Abortion Fight Heats Up in Defense Budget Debate

Jupiterimages/Comstock(WASHINGTON) -- Abortion rights supporters are hoping to capitalize on the ongoing defense budget debate to build momentum for a provision that would allow servicemembers who are victims of rape and incest to get an abortion at military hospitals.

Under current law, only servicemembers whose lives are endangered can get an abortion at military hospitals.  Victims of rape and incest aren't entitled to federal funds for abortion services, even though other beneficiaries of government health care, like prisoners and Medicaid recipients, are.

A number of Senate Democrats, led by New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, will officially introduce the MARCH (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health) Act on Thursday, following on the heels of a similar House bill that was announced last week.

The bills are likely to trigger another political fight on an issue that has become the battleground for conservatives in the current Congress.  Last month, an effort by Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., to interject a similar amendment into the 2012 Defense Authorization Act did not even make it past the Republican-controlled House Rules Committee.

The new standalone bills being introduced this month would allow rape and incest victims to receive an abortion under the military health system, and let women get abortions on military bases with private funds.

"This is really a question of fairness," said Vania Leveille, senior legislative council at the American Civil Liberties Union, which is leading the efforts along with a number of other abortion rights groups.

Citing the recent passage in the House of Representatives of the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" -- which bans all federal funding for abortions at federal facilities except in cases of rape, incest and a threat to the life of the victim -- proponents of the MARCH Act argue that military women are being unfairly marginalized.

"If other populations who rely on the government for their health care -- like federal employees, like women on Medicaid, like women in prison... [have] the option of terminating the pregnancy" in cases of rape and incest, then "why not military women, and why are military women treated as second class citizens? Why are they treated differently than the civilian women?" Leveille said. "I don't see how that's excusable."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr292011

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels Will Sign Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood

Michael Hickey/Getty Images(INDIANAPOLIS) -- As Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels mulls a presidential run in 2012, he announced plans to sign a bill making Indiana the first state to pull federal funding from Planned Parenthood, a move that could boost his standing among social conservatives.

"I supported this bill from the outset, and the recent addition of language guarding against the spending of tax dollars to support abortions creates no reason to alter my position." Daniels said in a statement. "The principle involved commands the support of an overwhelming majority of Hoosiers."

The bill would cut $3 million in federal money the state currently allocates to the women's health group. It also would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy unless the woman's life is significantly threatened, require women seeking abortions to be informed that life starts at conception and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital.

But the bill also puts Indiana in a financial tight spot as it risks losing $4 million a year in federal family-planning money that would be eliminated because of the state legislation.

The governor has seven days to sign the bill, but even if he doesn't sign it, it still will become a law. If Daniels were to veto the bill, the general assembly would be forced to wait until the next legislative session to address the measure again.

Republicans in Congress attempted to ban federal funding for Planned Parenthood earlier this year but failed.

Planned Parenthood called Gov. Daniels' decision "unconscionable and unspeakable."

"We will now suffer the consequences of lawmakers who have no regard for fact-based decision making and sound public health policy," Betty Cockrum, president of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, said in a statement.

Planned Parenthood estimates the measure would cut off 22,000 low-income residents of Indiana from medical care.

Daniels has called on national leaders to declare a "truce" on social issues and focus on the country's financial burden, a statement that sparked discomfort among social conservatives.

But NARAL Pro-Choice America said it sees this as an abandonment of that call for a truce.

Daniels has danced around questions regarding his presidential ambitions, but he has promised to make a decision after the close of the legislative session. He has made no official indication that he will run for president, nor has he said whether he will participate in the first Republican presidential debate, slated for next Thursday in South Carolina.

With his friend Haley Barbour dropping out of the race earlier this week, Daniels could be more open to a presidential run. Barbour's decision not to run opens the door to supporters and fundraising.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

Thursday
Jan202011

Boehner: Permanently Ban Federal Abortion Funding

Photo Courtesy - Bill Clark/Roll Call via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker of the House John Boehner expressed support Thursday morning for a new bill that would permanently ban federal funding for abortions and called the measure one of the House’s “top legislative priorities” in the 112th Congress.

Boehner, R-Ohio, said that by enacting the ban, House Republicans would fulfill a promise from the Pledge to America to “[ensure] that tax dollars are never used to fund elective abortions.”

“A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions is the will of the people, and it ought to be the will of the land,” Boehner said. “The current law, particularly as enforced by this administration, does not reflect the will of the American people. Last year, we listened to the American people through America Speaking Out. They spoke on this issue loudly and clearly. So we have included it in our Pledge, and today we're making good on that commitment.”

Boehner said the legislation, known as the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, would codify the Hyde Amendment and other similar policies by permanently applying a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions across all federal programs.

“This common sense legislation reflects the will of the people and deserves the support of the House,” Boehner said. “It's one of our highest legislative priorities, and as such, I've directed that it receive the designation of H.R. 3.”

Rep. Chris Smith, who introduced the bill, said the measure would also address conscience protection for health care personnel to ensure that anyone opposed to abortion is not forced to participate or assist in the procedure.

“Our legislation also includes a very important conscience protection to empower the courts to ensure that conscience objectors -- doctors, hospitals, health care networks, individual health care personnel -- are not forced to participate in the taking of a human life,” Smith, R-New Jersey, said. “H.R. 3 really reflects [Boehner’s] and our profound commitment to respecting the sanctity of human life and getting rid of and making permanent -- getting rid of taxpayer funding for abortion like in the District of Columbia.”

“President Obama has said that he wants abortion to be rare,” Smith added. “If we want fewer abortions, take away the federal subsidy.”

When Boehner said that the bill would “make clear that taxpayer funding of elective abortions will not be the policy of this government,” he was asked why there is a need for the legislation if there is a safeguard already in place?

“They claim that it is, but we had an opportunity during the health care debate [last year] to include the Stupak language, which would have made clear in law that taxpayer funding of elective abortion is prohibited. That was -- that did not occur, and clearly, there's an awful lot of doubt as to where the administration really is on this issue,” Boehner said. “The will of the people is that we enact this clear-cut prohibition on the use of taxpayer funds for elective abortions.”

Reps. Joe Pitts, R-Penn., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., are expected to soon introduce their own separate legislation to specifically prohibit any funding from the health care law from funding abortions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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