Entries in Spending (54)


John Boehner: The ‘Talk About Raising Revenue Is Over’

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz during an exclusive interview for This Week that talk of including revenue as part of an effort to strike a so-called “grand bargain” to address the $16 trillion debt of the United States was “over,” leaving Democrats and Republicans where they have been for months – at loggerheads.

“The president believes that we have to have more taxes from the American people. We’re not going to get very far,” Boehner said. “The president got his tax hikes on January 1.  The talk about raising revenue is over.  It’s time to deal with the spending problem.”

Boehner said the United States does not face an immediate debt problem, agreeing with recent comments by President Obama – but he added debt is an issue that will have to be addressed.

“We do not have an immediate debt crisis – but we all know that we have one looming,” he said. “And we have one looming because we have entitlement programs that are not sustainable in their current form. They’re going to go bankrupt.”

Boehner said “hope springs eternal” in regards to the possibility of a budget deal, and told Raddatz that he has a “very good relationship” with President Obama and that he “absolutely” trusts him. He added that the president’s recent outreach — or so called “charm offensive” –intended to woo Republicans, is a “good thing.”

“It’s always a good thing to engage in more conversation, engage more members in the conversation that have not been involved up to this point,” he said.

Raddatz asked Boehner about the divergent messages seeming to emerge from CPAC, this weekend’s conservative political conference, citing speeches by Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Marco Rubio.

“There’s nothin’ wrong with the principles of our party,” he said. “But Republicans have not done as an effective job as we should in terms of talking about our principles in terms that average people can appreciate — why balancing the budget, as an example, would be good for American families. We’ve got to do a better job of helping people understand what our principles are in terms that they deal with every day.”

On gun control, when asked if he would commit to a vote on the House floor Boehner told Raddatz ” we’ll see what the Senate does, we’ll review it, and we’re going to continue to have our hearings and review this issue.”

Lastly, Boehner, who is Catholic, addressed the election of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as the new pope, Pope Francis.

“Well, this is the first time that we’ve had a pope from the Americas,” Boehner said. “So, I think it’s a giant step forward for the church.  Latin America is a very, very Catholic continent.  And I do believe that Pope Francis is the right person to really bring reform to the church.

“They’ve got a number of issues at the Vatican that I think need fresh eyes,” Boehner added. “And he’s clearly made a commitment to clean up some of the problems that the church has had.  And it’s pretty clear from his humble nature that his papacy will be one that I think a lot of people will appreciate.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Mitch McConnell: “The Tax Issue Is Finished”

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday he will not accept any new revenue in future deals with congressional Democrats and President Obama.

“The tax issue is finished.  Over. Completed,” McConnell said on “This Week.” “That’s behind us. Now the question is what are we going to do about the biggest problem confronting our country and that’s our spending addiction.

“We didn’t have this problem because we weren’t taxing enough,” McConnell added.

He blamed Obama and Democrats for waiting to resolve budget issues until the last minute.

 “Why we end up in these last-minute discussions is beyond me. We need to function,” McConnell said. “I mean, the House of Representatives, for example, passed a budget every year.  They’ve passed appropriation bills.

“The Senate Democratic majority and the president seem to like these last-minute deals.”

McConnell said that the biggest issue facing the country in the next year is the deficit and spending. And he predicted that the issue would occupy the congressional agenda in the first three months of the year, overtaking Obama’s other priorities, including gun control.

“But the biggest problem we have at the moment is spending and debt,” McConnell said. “That’s going to dominate the Congress between now and the end of March.  None of these issues, I think, will have the kind of priority that spending and debt are going to have over the next two or three months.”

On the expected nomination of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as the secretary of Defense by Obama, McConnell said he would evaluate Hagel’s past statements before determining whether he could support his nomination in the Senate.

“I’m going to take a look at all the things that Chuck has said over the years and review that, and in terms of his qualifications to lead our nation’s military,” McConnell said. “The question we will be answering if he’s the nominee, is do his views make sense for that particular job?  I think he ought to be given a fair hearing, like any other nominee, and he will be.”

McConnell, who in 2008 praised Hagel for his clear voice and stature on foreign policy and national security, now says he will reserve judgment on his possible nomination until after a Senate confirmation hearing.

“I’m going to wait and see how the hearings go and see whether Chuck’s views square with the job he would be nominated to do,” he added.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Warns Tax Hike Will Curb Consumer Spending

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An Obama administration report out Monday says the typical American household will pay $2,200 in additional taxes next year if the so called Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class are allowed to expire.

The findings from the President’s Council of Economic Advisers also states that the net result would be a slowdown in consumer spending by $200 billion in 2013, stunting the economic recovery by 1.4 percent.  A decline of $200 billion in consumer spending is roughly equivalent to four times the amount spent by Black Friday shoppers last year, the report said, or the entire sum of domestic auto sales.

The White House’s findings are a clear grab for leverage in the impending “fiscal cliff” talks on Capitol Hill, in which the previous administration’s cuts have been a negotiating point.  But it also largely echoes similar research from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office out earlier this month.  Economists warn the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that would be triggered if Congress fails to pass a budget by the end of the year would plunge the country back into recession.

President Obama and congressional Democrats have taken the position of continuing the cuts for households making under $250,000 a year, while allowing those same breaks to expire for higher income earners.  The Republican caucus has largely fought to keep those cuts in place across the board, but since this weekend, several key members of the GOP signaled they were open to breaking a long-standing pledge not to raise taxes.

“The only pledge we should be making to each other is to avoid becoming Greece.  And Republicans should put revenue on the table,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, S.C.-R, said on ABC’s This Week Sunday.

If negotiations are successful, the report claims the economy could still see an immediate negative impact: Uncertainty over possible future tax hikes on the middle class could lead to a slowdown in holiday shopping, stunting the economic recovery.

The White House report hits as millions of Americans turn to “Cyber Monday” for online holiday shopping deals, and coincidentally as Congress returns to session from its Thanksgiving break.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Congress Avoid Fiscal Cliff? Boehner ‘Not Confident At All’

TOBY JORRIN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker John Boehner bluntly assessed the prospects for a bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction and called on President Obama to demonstrate leadership by unveiling his administration’s plan to avoid half a trillion dollars of defense cuts and a wave of expiring tax breaks set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

“I’m not confident at all,” Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters at a Capitol Hill news conference Tuesday. “Listen, the House has done its job on both the sequester and on the looming tax hikes that’ll cost our economy some 700,000 jobs. The Senate at some point has to act, and on both of these -- where’s the president? Where’s the leadership? Absent without leave.”

At question is a slate of expiring provisions in the federal tax code, in addition to $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1. The Budget Control Act, passed by Congress and signed into law by Obama last summer, requires $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts equally divided between defense and domestic programs over the next decade, with the first $109 billion due to take effect Jan. 2, 2013.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reacted to the speaker’s comments, explaining that he is “disappointed” with Boehner’s lack of confidence for a deal for deficit reduction.

“We have to look at the glass being half full, not half empty all the time,” Reid, D-Nev., said following the Democrats’ weekly caucus luncheon. “I’m confident that we will reach some kind of an arrangement … it’s much, much too early to give up.”

Earlier in the day, Boehner touted the fact that the House of Representatives has passed a bill to extend all of the current tax rates and recounted the House’s efforts to replace the defense sequester with alternative spending cuts.

The vast majority of Democrats agree with most Republicans that Congress should work to avoid the effects of the sequester, but assert that the GOP goes about it the wrong way by prioritizing defense spending and protecting tax cuts for the wealthy while undercutting the country’s social safety net and other programs intended to build the middle class.

Democrats contend that the Republicans’ plan would increase the number of children, senior citizens, and others without health insurance and eliminate the Social Services Block grant, which supports programs like Meals on Wheels for 1.7 million seniors and child protective services for at-risk children. Additionally, 326,000 women would not get the breast cancer screenings they are slated to receive in FY 2013 and 284,000 women would not get the cervical cancer screenings they are slated to receive in FY 2013.

Asked to respond to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s criticism that congressional leaders made a mistake by agreeing to the sequester as part of the Budget Control Act last year, Boehner called the collapse of the grand bargain negotiations with the president “the biggest disappointment of my speakership.”

The speaker admitted the summertime debate was “a difficult time,” but he blamed Obama for devising the sequester “because the president didn’t want to have a second round of a fight over increasing the debt limit.”

“The president didn’t want his reelection inconvenienced by another fight over a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, and that’s why we have it,” Boehner recalled. “But having said that, somehow we have to deal with our spending problems. America continues to spend more money than what we bring in, and we have to resolve it.”

The House meets just 11 more days before the election, and many congressional insiders believe a resolution to the standoff will not come until a busy lame duck session of Congress after voters register their input at the polls on Nov. 6.

Reid added his belief that once the election is over, “the Tea Party’s strength will be significantly weakened,” and he predicted there will be more resolve among Republicans to compromise.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House Misses Deadline Outlining Defense Cuts

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- White House officials Friday acknowledged that they had not met the deadline to outline how the president would make the defense cuts required by law because of the failure of the bipartisan, poorly-named Super-committee to agree on $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years.

Because of the failure of the Super-committee, a self-imposed sword of Damocles will fall, requiring $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that neither Democrats nor Republicans desire, specifically $109 billion from Pentagon and domestic spending in just the next year. These cuts are called the “sequester.”

One month ago, the president signed the “Sequestration Transparency Act,” a law that imposed upon him a 30-day deadline to outline what Pentagon spending will be cut. That deadline was Thursday night.

White House press secretary Jay Carney Friday said White House officials would hand in their assignment next week.

In a statement, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who authored the bill said that “Americans of all stripes are required to play by the rules and follow the laws of the land. Unfortunately, by disregarding the sequestration reporting deadline, the Obama Administration seems to think it is above the law. The American people deserve to know the president’s plan for implementing these cuts, some of which our military leaders have said will compromise our nation’s ability to protect itself. Every day that the administration delays being transparent with the American people on the sequester moves us one day closer to going over the fiscal cliff.”

These cuts are set to take effect on Jan. 1, coinciding with the expiration of $4 trillion in lower tax rates enacted into law by President Bush and extended by President Obama. Combined with the expiration of a payroll tax cut, the whole shebang -- assuming no compromise is reached to delay the massive tax increases and spending cuts -- is referred to as the “Fiscal Cliff.”

It’s all part of the deal over raising the debt ceiling reached in August and July 2011 between President Obama and congressional leaders.

The Super-committee (which is to committees as Supercuts is to cuts, as Jimmy Kimmel once quipped) failed to arrive at any agreement because Republicans were generally unwilling to go along with tax increases and Democrats were generally unwilling to agree on re-structuring any “entitlement” programs such as Medicare.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GSA Blasted for One-Day Quarter-Million Dollar Awards Conference

Adam Gault/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The General Services Administration was back in Congress’s crosshairs Thursday after the GSA’s inspector general reported to Congress on another installment of, “egregious waste of taxpayer dollars” at the beleaguered government agency.

Just months after the agency was rocked when a lavish 2010 Las Vegas conference was exposed by the agency’s inspector general, GSA is now facing scrutiny for wasteful spending at another performance awards ceremony for its employees.

This time, the agency is being investigated for spending $268,732 on a one-day conference for its Federal Acquisition Service division on Nov. 17, 2010, in Arlington, Va.

More than $20,000 of taxpayer money was spent on drumsticks for 4,000 attendees, more than $8,500 for an appearance by someone called "Agent X," according to the preliminary findings of the Inspector General. The event, which was held at the Crystal City Gateway Marriott just outside Washington, D.C., also included expenses of more than $35,000 for picture frames, $20,000 in catering charges as well as additional funding for a violinist and guitarist.

“This is another sad day for the taxpayers in the United States,” Rep. John Mica, the Republican chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, said. “This sounds almost unbelievable to have this kind of waste reported when we’re running trillions in dollars in deficit -- makes absolutely everyone’s blood boil.”

The outrage was bipartisan.

“It is deeply troubling to learn that more than a quarter million dollars in hard earned taxpayer money was wasted so that certain GSA employees could congratulate themselves,” Rep. Nick Rahall, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, wrote in a statement.

Last April, the GSA Inspector General revealed that the agency had spent $822,751 of taxpayer funds to conduct the Western Regions Conference in Las Vegas, Nev. Martha Johnson, the former administrator of GSA, resigned abruptly in the wake of the scandal and was replaced by Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini.

The committee was notified Thursday morning of the latest spending spree in a letter from IG Brian Miller, who was informed of the incident by Tangherlini on July 11.

Still, Rep. Jeff Dehnam, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on oversight, said that his panel will conduct hearings next week to further examine the incident.

“It’s still a blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars and it’s going to stop,” Dehnam, R-Calif., said. “The taxpayers can’t afford it and they’re not going to stand for it any longer.”

GSA noted Thursday that “under the new GSA leadership, this event and type of spending is not tolerated” and the agency continues a “rigorous top-to-bottom review of all agency operations” as it considers further reforms.

“These events indicate an already recognized pattern of misjudgment which spans several years and administrations. It must stop,” GSA communications director Betsaida Alcantara wrote in an email. “The new leadership at the GSA is leaving no stone unturned in investigating any misuse of taxpayer dollars. When we find serious issues we refer them to the Office of Inspector General, as we did in this case.  We look forward to the recommendations and findings of the OIG’s investigation.”

Earlier this week, Tangherlini cut executive bonuses and instituted a hiring freeze across GSA. Additionally, Tangherlini has also cancelled 36 conferences so far, according to GSA, saving millions in taxpayer dollars.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Supercommittee Poised for 'Disappointing' End?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Absent any last-minute deals, the supercommittee on Monday will issue a statement announcing its failure to reach a deal to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.

“I wouldn’t be optimistic” Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Monday morning on Fox News. “I don’t want to create any false hope here...there will be an announcement by the two co-chairs towards the end of the day as to what the result was either way.”

Aides to the supercommittee members continue to half-heartedly insist that there are still conversations taking place between members of the 12-person committee, but the prospects are grim and the senators appear defeated.

A paper statement will be released late Monday, likely after the markets close, by co-chairs Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX., announcing the committee is over.

“It’s disappointing,” Kyl said during an interview with CNN.  Earlier this year, Kyl announced his retirement; Monday morning he said the result of the supercommittee is one of the biggest disappointments of his career.

“This was Congress’ responsibility,” Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., a member of the supercommittee said on CNN on Monday. “Frankly the only reason we don’t have an agreement is not because we weren’t willing to make reductions to Medicare, health care, do things we needed to do to make the system stronger, to protect it going forward. The reason is we are stuck on this insistence of making the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent. I think the American people will judge that to be insane.”

“Our democratic friends had a different idea,” Kyl said on CNBC. “Their ideas was this the opportunity to raise taxes. And it didn’t matter what we proposed.”

Kyl said that Republicans believe there were “several incentives” for Democrats not to agree to a deal.

“They get to cut their favorite program, namely our national defense through the sequester program, namely our national defense though the sequester process,” Kyl said. “The president gets to keep his message that there is a dysfunctional congress and therefore he has somebody to blame for the bad economy.”

This criticism is also coming from outside of Capitol Hill. Some conservatives, like broadcaster Rush Limbaugh, called the entire supercommittee a farce, and claimed Democrats deliberately prevented the group from reaching an agreement so President Obama could blame the Republicans and a "do-nothing Congress" for the country's economic woes while stumping for reelection.

Talk of overturning the sequester -- the trigger of automatic across-the-board cuts – has already started.

“There will be opportunities to amend the effects of this across-the-board sequestration, on the defense side,” Kyl said on CNBC. “There will be efforts to find offsets or other ways to reduce spending so that those cuts in defense spending don’t occur.”

Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the proposed cuts would be "devastating" to the U.S. military.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ron Paul Spent $1 Million on Charter Flights

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Ron Paul hasn’t led his Republican rivals in the polls this election season, but he has led in one category: spending on charter flights.

ABC News and the Center for Responsive Politics have crunched the numbers and found that the U.S. Congressman that just recently released a tax plan cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget has spent close to $1 million on charter flights.

Paul has far outspent his nearest rival Rep. Michele Bachmann, who logged receipts totaling $439,000 on charter fights. And despite raising vastly more than Paul, Mitt Romney has only spent a third of what Paul has on charter flights: around $300,000 to $400,000.

The Paul campaign did not immediately respond for comment.

The campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who only jumped into the race in August, reported spending $272,000 on air charters, which is interesting since the Texas governor only jumped into the race in August. The number is also significantly lower since the campaign was forced to admit that it underpaid a Texas businessman for use of his private jet.

Of all the GOP presidential hopefuls, only Rick Santorum reported not using an air charter.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gingrich Raises $807K, Spends Nearly Same Amount in Third Quarter

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Newt Gingrich raised a measly $807,962.45 in the third quarter, spending almost the same amount with $776,767.90 in disbursements, leaving the campaign still holding $1.1 million in debt, with $353,416.71 on hand.

The two largest areas of spending were website development, at $127,000, and telemarketing, at $107,701.77.

Campaign officials say they believe the former speaker has a shot at the GOP nomination, with rising poll numbers and donations coming in at double the pace in October as compared to September.

Gingrich “has momentum going into the fall and will be the alternative to the front runner,” campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said.

Most of the campaign’s support has come from small donors contributing an average of $76, he said.

Gingrich raised more than twice the amount of funds last quarter, bringing in $2.1 million since declaring his candidacy in May. However, he accrued $1.03 million in debt, leading to an exodus of 16 campaign staffers.

At the time, Gingrich blamed the media for the campaign’s financial troubles.

“The fact is a month of media barrage is painful, and it slowed a lot of things down,” Gingrich lamented to reporters at a parade in Clear Lake, Iowa, on July 4. “Our numbers will not be as good as we would like, and candidly, the consultants left us in debt. But every single week since they left we’ve been cutting down the debt, and we raise more than we spend in a week.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Audit Finds $16 Muffins at Justice Department Conferences

Jupiterimages/George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In these tough economic times when austerity and budget cuts are daily discussions in Washington, D.C., and on Main Street, the Justice Department didn’t seem to get the memo on spending  for agency-sponsored conferences, including buying $16 muffins and $10 cookies, according to a new Justice Department Inspector General audit released Tuesday.

The cost may be tough to swallow considering an Inspector General audit from 2007 found that a DOJ-sponsored conference spent almost $5 per Swedish meatball.

The review found that DOJ employees attended or participated in 1,832 conferences with a total cost of $121 million in fiscal years 2008 and 2009. The Inspector General analyzed 10 specific conferences, which cost $4.4 million.

The report revealed, “One conference served $16 muffins while another served Beef Wellington hors d’oeuvres that cost $7.32 per serving. Coffee and tea at the events cost between $0.62 and $1.03 an ounce. At the $1.03 per-ounce price, an 8-ounce cup of coffee would have cost $8.24.

“For event planning services, DOJ spent $600,000 (14 percent of costs) to hire training and technical assistance providers as external event planners for 5 of the 10 conferences reviewed.  This was done without demonstrating that these firms offered the most cost effective logistical event planning services. Further, these event planners did not accurately track and report conference expenditures,” the audit noted.

The report highlights two examples where the Office for Victims of Crime and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) spent over $32,000 in planning meetings in Palm Springs, Calif., for two conferences.

In another instance at an Office of Violence Against Women conference, “OVW conference attendees received Cracker Jacks, popcorn, and candy bars at a single break that cost $32 per person.”

The $16 muffins were served at a conference hosted by the Executive Office for Immigration and Review (EOIR). “The EOIR spent $4,200 on 250 muffins and $2,880 on 300 cookies and brownies. By itemizing these costs, we determined that, with service and gratuity, muffins cost over $16 each and cookies and brownies cost almost $10 each,” the audit noted.

Although the nearly $5 meatball was revealed in the 2007 audit, and new guidelines were implemented in 2008, the Inspector General concluded, “DOJ components hosting conferences in FY 2008 and FY 2009 did not adequately attempt to minimize conference costs as required by federal and DOJ guidelines.”

The Inspector General’s report made 10 recommendations to cut conference expenditures. These include reviewing hotel service charges, logistical and salaries for conference workers, and conducting cost comparisons.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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