State Sen. Bill Hightower (R-Mobile) will air his first TV ad in his campaign for governor next week. An advance look at the commercial, which focuses on term limits, a flat tax and cutting spending, can be seen here:
Roby responds to budget blowback, moves to protect military pensions
A day after Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, took to Facebook to address constituents upset over her support of the Ryan-Murray budget deal, she is moving to replace one of the plan’s least popular provisions and ensure that military retirees are not unfairly penalized under the new law.
Roby is partnering with Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-PA, to repeal a provision that reduces working-age military pensions beginning in 2015 and replace it with a measure to prevent illegal aliens from receiving fraudulent cash payments from the government in the form of the Refundable Child Tax Credit.
“There are many good things in the budget agreement passed by Congress: setting a sustainable path of controlled federal spending, preventing some of the harmful sequestration cuts to our military, and returning Congress to regular order to end the days of massive temporary spending bills passed at the last minute,” Roby said in a statement. “However, the final product was not what I would have drafted, and House members were not given the opportunity to improve the bill through amendments on the floor. One provision that is particularly troublesome is the one percent reduction in the cost of living adjustment for working age military retirees beginning in 2015. Just look at the vast federal government that is rife with waste. Are reductions to military benefits really the best place for Congress to make cuts? I don’t think so, and I that’s why I believe that provision should be removed.”
The legislation introduced today in the House – H.R. 3788 – is a compliment to an amendment offered by Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, during debate on the budget plan in the Senate. It removes the cost-of-living increase reduction and replaces it with a measure closing a tax loophole that allows ineligible, non-citizens to receive fraudulent cash payments in the form of a Refundable Child Tax Credit.
The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that closing this loophole by simply requiring the recipients of this taxpayer-funded credit to be eligible citizens would save as much as $7 billion, more than enough to offset the $6 billion gleaned from altering military retiree pensions.
According to a 2011 report form the Treasury Inspector General, “Millions of people are seeking this tax credit who, we believe, are not entitled to it. We have made recommendations to the IRS as to how they could address this, and they have not taken sufficient action in our view to solve the problem.”
The Treasury Inspector General went on to say that “the payment of Federal funds through this tax benefit appears to provide an additional incentive for aliens to enter, reside, and work in the United States without authorization, which contradicts Federal law and policy to remove such incentives.”
Roby acknowledged Sen. Sessions’ efforts to amend the Ryan-Murray budget deal before it was passed. Sessions’ amendment was blocked by Democrat leaders in the Senate who would not allow any amendments to the bill to be considered.
“Today I am joining Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and others in the House to offer a companion bill to Sen. Sessions’ commonsense amendment,” Roby said. “I believe that this is a fix the Republican Conference can rally around. I have personally contacted the House leadership this morning to give voice to the concerns of military retirees in my district who feel singled out by the budget agreement. I am strongly encouraging our leaders to use the Christmas week as an opportunity to build support for this or similar legislation so that we can pass it upon our return in January. In my opinion, it should be the first item on the docket for 2014.”
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Roby to constituents upset she voted for budget deal: ‘I don’t blame you’
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, took to Facebook Wednesday to respond to constituents who are expressing frustration and discontent with the Ryan-Murray budget deal that passed both the House and Senate in recent days.
Alabama’s representatives in the U.S. House voted in favor of the deal 5-1, with Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, casting the only dissenting vote. However, in the upper chamber, both Sens. Shelby and Sessions voted against the deal.
Shelby tends to vote against any piece of legislation that violates the Budget Control Act of 2011, which capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.
Sessions’ opposition to the bill centered around its cuts to veterans benefits. Sessions tried to attach an amendment to the bill to “fix” the benefits, but Democrats refused to allow it.
Conservative groups in Washington and around the country have been extremely critical of the deal by pointing out that it does little to set the country on a path to fiscal sanity, especially when it comes to entitlements.
Republicans who voted in favor of the deal say they believe Republicans stand the best chance of winning in the longterm by taking a potential government shutdown off the table and keeping the focus on ObamaCare’s failures.
Rep. Roby addresses several of those points in her Facebook post, which can be read in full below.
I have heard from several who are displeased with the recent budget agreement, particularly as it concerns cost of living increases for military retirees.
This measure represents the first time that Washington has operated with a budget during divided government in 27 years. The legislation sets overall discretionary spending levels at $1.012 trillion, returning non-defense spending to Bush-era levels and restoring some, but not all, military funding cut by sequestration. One of the offsets used in the bill to find savings involved reducing by 1% the annual automatic cost-of-living increases given to working-age military retirees starting in 2015. That means those who have retired from the service but are between the ages of 40-62 will still get a cost of living increase, it will just be one percent less. Once you turn 62, the increases go back up to their original rate.
It is important to note that the plan in no way affects the base pension payment, veterans’ disability benefits, or the benefits of any retiree over the age of 62.
I don’t blame those who are upset about this. The plan is far from ideal. I would much prefer more of the savings come from elsewhere, including long-overdue mandatory spending reforms. I understand that people count on these cost of living increases, even if they are still working.
The fact is the agreement restores more than $30 billion in sequestration cuts to the military. That is very significant. That funding goes straight toward preventing furloughs and restoring our military readiness. The alternative would mean more furloughs, more corrosion of our military readiness, and new threats of a harmful government shutdown. My choice was not an easy one to make, but I believe in the long run that it was the right choice given the alternative.
So what do you think? Was it smart for Republicans to go along with this deal, or should they have fought for more?
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Sessions fights to save veterans benefits ahead of budget vote
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, has spent the last several days fighting to undo cuts to veterans benefits that are included in the Ryan-Murray budget deal, which was passed by the House last week.
The current legislation cuts veterans benefits by $6 billion over the next decade.
The Senate is set to vote on the bill Tuesday morning. Both Sen. Sessions and fellow Alabamian Sen. Richard Shelby have said they are opposed to the current bill.
Although it sailed through the House on a bipartisan vote of 332-94, Senate Democratic leaders indicated over the weekend that the bill’s passage is far from secured in the upper chamber.
“The struggle is still on in the United States Senate,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told Fox News on Sunday.
But progress was made on Monday, leading aides on both sides of the aisle to predict that they will have the 60 votes needed to pass a procedural motion on Tuesday. They will then move move for final passage later in the week, which requires only a simple majority.
Many Senate Republicans have cited the fact that the budget deal exceeds the Budget Control Act of 2011 as grounds for opposing it. The Budget Control Act capped 2014 discretionary spending at $967 billion. The Ryan-Murray budget smashes through that cap.
“I’d really like to stay within the (spending) caps,” complained Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas. “This busts the caps and as a result I’ll vote against it.”
But Sessions and several of his Republican colleagues have chosen to focus their attention on the cuts to military retirees and vets.
“We need to find a better way to save $6 billion than take it out of the hides of our retired veterans,” said Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi.
Sessions’ plan to rescue veterans benefits involves saving money by closing a tax credit loophole that watchdog groups say has been frequently exploited by illegal immigrants.
The fix is simple. Applicants seeking to receive the child tax credit would have to submit their Social Security numbers. That way the IRS could easily weed out the illegal aliens taking advantage of the system. Sessions’ amendment would save the federal government roughly $4.2 billion, freeing up room for veterans benefits to remain at higher levels.
The handwringing in D.C. has already commenced with a budget deadline looming on Jan. 15. If a deal is not reached by then, another partial government shutdown will ensue.
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