Nevada’s entrant in the Karl Rove Look Alike Contest, Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) has some Rovian rhetoric for readers of the Elko Daily Free Press:
“The Republican Party is making some changes, both internally and externally, following the re-election of President Barack Obama, according to Nevada GOP leaders at the Elko County Lincoln Day Dinner Friday night.
“I am tired of the drama,” U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei told an audience in the Red Lion Inn & Casino. “I’m full up on drama. Drama doesn’t get anything done.”
The recent adoption of the “No Budget, No Pay” Act by the U.S. House of Representatives is an example of progressing Republican action, he said.
“This was a good start of demonstrating to the president, to the people in the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi that the Republicans are capable of putting together 218-plus votes to play some serious ball on getting things started to turn the budget around.”
Where to begin? Why not start with the Republican Party is making changes statement? Really? So, what bills were introduced by Republicans in the U.S. Congress as the 113th session begins which might lead us to believe anything has changed, or is changing?
The Return of the Culture Warriors
Representative Paul Ryan (R-Palinistan) introduced a Fetus-Personhood bill. The bill would give full citizenship rights to one celled human embryos, before they are even planted securely in the uterus. Nothing says change like introducing 8 anti-abortion bills co-sponsored by Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) in the 112th Congress, and then stepping right back into the ranks for the next round of the War on Women. Nor is Representative Ryan alone.
Representative Paul Broun (R-GA) introduced H.R. 23, the Sanctity of Human Life Act, in which life begins at “fertilization,” and Representatives Diane Black (R-TX) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have H.R. 217 and H.R. 61 respectively forbidding women’s health grants to any organization which provides abortions — take that Planned Parenthood, 3% of whose funds assist in pregnancy termination.l [GovTrack] The Party which was interested in 44 bills on abortion in the 112th Congress hasn’t stopped participating in the Culture Wars even though the topic of is great interest to only 18% of the American public. [Pew]
The Repealer’s Redux
Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) was pleased to introduce the first bill for the 113th — yet another bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There were 33 votes in the House of Representatives to repeal the ACA after the Supreme Court affirmed its constitutionality; and, here they go again. A chart from last summer illustrates how the 112th spent its time –
The Debt Debaclers
Former Vice President Dick Cheney told former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill that: “You know, Paul, Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-term elections, this is our due.” True enough, the deficit didn’t matter to the electorate in 2004 — in large part because it wasn’t presented as an all consuming terrifying hideously large totally unacceptable DEBT to the voters. It’s interesting that the deficit/debt wasn’t a huge ongoing issue because the trends in deficit spending (related to two wars + one nasty recession) by 2008/2013 look like this when graphed out:
Thus we have the ironic situation in which the party which controlled the White House while the deficit spending was trending upward is vilifying the party controlling the White House while the deficit spending trend is headed downward. Representative Amodei has evidently joined the Debt Debaclers.
If Representative Amodei is really serious about “turning the budget around,” then is he asking for a return to the Bush Administration’s policies which saw an increase in deficit spending trends? Surely not.
Smoke, Mirrors, Tricks, and Gimmicks
“The recent adoption of the “No Budget, No Pay” Act by the U.S. House of Representatives is an example of progressing Republican action, he said.” The 285-144 vote on H.R. 325 to which Rep. Amodei is referring, doesn’t indicate much of anything — especially a consistent GOP intention to “progressing Republican action” — because a quick look at the roll call vote informs us that such disparate Representatives as Wasserman-Schultz and Joe Heck (NV) both voted against it. While Rep. Amodei voted in favor of the bill along side Rep. Langevin (D-RI). Meanwhile, back at the Constitution, there’s this little problem noted by the folks at the Christian Science Monitor about the 27th Amendment:
“Congressional pay is the 27th’s subject. Among other things, it says, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of the Representatives shall have intervened.”
Oops! We understand that the amendment was intended to prevent fat self provided pay increases, but the language of the amendment applies to pay cuts as well. “Varying the compensation” means changing the compensation, and that includes Down as well as Up. If Representative Amodei tires of “drama” then this piece of theatricality should draw boos rather than his applause.
However, Representative Amodei is not above a bit of theater himself, like “returning” $155,000 in unspent office funds to the Treasury to help reduce the debt. [EDFP] This is a nice gesture, but that’s all it is. If all 435 members of Congress returned $155,000 the Treasury would garner some $67,425,000. This assumes that all members of Congress have 10% of their office budgets unspent. These numbers, presumably apply to what is known in Washington-Speak as the MRA, or Member’s Representational Allowance.
Representative Amodei’s gesture would look better had not the MRA been declining already.
The MRA is funded in the House “Salaries and Expenses” account in the annual legislative branch appropriations bills. This account has decreased in recent years, from $660.0 million in FY2010, to $573.9 million in FY2012. The total amount of each Member’s 2012 Representational Allowance is 88.92% of the amount authorized in 2010. This is in accordance with a 5% reduction to the 2010 authorization mandated in House Resolution 22, agreed to on January 6, 2011, and a 6.4% reduction to the 2011 authorization as reflected in H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. The 2012 allowances range from $1,270,129 to $1,564,613, with an average of $1,353,205. [CBO pdf]
A person might also be less skeptical if it were know why Rep. Amodei’s office expenses were 10% lower than the estimated MRA?
“The MRA may be used for official expenses including, for example, staff, travel, mail, office equipment, district office rental, stationery, and other office supplies.” [CBO pdf]
Representative Amodei could have been a “job creator” with that unspent 10%. A constituent services assistant earns about $32,000 per year, a constituent services representative about $40,000. A Congressional staff assistant generally earns about $30,000 annually. However, if Representative Amodei isn’t convinced that beefing up constituency services is necessary, then it’s probably a good thing to return the money.
In the mean time, if Representative Amodei is tired of the Drama in D.C. then it might be a good thing if such staff has he has hired would look seriously at the spending trends in the federal government over the past four years. Further, he could be taking a more analytical look at the components of the current level of indebtedness and seek to reduce Defense Department spending (some 40% of all discretionary spending) for non-essential items and to calculate the additional revenue which might accrue from passage of the American Jobs Act?
That wouldn’t be as histrionic, but it might indeed be more helpful.