Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NM Senator Bingaman (D) on Government Shut Down

MeanMesa received the following email -- a monthly update -- from NM Senator Jeff Bingaman.  The explanation of the possible government shut down in April is especially interesting.  

(Note:  All links to "Continue Reading" are left active in this post.)

NM Senator Jeff Bingaman (D)

Newsletter Update from U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman 
March 17, 2011

Congress has recently been debating the federal government’s yearly budget. I have been hearing from many New Mexicans who are concerned about what the budget means for them, their communities, and the federal deficit, as well as many who feel strongly about government spending or taxes. Our current spending habits are unsustainable, and I believe we must all be prepared to make sacrifices in order to steer our country back to solid fiscal footing.

So the question is not whether we have to make cuts and raise revenue to balance the budget, but rather what we cut, and where we draw additional revenue to put the budget back into balance. Finally, I believe we must be careful to chart a long-term plan, rather than make draconian cuts this year that hamper the economic recovery that has only just begun. The annual budget is part of the important conversation we must have in order to improve the fiscal health of our government.

This newsletter is in question-and-answer format in order to address some of the concerns I’ve been hearing from many New Mexicans in recent weeks. I hope you find it helpful.

What is the “CR” I’ve been hearing about Congress passing recently?

One of the main responsibilities of Congress is to pass annual spending bills that fund the federal government. These 12 bills allow federal government agencies to provide for our national defense, health care for veterans, basic science research and development, certain education initiatives, border security, and management of our federal lands, among other things.
When Congress does not pass the 12 bills by October 1, when a new fiscal year begins, the federal government is funded by “continuing resolutions,” also known as CRs. ... [Continue Reading]

What happens if Congress relies on Continuing Resolutions to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year?

Short-term spending bills can have a negative impact on the country. Federal agencies need the stability and reliability of a longer-term funding stream. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said if Congress continues to fund the government under CRs, the Department of Defense “cannot do its job” and that the uncertain spending stream “would damage procurement and research programs … all of which directly impacts readiness.” This is just one example of the potential long-term damage we will do if we force agencies to continue operating through short-term CRs.

What will happen if Congress cannot reach an agreement on spending bills for this fiscal year?

If Congress fails to either pass another CR or fund the federal government for the next five months, there could be a government shutdown. That would mean all “non-essential” federal employees would be ordered to stay home from work, and not be paid for that period of time.

Each federal agency determines which employees are essential in order to maintain a skeleton operation, but the vast majority of individuals employed by the federal government will be furloughed, including Department of Defense and very likely national laboratory employees. Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as a minimum amount of Border Patrol agents are deemed essential and would work (and be paid) on a regular schedule. ... [Continue Reading]

Did you support the House of Representatives’’ proposal to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year?

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill, called H.R. 1, which made deep cuts to the federal government that I believe would have harmed New Mexico and endangered our efforts to keep the nation’s economy moving. I did not support this measure, which was defeated in the Senate last week.

Of additional and particular concern to me was the devastating long-term impact H.R. 1 would have had on our economy, given the cuts to science and energy innovation. For example, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science—recently reauthorized by Congress under the America COMPETES Act—would have experienced a budget cut of $1.1 billion, or 22%, costing taxpayers 4,500 full-time scientists and engineers working toward our country’s energy independence, terminating the Early Career Research program for young faculty, and closing facilities used by 27,000 researchers. These are just the kinds of investments we should be making for our nation’s future.

H.R.1 would have also made our state less safe. … [Continue Reading]

What sorts of responsible spending cuts do you advocate?

Last year, my former Senate colleague, Pete Domenici, co-chaired the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, which came up with a plan to reduce and stabilize the national debt and reform personal and corporate taxes. The task force set forth measures such as freezing national discretionary spending (all spending that is not related to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid), reforming certain programs, and raising additional revenue. While I did not endorse all of the proposals the panel advocated, I concur that a multi-faceted approach must be taken.

I also support many of the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which put very similar recommendations forward as measures that would help balance the budget and improve the long-term fiscal outlook of our country.

I do believe we need to freeze federal spending levels for many federal agencies and even make cuts over the long term in areas such as agricultural subsidies and defense. … [Continue Reading]

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