Sandra Fabry

ATR and CFA to Senate: Oppose PAYGO


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010, 5:11 PM PERMALINK

After having rejected the Conrad/Gregg commission amendment, the U.S. Senate will be taking up Sen. Harry Reid's Pay-as-You-Go amendment, yet another flawed idea. ATR and CFA will be rating a vote against the amendment in our annual congressional ratings and have alerted members of the Senate to this fact.

From our vote alert:

Americans have become increasingly concerned with the unsustainable spending spree of the past few months. Consequently, Congressional leaders are looking for ways to cover their tracks as they embark on passing yet another massive increase in our nation’s debt ceiling. The latest gimmick: a statutory “Pay-As-You-Go,” as proposed by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The concept of Sen. Reid’s amendment #3305 may be rhetorically appealing - after all, the concept of paying for something ‘as you go’ sounds like a common sense idea. Ultimately, however, this type statutory PAYGO is nothing more than a fig leaf to provide political cover for tax-and-spend policies, and would in fact set the stage for higher taxes being touted as the only way to avoid across-the-board cuts in entitlement spending.

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The BRAC Alternative to Conrad/Gregg


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010, 6:52 AM PERMALINK

The Washington Times ran a piece this past weekend co-authored by ATR president Grover Norquist and CFA executive director Sandra Fabry discussing the dangers of a Conrad-Gregg-style commission and pointing out the alternative of creating a BRAC-like spending-only commission. From the piece:

If we want to be guided by history, why not look at examples that have actually worked? Congress in 1990 enacted the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act. The BRAC process led to the successful closure of military bases that were underused in the wake of the Cold War, and has consequently helped to streamline military spending. Note that the BRAC commission would not have worked if it had been tasked with either closing unnecessary bases or raising taxes to pay for unnecessary bases. It worked because it had one job: to save taxpayer money by closing unnecessary bases, and that's the model we should follow now. There really is no reason this successful model could not be applied to all of the rapidly expanding federal agencies and programs.

In fact, conservatives on Capitol Hill are currently looking into creating a BRAC-style spending-only commission, which has its historic precedent in the Joint Committee on Reduction of Nonessential Federal Expenditures, the so-called Byrd Committee, dating back to World War II. Such a BRAC-style spending-only commission would be the prudent course of action, as it would not run the risk of being hijacked as a vehicle for a massive tax increase, and even possibly a European-style Value Added Tax (VAT), for which the Conrad-Gregg commission is a stalking horse. To give the commission more clout, and in line with the wishes of taxpayers, its deliberations should be fully transparent.

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ATR and CFA to Senate: Reject Conrad/Gregg, Set up a BRAC-like Spending Only Commission


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Friday, January 22nd, 2010, 10:10 AM PERMALINK

ATR and CFA have called on the U.S. Senate to reject the Conrad/Gregg commission proposal, and are instead calling on Members to set up a BRAC-like spending-only commission, which should operate under the watchful eye of the public. From our letter:

The proposal put forth by Sens. Conrad and Gregg is a bad deal for taxpayers. As written, it will almost certainly lead to a repeat of the debacle at Andrews Air Force Base, the infamous 1990 budget deal, in which taxpayers were promised $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases, but were left higher taxes and higher spending instead.

On the other hand, a commission modeled after the Defense Base Closure Realignment Commission (BRAC) which led to the successful closure of military bases that were underused, would be a prudent mechanism to address our nation’s fiscal problems.  The BRAC process, put in place by Congress in 1990, would not have worked if it had been tasked with either closing unnecessary bases or raising taxes to pay for unnecessary bases. It worked precisely because it had one job: to save taxpayer money by closing unnecessary bases, and that is the model we should follow now.

As you craft such a BRAC-style spending-only commission, we urge you to listen to the American people, who earlier this week spoke loud and clear in the Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate. Scott Brown’s victory was more than a referendum on healthcare, it was a national referendum on the direction of our country. American taxpayers demand less spending, and greater transparency in the way Congress operates.  Consequently, a BRAC-style spending-only commission should be designed to hold its deliberations not behind closed doors, but under the watchful eye of the American people.

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Now is the Time for a BRAC-Style Commission for Government Spending


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Thursday, January 21st, 2010, 3:52 PM PERMALINK

As the U.S. Senate is looking to cast a vote on the Conrad/Gregg bipartisan tax and spending “reform” commission which, as written, will lead to a guaranteed tax increase, an alternative to this bad deal for taxpayers is being worked on. Conservatives on the Hill are looking at establishing a commission that unlike Conrad/Gregg would focus exclusively on spending, and would be modeled after the successful Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC).

The BRAC process, put in place by Congress in 1990, led to the successful closure of military bases that were underused in the wake of the Cold War, and has consequently helped to streamline military spending.  Proponents argue that there is no reason this successful model could not be applied to all of the rapidly expanding federal agencies and programs.

Explains Grover Norquist:

If we’re really serious about addressing our nation’s fiscal challenges, we need to start zooming in on total government spending, and only government spending. A BRAC-style commission would do exactly that, and it’s a proven approach that has worked, unlike the Conrad-Gregg commission proposal, which would only leave us with a repeat of the failed 1990 budget deal.

In the failed 1990 budget deal, Congressional Democrats convinced a number of Republicans to join them in a bipartisan deal promising $2 in spending cuts for every $1 in tax increases.  Every penny of the tax increases ($137 billion from 1991-1995 ) went through. Not only did the Democrats break their promise to cut spending below the CBO baseline—they actually spent $23 billion above CBO’s pre-budget deal spending baseline. 

A BRAC-style spending-only commission as currently under consideration by conservative Members of Congress, on the other hand, has a historic precedent in the World War II so-called “Byrd Committee.” The Joint Committee on Reduction of Non-essential Federal Expenditures was a joint-House-Senate committee set up with the goal of eliminating nonessential expenditures.

Continues Norquist:

We can’t afford to set up a commission the foregone conclusion of which is tax increases, which would only aggravate the situation by draining more money out of the productive private sector of the economy. The BRAC commission would not have worked if it had been tasked with either closing unnecessary bases or raising taxes to pay for unnecessary bases.  It worked because it had one job:  to save taxpayer money by closing unnecessary bases, and that’s the model we should follow now.

Click here for the press release.

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ATR and CFA WILL RATE Vote Against Conrad/Gregg Commission Amendment


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010, 11:16 AM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

This week, the U.S. Senate will be voting on the Conrad/Gregg bipartisan commission we have been warning folks about. ATR and CFA have made it clear to Members of the U.S. Senate that we will be rating a vote against the amendment.

The commission, as envisioned by Sens. Conrad and Gregg would lead to a guaranteed tax increase.

Click here for our "will rate" vote alert.

You can also send your Senators a message telling them to vote "no" by clicking here.

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Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Reject the Conrad/Gregg Commission Proposal


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Tuesday, January 19th, 2010, 2:22 PM PERMALINK

The following is cross-posted at www.fiscalaccountability.org:

The Senate is back in session this week, and will be voting on the Conrad/Gregg bipartisan tax and spending "reform" commission proposal - which may sound good on paper but as written, will lead to a  guaranteed tax increase, and is as such a horrible idea.

It is up to you, the taxpayers, to tell your Senators to stop this bad idea in its tracks.  You can take action by clicking here.


As Vote Nears, Broad Opposition to Conrad/Gregg Commission Bill


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Friday, January 15th, 2010, 2:41 PM PERMALINK

CFA and ATR have joined forces with numerous groups and individuals representing the broad Center-Right coalition in opposition to the Conrad-Gregg bipartisan tax/spending "reform" commission.  While the Hill has reported that the panel proposal put forth by Sens. Conrad and Gregg may lack  the votes needed to pass next week, we feel it is important for lawmakers to know that there is broad opposition to this misguided concept.

From our letter:

On behalf of the millions of taxpayers, small businesses, families, senior citizens and shareholders represented by our respective organizations, we urge you in the strongest terms to oppose and vote against the “Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action Act of 2009,” sponsored by Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), be it in stand-alone form or as an amendment. 

As written, the Conrad/Gregg proposal would lead to a guaranteed tax increase.

The plan put forth by Sens. Conrad and Gregg establishes an eighteen-member task force comprised of ten Democrat and eight Republican Congressmen, Senators, and Administration officials.  A report from the commission would need to gather fourteen votes in order to make an expedited recommendation to both bodies.  The recommendation would only pass with a supermajority vote in each chamber.

Despite the appearance of protection for taxpayers, this commission would guarantee a net tax increase be in its proposal.  Every Democrat on the commission would insist on tax increases to “balance” spending cuts in the recommendation. 

There is no conceivable scenario whereby the commission would issue a report that does not contain tax hikes, and history underscores the dangers of such a bipartisan deal that puts everything on the table:

Click here to read the full letter and view the signatories.


Grover Norquist on Fox Forum: MIT Professor Should Return Taxpayer Dollars


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Thursday, January 14th, 2010, 1:16 PM PERMALINK

Fox Forum has a piece up by Grover Norquist discussing the scandal surrounding MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who has been under contract with the Department of Health and Human Services while touting provisions of the Democrats' healthcare reform proposals in the media. 

From the piece:

While House and Senate health care negotiators meet behind closed doors to put together a final reconciled package (much to the dismay of taxpayers who had been promised that they’d be privy to the negotiations) another transparency scandal has come to light.

MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber, who for months been touting the administration’s health care plan in the media, has been under contract for nearly $300,000 with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) while promoting government-supported policies. Although such a conflict of interest may not be outright illegal, it constitutes a serious problem, and the failure to disclose it is clearly unethical.

Taxpayers should not be on the hook to pay for government propaganda campaigns, and Americans for Tax Reform and its Center for Fiscal Accountability have asked Jonathan Gruber to swiftly return the money he has been awarded under his contract with HHS to taxpayers.

Norquist also takes a look at the media response:

In 2005, Armstrong Williams’s failure to disclose financial relations with the White House -- while championing education policies consistent with the Bush administration’s policies in the media -- created a firestorm that became front page news in the Washington Post and other media outlets. Curiously, this time around, the outcry on Capitol Hill and in the establishment press regarding Gruber’s ethical challenge has been tepid to non-existent so far.

Change you can believe in?

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ATR and CFA Urge Support for "Sunshine Resolution" on Healthcare


Posted by Sandra Fabry on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010, 2:52 PM PERMALINK

In light of the behind-closed-doors healthcare negotiations going on right now, Congressman Vern Buchanan is circulating a discharge petition for his "Sunshine Resolution," a resolution that would express the sense of the House that the negotiations should happen under the public's watchful eye - just like taxpayers have been promised. ATR and CFA support the effort, and are urging members of the House of Representatives to sign onto the discharge petition. From our letter:

We write to urge you to swiftly sign onto Rep. Vern Buchanan’s discharge petition for H.Res. 847, the “Sunshine Resolution” sponsored by Rep. Buchanan, and in doing so force a swift vote on this important matter.

The resolution would express the sense of the House of Representatives"that any conference committee or other meetings held to determine the content of national health care legislation be conducted in public under the watchful eye of the people of the United States."

Taxpayers were made lofty promises with regard to transparency specifically relating to the healthcare debate, but these promises have yet to be implemented.

During a debate in January of 2008 President Obama famously stated:

That’s what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process.

Members of Congressional leadership have echoed this sentiment on numerous occasions and have proclaimed their commitment to open and transparent negotiations on this important subject which stands to directly affect all Americans in their livelihoods.

However, rather than going through a formal conference process to reconcile the different healthcare bills, the President and Congressional leaders have decided to once more to shut out the public and are embarking on an abbreviated behind-closed-doors negotiation.

The American people deserve better, especially from Congressional leaders who once pledged to make Congress the “most honest, most open, and most ethical Congress.” Consequently, we urge you to sign onto Rep. Buchanan’s discharge petition and to support the underlying House Resolution, so that taxpayers will finally be enlisted in this process, as they have been promised.

Clearly, it is the sense of the people that the negotiations be transparent. It should be a no-brainer to express that it is also the sense of the House.


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