Tag Archives: budget

Walker proposes new welfare work requirements

Parents who work fewer than 80 hours a month could face food stamp benefit cuts under a proposal Gov. Scott Walker released this week.

Walker’s proposal also would require adults with children between age 6 and 18 to attend job training and search for work five days a week.

The proposals are part of a package called “Wisconsin Works for Everyone” that Walker released during a series of news conferences across the state.

Under current state law, childless adults in the FoodShare program have to meet the work requirement. They lose all food stamp benefits after three months of non-compliance.

Since the law took effect in April 2015, about 64,000 have lost their benefits.

Under Walker’s new proposal, adults with children who don’t meet the program’s work requirements would face a “partial” reduction in benefits. The governor didn’t say how much the loss in benefits could be.

Walker also is calling for a similar work requirement for people receiving housing vouchers from the federal government.

His proposals could require law changes by Congress and waivers from the Trump administration before taking effect. They would also have to pass the Republican-controlled state Legislature.

Walker has been saying that he hopes to work closely with the Trump administration on a variety of initiatives, including on welfare. Walker is expected to seek a third term in 2018 and will be spelling out his priorities for the next two years in the state budget he releases next month.

The governor provided few details of the welfare reform package this week, saying those would come in the budget.

Both of the new work requirements would begin as pilot programs, but Walker didn’t say where. His outline also doesn’t say how much the new requirements would cost.

Walker said he also reduce child-care assistance from the state once people become employed. Once someone becomes employed and hits 200 percent of the poverty line, the person would start contributing $1 copay for child care for every $3 earned.

Walker also is calling on the Trump administration to clear the way for the state to drug test some welfare recipients.

“We fundamentally believe that public assistance should be a trampoline not a hammock,” Walker said.

Robert Kraig, with the progressive advocacy group Wisconsin Citizen Action, criticized Walker’s proposals, saying they will do nothing to help create more family supporting jobs. Kraig said Walker was penalizing low-income residents for their own poverty.

State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said Walker wants to create one set of rules for working families and another set of rules for the wealthy and well-connected.

“For too many hardworking Wisconsin families, Gov. Walker’s race-to-the-bottom economy is not working for them. Republican tax breaks that favor millionaires and corporations are shifting a greater burden onto workers,” Shilling said. “Since Gov. Walker took office in 2011, Wisconsin has fallen below the national average for job creation for 20 consecutive quarters. If Gov. Walker really wants to help workers and grow our middle class, Democrats stand ready with a range of proposals to raise family wages, lower student loan debt, invest in infrastructure and expand child care tax credits. It’s time we reward hard work, not the wealthy and well-connected.”

 

Fed Chair Yellen cites income gap among long-term risks

The U.S. economy is on solid ground now but it faces long-term risks posed by slow productivity growth and the widening income gap, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says.

Speaking recently to a gathering of teachers, Yellen said that she sees no major short-term risks facing the economy.

However, sputtering productivity growth and growing income inequality are serious long-term concerns.

The Fed chair said both challenges are outside the scope of the Federal Reserve to handle with its interest-rate tools, so it is important for other policymakers to address them.

She cited a recent study that included a “very shocking finding” — death rates in the 45-to-54 age group are actually rising.

Yellen said there appeared to be a link between this increase and higher rates of suicide and health issues related to substance abuse.

“The thought is that this is a reflection of greater economic insecurity,” Yellen said. “Obviously these are very disturbing trends.”

To promote the study of economics, Yellen held a national town hall meeting with teachers gathered at the Fed’s headquarters in Washington and in groups listening in at Fed regional banks around the country.

In prepared remarks, she said the study of economics can help students manage their personal finances and also provide them with the skills for analytical and critical thinking needed for success later in life.

“Economics provides knowledge and skills of practical use in college and in the workplace and it also provides skills to plan and make wise financial decisions,” Yellen said.

Asked in the question period how an introductory course on money and finance should be designed, she said she would make a number of changes to how she taught such a course many years ago, incorporating the lessons learned in dealing with the 2008 financial crisis, the worst since the 1930s.

She defended the bolstering of the safety and soundness of the financial system brought on by the Dodd-Frank Act that Congress passed in 2010 to prevent a future crisis. Republicans in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump have said they want to roll back some of the changes to make regulation less burdensome.

In her remarks, Yellen said that economics training can play an important role in improving the capabilities and creativity of the workforce.

“Everyone is engaged in and depends on the economy and nothing is more critical to a healthy and growing economy than the capability, creativity and productiveness of its workforce,” Yellen told the teachers. “Whenever I am asked what policies and initiatives could do the most to spur economic growth and raise living standards, improving education is at the top of my list.”

Yellen said that consumers, whose individual spending decisions account for two-thirds of economic activity, can better weather hard times if they have the proper training.

“Stronger household finances overall can help sustain growth, stabilize the economy and mitigate an economic downturn,” she said.

Yellen also put in a plug for what she called the most important teaching aid the Fed produces, a 182-page book called “The Federal Reserve System: Purposes and Functions.” She urged the teachers to check out the new 10th edition of this book on the Fed’s website.

If Republicans repeal health law, how will they pay for replacement?

Leading Republicans have vowed that even if they repeal most of the Affordable Care Act early in 2017, a replacement will not hurt those currently receiving benefits.

Republicans will seek to ensure that “no one is worse off,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in an interview with a Wisconsin newspaper earlier this month. “The purpose here is to bring relief to people who are suffering from Obamacare so that they can get something better.”

But that may be difficult for one big reason — Republicans have also pledged to repeal the taxes that Democrats used to pay for their health law. Without that funding, Republicans will have far less money to spend on whatever they opt for as a replacement.

“It will be hard to have comparable coverage if they start with less money,” Gail Wilensky, a health economist who ran the Medicare and Medicaid programs under President George H.W. Bush, said in an interview.

“Repealing all the ACA’s taxes as part of repeal and delay only makes a true replacement harder,” wrote Loren Adler and Paul Ginsburg of the Brookings Institution in a white paper out this week. It “would make it much more difficult to achieve a sustainable replacement plan that provides meaningful coverage without increasing deficits.”

The health law’s subsidies to individuals buying insurance and the Medicaid expansion are funded by two big pots of money.

The first is a series of taxes, including levies on individuals with incomes greater than $200,000, health insurers, makers of medical devices, brand-name drugmakers, people who use tanning salons, and employer plans that are so generous they trigger the much-maligned “Cadillac Tax.” Some of those measures have not yet taken effect.

However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in early 2016 that repealing those provisions would reduce taxes by an estimated $1 trillion over the decade from 2016-2025.

The other big pot of money that funds the benefits in the health law comes from reductions in federal spending for Medicare (and to a lesser extent, Medicaid). Those include trims in the scheduled payments to hospitals, insurance companies and other health care providers, as well as increased premiums for higher-income Medicare beneficiaries.

CBO estimated in 2015 that cancelling the cuts would boost federal spending by $879 billion from 2016 to 2025.

The GOP, in the partial repeal bill that passed in January and was vetoed by President Barack Obama, proposed to cancel the tax increases in the health law, as well as the health premium subsidies and Medicaid expansion. But it would have kept the Medicare and Medicaid payment reductions. Because the benefits that would be repealed cost more than the revenue being lost through the repeal of the taxes, the result would have been net savings to the federal government — to the tune of about $317.5 billion over 10 years, said CBO.

But those savings — even if Republicans could find a way to apply them to a new bill — would not be enough to fund the broad expansion of coverage offered under the ACA.

If Republicans follow that playbook again, their plans for replacement could be hampered because they will still lose access to tax revenues. That means they cannot fund equivalent benefits unless they find some other source of revenue.

Some analysts fear those dollars may come from still more cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.

“Medicare and Medicaid face fundamental threats, perhaps the most since they were established in the 1960s,” said Edwin Park of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in a webinar last week.

Republicans in the House, however, have identified one other potential source of funding. “Our plan caps the open-ended tax break on employer-based premiums,” said their proposal, called “A Better Way.”

House Republicans say that would be preferable to the Cadillac Tax in the ACA, which is scheduled to go into effect in 2020 and taxes only the most generous plans.

But health policy analysts say ending the employer tax break could be even more controversial.

Capping the amount of health benefits that workers can accept tax-free “would reduce incentives for employers to continue to offer coverage,” said Georgetown University’s Sabrina Corlette.

James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council, which represents large employers, said they would look on such a proposal as potentially more damaging to the future of employer-provided insurance than the Cadillac Tax, which his group has lobbied hard against.

“This is not a time one wants to disrupt the employer marketplace,” said Klein in an interview. “It seems perplexing to think that if the ACA is going to be repealed, either in large part or altogether, it would be succeeded by a proposal imposing a tax on people who get health coverage from their employer.”

Wilensky said that as an economist, getting rid of the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance would put her “and all the other economists in seventh heaven.” Economists have argued for years that having the tax code favor benefits over cash wages encourages overly generous insurance and overuse of health services.

But at the same time, she added, “I am painfully aware of how unpopular my most favored change would be.”

Republicans will have one other option if and when they try to replace the ACA’s benefits — not paying for them at all, thus adding to the federal deficit.

While that sounds unlikely for a party dedicated to fiscal responsibility, it wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2003 the huge Medicare prescription drug law was passed by a Republican Congress — with no specified funding to pay for the benefits.

Republished under a creative commons license via Kaiser Health News.

What the 114th Congress did and didn’t do

Congress has wrapped up the 114th session, a tumultuous two years marked by the resignation of a House speaker, a fight over a Supreme Court vacancy, bipartisan bills on health care and education and inaction on immigration and criminal justice.

The new Congress will be sworn-in Jan. 3.

What Congress passed or approved

  • A hard-fought budget and debt agreement that provided two years of relief from unpopular automatic budget cuts and extended the government’s borrowing cap through next March.
  • The end of a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.
  • A rescue package for financially strapped Puerto Rico, creating an oversight board to supervise some debt restructuring and negotiate with creditors.
  • A sweeping biomedical bill that would help drug and medical device companies win swifter government approval of their products, boost disease research and drug-abuse spending and revamp federal mental health programs. It would also include money for preventing and treating abuse of addictive drugs like opioids.
  • The first overhaul of the Toxic Substances Control Act since it was approved in 1976.
  • A sweeping rewrite of education law, giving states more power to decide how to use the results of federally mandated math and reading tests in evaluating teachers and schools.
  • An aviation bill that attempts to close gaps in airport security and shorten screening lines.
  • An extension of a federal loan program that provides low-interest money to the neediest college students.
  • The USA Freedom Act, which extends some expiring surveillance provisions of the USA Patriot Act passed after the 9/11 attacks.
  • A bipartisan measure that recasts how Medicare reimburses doctors for treating over 50 million elderly people.
  • Legislation reviving the federal Export-Import Bank, a small federal agency that makes and guarantees loans to help foreign customers buy U.S. goods.
  • $1.1 billion to combat the threat of the Zika virus.
  • Defense legislation rebuffing President Barack Obama’s attempts to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and blocking the Pentagon from starting a new round of military base closings.
  • Legislation authorizing hundreds of water projects, including measures to help Flint, Michigan, rid its water of poisonous lead, and to allow more of California’s limited water resources to flow to Central Valley farmers hurt by the state’s lengthy drought.
  • Expanded law enforcement tools to target sex traffickers.
  • Legislation that would tighten several security requirements of the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without visas.
  • Cybersecurity legislation that would encourage companies to share cyber-threat information with the government.
  • A renewal of health care and disability payments to 9/11 first responders who worked in the toxic ruins of the World Trade Center.
  • A bill allowing families of Sept. 11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts for its alleged backing of the attackers, enacted in Obama’s first veto override.
  • A permanent ban on state and local government Internet taxes.
  • A bill that boosts government suicide prevention efforts for military veterans.
  • Confirmation of Eric Fanning to be Army secretary, making him the first openly gay leader of a U.S. military service.
  • The election of a new House speaker, Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

What Congress did not pass or approve

  • Confirmation of Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.
  • Confirmation of 51 federal judges nominated by Obama, including 44 district court nominees and seven appeals court nominees.
  • Gun control legislation.
  • Bills that would have halted federal payments to Planned Parenthood.
  • Comprehensive or incremental changes to immigration law.
  • $1 trillion worth of agency budget bills that will be kicked into next year, complicated by a familiar battle over the balance between Pentagon spending and domestic programs and a desire by Republicans to get a better deal next year from the Trump administration. Congress passed a four-month extension of current spending instead.
  • A bipartisan criminal justice bill that would have reduced some mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders and increased rehabilitation programs.
  • The first comprehensive energy bill in nearly a decade, which would speed exports of liquefied natural gas and create a new way to budget for wildfires.
  • War powers for Obama to fight Islamic State militants.
  • A bill forcing the president to allow construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. Obama rejected the pipeline in 2015 after seven years of indecision.
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multinational trade agreement involving 11 other Pacific Rim countries. Congress did give the president Trade Promotion Authority, allowing Congress to ratify or reject trade agreements negotiated by the executive branch, but not change or filibuster them.
  • Child nutrition bills that would have scaled back the Obama administration’s standards for healthier school meals.

Wisconsin faces nearly $700 million budget hole

Gov. Scott Walker says the state is on track to face a nearly $700 million budget shortfall by mid-2019.

The estimate from the state Department of Administration is the first to take into account spending requests made by state agencies for the next two years.

The $693 million gap is about 2 percent of what state agencies requested in funding and is far from the $2.2 billion gap that existed at this same point two years ago.

State law requires a balanced budget.

What comes next is the every-two-year push and pull between what state agencies say they need, what the governor proposed they get and what the Legislature ultimately passes.

The drama plays out in stages.

Walker will likely submit his budget, with scaled back funding from what agencies asked for, in February.

The Legislature, where the Republicans will have their largest majorities in decades, will then spend months rewriting the spending plan before passing it likely in June.

Walker can then move things back closer to what he wanted through his powerful veto authority.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald declined to weigh in on the report’s findings. His spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, said Fitzgerald would withhold comment until after he could review Walker’s budget proposal in a couple months.

Other legislative leaders did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The state budget affects nearly every person’s life in the state, including how much gas costs, when hunting season begins and ends, eligibility for state-funded health insurance through Medicaid, and how much income, sales and property should be taxed.

Writing the budget could also be affected by changes coming out of Washington, with Republicans in full control of Congress working with Donald Trump as president.

Their promises to either repeal or replace large portions of the federal health care law and move toward different ways of sending money to the states for such things as Medicaid and highways could alter Wisconsin’s budget picture.

Walker and Republicans both in the state and nationally, have talked about moving toward block grant funding for the states that would give policy makers more flexibility but that Democrats and opponents fear could lead to less money going toward programs like Medicaid that help the poor and disadvantaged.

The state budget estimate for the next two years will be further refined in January when the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau releases likely figures for state tax revenue in the next two years.

The next state budget will run from July 1 through June 30, 2019.

Ask Brianna: Do I really need a budget in my 20s?

Q: I’ve heard I’m supposed to create and stick to a budget, but that seems complicated and time-consuming. Do I really need a budget in my 20s?

A: It is, unequivocally, a good idea to have a plan for how you spend your money. With a budget, you won’t spend your whole paycheck — after you’ve paid rent and bills — on dinners out and Amazon impulse buys. You’ll be more likely to set money aside for future needs, like retirement and emergencies.

Some swear by a certain budgeting app or a painstakingly color-coded Google Sheet. But budgeting doesn’t have to mean tracking every expense and cutting out the little things that make you happy. Even financial advisers understand that can be restrictive and hard to maintain.

“I always equate the word ‘budget’ to ‘diet,” says Mindy Crary, a financial coach at Creative Money in Seattle, Washington.

Instead, think about budgeting as a way to set goals for the things you want to do in the future, a way to put your money to work. One approach: Get a handle on the expenses you can’t avoid; come up with a dollar amount you want to save every month; then spend the rest as you please. Here’s what that looks like in three easy steps.

 

STEP 1: LOWER YOUR FIXED COSTS

“When thinking about budgets, people usually default to thinking about how to cut their everyday consumption,” says Hui-chin Chen, a financial planner and co-owner of Pavlov Financial Planning in Arlington, Virginia.

But buying a cup of coffee every day will not bankrupt you. Living in an apartment, driving a car or making a student loan payment you can’t afford is more problematic.

Some expenses are easier to trim than others. Federal student loans come with income-driven repayment plans that will let you pay a certain percentage of your income each month to keep your bill affordable. Stick with roommates, and hold off on moving into a luxury apartment building if that would increase your housing costs to 30 percent or more of your income.

 

STEP 2: FOCUS ON SAVING

You don’t have to account for every penny you shell out. Another way to make sure you don’t overspend is to come up with a savings goal first, then back your way into a budget that allows you to hit that goal, Crary says.

Some of your savings should go to an emergency fund until you’ve got at least $500 put away for unexpected expenses, such as medical costs or car repairs. Some must go toward retirement; contribute at least enough to meet the employer match on your 401(k), if one is offered, or start to beef up your IRA. The rest can go to a savings account that you’ll use to hit other goals like travel or a down payment on a house. The amount you have left over is often called “disposable income,” or what you can spend on nonessential expenses, like shopping and entertainment.

“As a starting point, if you have never really thought about it, setting up an automatic deduction from checking into savings is a good way to test out your budget and lifestyle,” Chen says.

 

STEP 3: RE-EVALUATE

If you can’t save any money, it may be that you simply can’t live on the amount you earn. Consider adding to your income by hitting the LinkedIn circuit in search of a higher-paying job, or look into temporary side gigs in the meantime.

You can also take a look at last month’s bank or credit card statements and consider making changes if there’s a particular area of spending that is really out of whack. The changes can be behavioral rather than based on dollar amounts, Crary says: If you went out to eat 15 times, try to go out seven times next month instead.

No month of spending will be exactly the same. You can’t always plan ahead for a friend’s birthday brunch or a stolen bicycle tire. Focus on maintaining balance instead. Aim to take the stress out of budgeting, and you might find you like knowing where your money goes after all.

 

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Brianna McGurran is a staff writer at NerdWallet. Email: bmcgurran(at)nerdwallet.com. Twitter: (at)briannamcscribe.

 

On the Web

NerdWallet: Find the best student loan repayment plan for you

http://nerd.me/4_student_loans

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Money goals worksheet

http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201406_cfpb_new-money-goal-worksheet-pdf6153.pdf

ask-briana

Congress’ grade so far? Incomplete at best

Congress is racing toward its summer break, but like a procrastinating college kid it has tons of work to catch up on to avoid a report card laden with grades of incomplete or even worse.

An abbreviated work period this month produced mixed results at best — Congress exited Washington without acting on funding the battle against the Zika virus, for starters — and a full plate awaits when lawmakers return next month from a weeklong Memorial Day recess for a six-week sprint to political convention season and the traditional August vacation.

Some signs are promising; others, not so much.

ZIKA

President Barack Obama’s $1.9 billion request to battle the Zika virus has been sitting before Congress for more than three months, but in only the past few weeks have GOP leaders shown any sense of urgency about passing legislation in response. Zika can cause grave birth defects and be spread by certain mosquitoes.

The House and Senate have passed competing measures, with the Senate approving a $1.1 billion bipartisan bill that closely tracks Obama’s request, at least if one counts the more than $500 million Obama has diverted from unspent Ebola funding toward the total. The House measure would provide $622 million and cuts further into Ebola accounts to help pay for it.

A logical outcome would be to pass a measure relatively close to the Senate’s level on funding and include offsetting spending cuts as demanded by the House. But politics have infused the Zika measure, which isn’t helping.

Negotiators have four weeks to reach agreement when they return if they are to meet a July deadline.

PUERTO RICO

Legislation to ease Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has cleared one hurdle with easy approval in a House committee. The legislation now heads to the House floor, where Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will try to unite his fractious caucus behind the bill. The bill to create a financial control board and restructure some of the U.S. territory’s $70 billion debt has support from House Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as the Obama administration. Some bondholders are lobbying against it, though, saying it gives the board too much power to decide what payments will be a priority.

Senate prospects are unclear. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested the Senate may take up the House bill once it passes that chamber. But some Senate Democrats have complained that the board would take away too much authority from the Puerto Rican government under the House legislation.

When Congress returns in June, lawmakers will have just four weeks to act before Puerto Rico faces its largest debt payment of $2 billion on July 1.

BUDGET-SPENDING

Republicans have given up on trying to pass a broad, if nonbinding, budget plan, instead focusing on passing spending bills for the annual operations of the government. That’s not going so well either, at least in the House.

There, the issue of gay rights has blown up the appropriations process, scuttling a normally routine energy and water projects on Thursday. Whether it can be revived is unclear, but signs point to the typical omnibus spending package wrapping together most of the spending bills during December’s lame-duck session.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has made it a priority to try to revive the appropriations process in that chamber. With Democratic help it’s going reasonably well, and three of the 12 bills have already passed. But even with senators on their best behavior, the process can be halting.

DEFENSE

Democrats blocked the Senate from taking up the annual defense policy legislation before the recess, saying they needed more time to study the more than 1,600-page bill. The postponement incensed Senate Republicans. They say Minority Leader Harry Reid — who faced comparable stalling tactics from McConnell for years when Democrats controlled the chamber — was more interested in depriving Republicans of an election-year accomplishment before Memorial Day.

The defense policy bill authorizes military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The legislative package also prohibits the administration from transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States, requires women to register for a potential military draft, and proposes numerous changes to the military health system to improve the quality of care.

The companion House measure effectively adds $18 billion to core Pentagon programs through a proposed shift of war funding to other Pentagon accounts. The Senate measure doesn’t, and the difference is likely to delay a final resolution.

OPIOIDS

House-Senate bargainers hope to send Obama compromise legislation by July establishing grants and taking other steps to reinforce government efforts against drug abuse.

CHEMICAL REGULATION

Also left undone is a bipartisan measure that is the first major update of the nation’s chief chemical safety law in 40 years. It would for the first time regulate tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

Supporters say the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and ensure that chemicals and products used by Americans every day are safer.

The House overwhelmingly approved the bill on Tuesday, but the measure ran into a snag in the Senate when Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., objected to its passage and said he’d not had time to read it.

SUPREME COURT

With Republican leaders continuing to resist Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, no Senate action on filling that slot is expected until after the November elections — at the earliest.

Republicans miss budget deadline, embarrassing Ryan

House Republicans departed Washington on Friday having missed a deadline to pass their long-stalled budget and without appearing to revive it despite the embarrassment for the party and its new House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Continuing divisions between tea party lawmakers and House GOP leaders are responsible for the failure of the budget, which has budget cuts that Democrats describe as disastrous.

“The Ryan budget that has been proposed is the most devastating road-to-ruin budget in history,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “And even that wasn’t brutal enough for the radical forces that have taken control and dominate the House Republican caucus.”

The budget failure, while troubling for Ryan, R-Wis., isn’t stopping the once-dominant House and Senate Appropriations committees from commencing work on spending bills. But trouble on the House floor awaits, where only a handful of the measures seem sure to advance.

The budget fight has its roots in last year’s bipartisan budget deal with President Barack Obama, which required Democratic votes to pass and added more than $100 billion over two years to agency coffers hit by automatic budget curbs known in Washington-speak as sequestration.

Many conservatives opposed the additional spending and are refusing to vote for a leadership-driven budget plan that endorses it. The GOP fiscal blueprint also recommends record budget cuts to meet its target of a balanced budget within 10 years, which means Democrats won’t vote for it even though it endorses higher agency budgets for the upcoming fiscal year.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said on Friday he’s holding out hope for getting the budget to the floor, but didn’t seem very confident. Ryan on Thursday appeared all but ready to give up on this year’s budget drive.

“Part of the problem is we’re a victim of the success of the fact that we have appropriation numbers already in law,” Ryan explained. “We already have an agreement in law and that has taken pressure off of the budget situation.”

Failing to pass a budget has few real-world consequences for lawmakers, and GOP leaders in both the House and Senate are instead moving ahead with the annual spending bills that determine agency operating budgets. That process is just getting underway, and it could fall prey to a similar set of House fights. Democrats are likely to oppose many of the bills if they’re laced with conservative policies, while conservatives have problems with spending levels.

House GOP leaders continue to schedule mainly low-profile legislation that minimizes the chances of party unrest. They did, however, send a bill to Obama that would give drug makers greater incentives to develop vaccines or medicines to protect people from Zika.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is promising to devote three months of Senate floor time to try to revive the broken appropriations process that’s supposed to deliver 12 separate spending bills to the president but for years produced a take-it-or-leave-it bundle.

The Senate is slated to take up a $38 billion measure funding energy programs, the nuclear arsenal and water development projects. The once-dominant Appropriations Committee has faded in recent years but got off to a promising start on Thursday with unanimous approval of the energy and water measure and an $83 billion measure funding veterans programs and military construction projects.

 

Speaker Ryan set to blow budget deadline

House Republicans are about to blow through a statutory deadline to pass an annual budget, a major embarrassment for Speaker Paul Ryan that raises questions about his stewardship of the House despite his high profile on the national stage.

A day after rampant speculation forced him to call a news conference to deny he wants to run for president this year, Ryan insisted Wednesday that he hadn’t given up on the House’s obligation to pass its annual spending blueprint, even though the Friday deadline looks impossible to meet.

“You know me, I want to pass a budget,” said the Wisconsin Republican, his party’s 2012 vice presidential nominee. “I think we should pass a budget and we’re still talking with our members on how we can get that done.”

Yet success looks unlikely as the same tea party lawmakers who ousted Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, rebel against a bipartisan spending deal Boehner cut with President Barack Obama last fall before leaving office. “It’s better to do no budget this year than a bad budget,” Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint said in an interview, echoing the sentiments of many conservatives in the House. Boehner himself, despite his troubles with the hard-liners in his caucus, met the budget deadline each of the five years of his speakership.

The situation has left numerous House Republicans deeply frustrated. Yet Ryan himself has managed to remain popular, as all sides continue to profess admiration for his communication skills and his patient attempts to involve lawmakers in his deliberations.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota said of the imminent budget failure. He praised Ryan’s style, but added: “It’s admirable in some ways but not producing results.”

Ryan himself chaired the House Budget Committee for much of Boehner’s speakership and crafted the “Ryan Budget” that would have transformed Medicare into a voucher program for millions. It never became law, but he did cut a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House that enhanced his profile as a charismatic, policy-focused conservative.

Not falling into line

Ryan has repeatedly lambasted Democrats when they didn’t get budgets done while in congressional control, even backing a law that would have cut off lawmakers’ paychecks if they failed to pass a budget.

Yet the reality is that failing to pass a budget has few real-world consequences for lawmakers, and GOP leaders in both the House and Senate are instead moving ahead with the annual spending bills that determine agency operating budgets.

That process is just getting underway, though it too could fall prey to divisions in the House. Democrats are likely to oppose many of the bills if they’re laced with conservative policy “riders,” while conservatives have problems with spending levels.

The budget is not the only area where House Republicans are faltering under Ryan’s leadership. Very little significant legislation has been moving, and negotiations over a bill to address Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis have proceeded in fits and starts. It’s unclear whether a just-released Puerto Rico bill backed by Ryan will attract the needed support.

But Ryan has aimed his sights higher than the nitty-gritty of legislating, putting committees to work on developing policies on issues from health care to national security to poverty that can serve as a “governing agenda” for the GOP. He’s pledged to release the proposals ahead of the GOP convention in July, giving his Republicans a program to run on should they want to distance themselves from the eventual GOP nominee.

Ryan is helping ensure that they have the campaign cash to get elected. He raised $17.2 million in the first three months of 2016 and transferred more than $11 million to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Ryan made clear Tuesday that he himself will not be the GOP nominee, hastily calling a news conference to try to shut down speculation that he could emerge as his party’s standard-bearer if front-runner Donald Trump or the other candidates — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — flame out at a contested convention. Party leaders fear both Trump and top challenger Cruz could spell certain defeat in November, costing the GOP not only the White House but control of the Senate too.

“Let me say again, I’m not going to be our party’s nominee,” Ryan said. “But I’ll also be clear about something else: not running does not mean I’m going to disappear.”

On the budget, Boehner confronted a comparable situation in 2014 to where Ryan is now. It was the second year of a budget deal with Obama — negotiated by Ryan — and some conservatives were reluctant to go along with higher agency budget levels. Boehner was working with a smaller GOP majority but had an advantage since conservatives were relatively sheepish after the 2013 government shutdown that they sparked.

Now, in a hyper-polarized presidential election year — and after toppling Boehner last year — conservatives aren’t falling into line.

Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Erie, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

 

Ryan gives definite ‘no’ to presidential run

House Speaker Paul Ryan today made his most definitive statement to date about whether he’d accept the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in the event of a brokered convention: “Count me out,” he said.

Ryan, who represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, has been the focus of intense speculation as a possible solution to his party’s dilemma over who to head its ballot in November. It now appears certain that none of the three candidates remaining in the primary race will have enough delegates to secure the nomination going into the party’s July convention in Cleveland. Frontrunner Donald Trump is viewed unfavorably by 70 percent of Americans, and his closest rival Sen. Ted Cruz is despised by the Republican establishment.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who’s in third place, lacks a broad base of support.

But Ryan, an establishment favorite who became nationally known when he ran for vice president on Mitt Romney’s ticket in 2012, is viewed as a strong compromise candidate.

Although Ryan has been persistent in saying that he would not be drafted into the race, many observers have been speculated that he might change his mind. Ryan said he would not accept the position of Speaker of the House when John Boehner stepped down, but he later relented and took the job.

Ryan, however, said today that he was not changing his mind this time, insisting that it would be wrong to select a standard bearer from outsid the group of candidates who pursued the GOP nomination.

“So let me speak directly to the delegates on this: If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe you should only choose a person who actually participated in the primary. Count me out,” Ryan said. “I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee — to be the president — you should actually run for it. I chose not to. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period.”

Ryan said his hands were full trying to create a budget that would be accepted by both the tea party extremists in his party and Democrats. He put together four budgets as chairman of the Budget Committee from 2011–2014, but he’s falling short in the role of speaker.

Rules require the House to produce a budget by April 15. But now the tea party is revolting over his approval of last year’s bipartisan deal with President Obama. The primary goal of the Republican right is to thwart anything that Obama wants.

“We have too much work to do in the House to allow this speculation to swirl or have my motivations questioned,” said Ryan, who was the 2012 vice presidential nominee. “Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept, the Republican nomination.”