Democrats stymie GOP efforts to pass immigration measures

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By Walter Alarkon

Republicans failed this week to keep provisions addressing illegal immigration in the Homeland Security spending bill, the latest sign that Democrats want to hold off on that debate until next year.

GOP senators had succeeded in attaching a pair of border security and enforcement provisions to the Senate version of the appropriations bill: one would have completed the 700-mile fence authorized along the Mexican border and the other would have permanently extended a requirement for all federal contractors to verify their employees through a government database.

But Democrats stripped both provisions out in conference. They did extend the verification program by three years along with several expiring visa programs, including one for international medical graduates in rural states and another for religious workers.

“Clearly in our bill, we assumed nothing was permanent,” said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for Homeland Security. “We took some stop-gap measures.”

Lawmakers, Price said, know that immigration won’t be a top priority in coming months, when Congress is looking to pass bills on healthcare, climate change and financial regulations, and address the struggling economy. Price said he believed Congress had the political will to tackle immigration early in 2010 but that it would be hard to pass anything once campaigning for the mid-term elections begins next summer and the presidential race begins in 2011.

Leaving the provisions out will give advocates for a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in they country more leverage to win over centrists once the immigration debate begins.

The most recent immigration overhaul stalled in 2007 when lawmakers couldn’t agree, even though the effort was supported by President George W. Bush, Democratic leaders and centrist Republicans.

The path to citizenship, which was in that bill, ended up being a dealbreaker for conservatives, who view it as amnesty.

Sen. Lindsay Graham (S.C.), one of the Republicans who backed the immigration overhaul, said that the 3-year extensions of current policies were good steps but no substitute for broader reform.

“You may extend a program or two, but you’re never going to solve this problem piecemeal,” Graham said.

He suggested that compromises will be necessary to pass any legislation that realistically deals with the millions in the country illegally.

“I think America is ready to embrace give-and-take politics on this issue only if you can convince them that this will solve the problem,” he said. “That’s our challenge, to convince the American public that the border is more secure.”

Republicans who opposed the last immigration overhaul are again pushing for increased immigration enforcement provisions in the 2010 spending bills.

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) failed to get an amendment attached last week to the Commerce, Justice and Science spending bill that would have barred local law enforcement groups from receiving federal money for community policing programs if they refused to report illegal immigrants they encountered to federal authorities.

Large police departments, including those in New York City and Philadelphia, have long objected to the proposal to end “sanctuary cities”. They say it would have a chilling effect on policing in immigrant communities, with potential witnesses to crimes avoiding police for fear they will be reported.

Senators voted to table the amendment on a 38-61 vote, with every Democrat opposing the measure.

Vitter said that he hasn’t seen any evidence that the gap between supporters and opponents of the comprehensive immigration overhaul has shrunk.

“I think there’s very much still the same divide in Congress,” Vitter told The Hill. “And I think there’s still very much the same support among the American people for getting serious first with enforcement.”

Great articles on The Hill.com

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ACORN Awarded Grant Over Firefighters

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: Acorn | Tags: , , , , |

Nearly $1 million in Homeland Security funding typically earmarked for fire departments has been awarded to ACORN, despite a clear signal from Congress that it intends to cut off federal funding to the embattled group, the Washington Times reported.

The grant to ACORN’s Louisiana office became public on Oct. 2, less than three weeks after the House and Senate voted to cut off ACORN funding after employees were caught on video advising a fake prostitute and pimp on scams.

It was one of only three such grants issued to the state and made up almost 80 percent of the firefighting money earmarked for Louisiana, prompting one of the U.S. senators from the state to demand that the funds be taken back

“I request that you rescind this grant based on a history of abuse of federal dollars by ACORN and their clear lack of expertise in this area,” said Sen. David Vitter, Louisiana Republican.

When asked how the money would be spent, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring issued a statement criticizing the senator, who confessed in the past to having used an escort service.

Click here to continue reading at the Washington Times. 

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50 Examples of Government Waste

Posted on October 7, 2009. Filed under: government | Tags: , , , , , |

Soaring government spending and trillion-dollar budget deficits have brought fiscal responsibility–and reducing government waste–back onto the national agenda. President Obama recently identified 0.004 of 1 percent of the federal budget as wasteful and proposed eliminating this $140 million from his $3.6 trillion fiscal year 2010 budget request. Aiming higher, the President recently proposed partially offsetting a costly new government health entitlement by reducing $622 billion in Medicare and Medicaid “waste and inefficiencies” over the next decade. Taxpayers may wonder why reducing such waste is now merely a bargaining chip for new spending rather than an end in itself.

It is possible to reduce spending and balance the budget. In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, merely returning to the 2008 (pre-recession) spending level of $25,000 per household (adjusted for inflation) would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

Not Easy, but Necessary

Reducing wasteful spending is not easy. Even the most useless programs are passionately supported by the armies of recipients, administrators, and lobbyists that benefit from their existence. Identifying inefficiencies and abuses is much easier than devising a system to fix them. Many lawmakers focus more on bringing home earmarks than on performing the less exciting task of government oversight. Exasperated taxpayers see the cost of government rise with no end in sight.

Of course, eliminating waste cannot balance the budget. Lawmakers must also rein in spending by reforming Social Security and Medicare and by eliminating government activities that are no longer affordable. Yet government waste is the low-hanging fruit that lawmakers must clean up in order to build credibility with the public for larger reforms.

Congress has allowed government employees to spend tax dollars on iPods, jewelry, gambling, exotic dance clubs, and $13,500 steak dinners. If lawmakers cannot even reduce this kind of waste, fraud, and abuse, taxpayers will be less likely to trust them to reform Social Security and Medicare.

Six Categories of Waste

The six categories of wasteful and unnecessary spending are:

  1. Programs that should be devolved to state and local governments;
  2. Programs that could be better performed by the private sector;
  3. Mistargeted programs whose recipients should not be entitled to government benefits;
  4. Outdated and unnecessary programs;
  5. Duplicative programs; and
  6. Inefficiency, mismanagement, and fraud.

The first four categories are generally subjective, and reasonable people can disagree on whether a given federal program falls under their purview. Yet the final two categories–duplication and inefficiency, mismanagement, and fraud–are comparatively easy to identify and oppose. Thus, they are heavily represented in the examples of government waste

Continued on The Heritage Foundation

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