03.16.2015 1

A defining week for GOP Congress on Lynch, Medicare

By Rick Manning

White_Flag_EstablishmentThis week threatens to be a defining week for the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has chosen to schedule President Obama’s Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch for a confirmation vote after three Republicans on the Judiciary Committee broke ranks with the majority to confirm her. The nomination will likely come up this week after Senate Democrats stop obstructing another piece of legislation before the Senate.

Lynch in her testimony has embraced a continuation of Department of Justice policies under Holder that have been at the center of the IRS targeting scandal, the “Fast and Furious” gun running scheme and the refusal to enforce the nation’s immigration laws.

Yet, McConnell is likely to bring her nomination to the floor, rewarding President Obama and the Senate Democrats who held the upper house hostage in the recent executive amnesty fight until the majority caved in to their position supporting the President’s abuse of power.

Will Republicans get documents requested out of Justice on “Fast and Furious” or the IRS scandal in exchange for allowing Lynch to become the top law enforcement official in the land?  No. If the Obama Administration had any intention of releasing those documents, they would have done so as a gesture of goodwill and Lynch would be Attorney General already.

Instead, once again, it appears that the Republican majority in the Senate will be giving the President what he wants while drawing few if any concessions in exchange.

If possible, the House side looks even worse.

Speaker John Boehner has been engaged in negotiations with Nancy Pelosi on a series of Medicare changes that are estimated to increase the budget deficit by approximately $130 billion.

To put this into perspective, the budget cuts of 2011 when the Tea Party Congress first arrived were about half that amount. Those cuts were termed draconian, and many of the so-called cuts were merely to the projected rate of growth for the budget rather than actual reductions in spending.

The Medicare bill being negotiated between Boehner and Pelosi may end the annual need to fix the Medicare reimbursement crisis for medical providers.  In 1997, payments were set to grow at the same pace as the economy. But since then, medical costs have far outpaced economic growth, and each subsequent year since its passage, Congress has repealed the 1997 reforms in order to increase the reimbursement costs.

This year however, Speaker Boehner is seeking a bigger deal with Nancy Pelosi.  One that accepts expansion of various social welfare programs at budget-busting elevated levels and pushes some of the costs off onto Medicare recipients who are deemed to be wealthy.

Even with the increase in taxes, which will lead to broader means-testing for Medicare payments in the future, the still unpublished Boehner-Pelosi deal still is estimated to blow an enormous hole in the budget.

The most significant aspect of this deal is that Boehner is proceeding in his direct negotiations with Pelosi who is expected to be able to deliver much of her caucus for a deal, leaving Boehner needing as few as fifty Republican votes to gain passage.

On top of the new center-left majority in the House, Senator Harry Reid is likely to demand even further concessions to release the six Senate Democrats who would be needed to pass the legislation through the Senate.  And this is before President Obama even opens his mouth.

In November, America believed it had elected a conservative House and Senate to provide checks on the Obama Administration.  This upcoming week, the results of that election may effectively be overturned.

Rick Manning is the President of Americans for Limited Government.

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