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Kaine and Warner Vote To Increase Debt / Add 87,000 IRS Employees / Approve MVP Pipeline

As reported here, the national debt crisis came to a boiling point last week as Congress voted on a bill to allow more deficit spending. According to the Federal Reserve and Biden Administration, the US was nearing its debt ceiling and if not allowed to go deeper into debt than the current $31.8 trillion, the US risked defaulting on its obligations.

When the new GOP-lead House of Representatives came into office in January, conservatives were encouraged they would see serious checks and balances applied to the Biden White House and Democrat-led Senate. Among those was a hope to defund the 87,000 new IRS agents that Democrats had earlier voted to hire. As reported here, the House initially did that, only to see the issue die in the Senate.

Over Memorial Day weekend, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced a surprise compromise bill that largely infuriated conservatives. Instead of raising the debt ceiling, as has been done in years past, this compromise essentially claimed there would be no set debt ceiling at all until January 1, 2025.

That date is significant for several reasons. First, it comes after the next federal elections, so politicians can run for re-election without having a recent debt vote on their record. Second, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) pointed out, January 1 comes just days before the new Congress will be sworn in, so members then will not only have the November elections behind them, but it will be a lame-duck session so members can then freely vote to increase the debt ceiling by trillions more with little or no political price to pay.

Additionally, the compromise lets Congress “claw back” a small part of the budget increase for the IRS. However, most of the increase is allowed to continue. This reportedly will allow the IRS to employ the additional 87,000 IRS employees Biden has been seeking all along.

Supporters of that IRS funding claim it will help the IRS modernize, improve customer service, reduce backlogs and go after super-wealthy tax cheats which will in turn increase government revenues and reduce the deficit.

In contrast, opponents say that no matter how much the federal government takes in, it always ends up spending even more. Moreover, civil libertarians point out how the Obama administration weaponized the IRS to go after conservatives and fear a bigger IRS will have even more resources to go after and intimidate everyday Americans – including those who may disagree with the Biden administration.

For example, journalist Matt Taibbi, who has been a life-long liberal, stated the IRS opened a case against him, not only on a Saturday, but on Christmas Eve 2022, a time when most government employees are not working. Many suspect that was as retaliation for Taibbi’s daring involvement in making public the Twitter files that exposed government-Big Tech collusion to silence First Amendment rights.

Despite the fact that the bill’s budget savings are very modest and it opens the way for trillions of more debt, it was called “The Fiscal Responsibility Act.”

On May 31 the House by a lopsided vote of 314-117 approved the compromise bill. Notably, even though the House has a slender GOP majority and a Republican speaker, the bill passed with more Democrat votes than GOP ones. There were 149 Republicans and 165 Democrats who voted for the bill and 71 Republicans and 46 Democrats who voted against it.

In general, the no votes came from the more conservative wing of the Republican Party and the more liberal wing of the Democrat Party.

Since each House term is only two years, the House essentially gave up much of their budgetary oversight and leverage over the Biden Administration for the next two years.

Virginia has 11 members in the House. Of the five who are Republicans, two who represent districts in Eastern Virginia voted for it while the three who represent Central and Western Virginia voted no. They are Reps. Morgan Griffith (Ninth District), Ben Cline (Sixth District), and Bob Good (Fifth District).

After the compromise passed the House, it went to the Senate next where it also passed by a lopsided 63-36 margin on the evening of June 1. Just as GOP House Speaker McCarthy told Republicans to vote for it, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) likewise told GOP senators to vote yes.

Four Democrats, independent Bernie Sanders, and 31 Republicans voted no. Since this was a budget bill, it required 60 votes to pass, not a simple majority.

Virginia’s two US senators, Democrats Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both voted yes.

As part of The Roanoke Star’s mission to contribute to the diffusion of knowledge and an educated community, the following questions were sent to the offices of Senators Kaine and Warner.

  • Since our current federal debt is about $31.7 trillion, how much debt does the senator think the US can reasonably take on, especially since this figure is now 100% of our GDP, the highest rate since WWII?
  • What does the senator suggest we do in the future to pay this off? Or is paying this off a priority for the senator?
  • Some of the senator’s comments on Twitter indicate defaulting would hurt Virginians. However, what is his statement about how the current debt and even more drives up inflation, and that hurts people too, especially those on fixed incomes?
  • Some of the Senator’s comments on Twitter have referred to the debt negotiations as a “hostage situation.” Is there any concern that use of “hostage” language may be seen as inflammatory, and could potentially cause some off-balance people to resort to violence, as happened at the Northern Virginia congressional office recently?
  • About how much in interest payments in the US government currently paying per year, on our $31.7 trillion debt?

However, no responses from either senator have been received as of publication time.

Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) has been called one of the most vulnerable Democrats going into the 2024 elections. Into the debt bill Manchin snuck language that would approve the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) that has been caught up in legal and environmental challenges for years.

Since environmentalists are a powerful bloc in the Democrat Party, many Democrats decried greenlighting the MVP. Sen. Kaine actually introduced an amendment to strip the MVP approval from the debt deal, because the two issues are unrelated. Both Kaine and Warner voted for the amendment which needed a simple majority to pass, but the proposal to kill the MVP failed 30 to 69.

Therefore, even though Kaine and Warner voted for the failed amendment, they still voted yes on “The Fiscal Responsibility Act” and therefore helped secure the MVP as well.

On Saturday, June 3, President Biden signed the measure into law.

“Equity” is a common buzzword nowadays. In a sense, this compromise bill was “equitable” in that it made many people on both sides of the political spectrum equally furious.

Many conservatives felt stabbed in the back by GOP top brass who pushed the bill with more Democrat than Republican votes. On the debt ceiling issue, once again Lucy promised to hold the football only to snatch it away from Charlie Brown at the last second.

Meanwhile, many liberals and conservationists felt stabbed in the back by Party leaders and the White House. After years of dire warnings about Climate Change, Fossil Fuels, and the need for Green Energy, the Democrats suddenly ran up the white flag of surrender on the MVP and greenlighted a major natural gas project.

Senators Kaine, Manchin, as well as all 435 members of the House of Representatives will be up for re-election in 2024.

– Scott Dreyer

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