Tag Archives: Congress

Congress micromanages rocket development at ULA

Corrupt Congress: Even though ULA favors Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine for its Vulcan rocket, various elected officials in Alabama are pushing the company to use Aeroject Rocketdyne’s AR-4 engine instead.

At the end of February, two US representatives, Mike Rogers of Alabama [Republican] and Mac Thornberry of Texas [Republican], decided to push a little harder. On February 28, they sent a letter to Lisa Disbrow, the acting secretary of the US Air Force, and James MacStravic, who is performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics. In addition to reiterating a desire that ULA continue to fly a second rocket, the Delta IV Heavy, the letter urges the Pentagon officials to be skeptical about the BE-4 engine.

“The United States Government (USG) must have a hands-on, decision-making role… in any decision made by United Launch Alliance to down-select engines on its proposed Vulcan space launch system, especially where one of the technologies is unproven at the required size and power,” the letter states. “If ULA plans on requesting hundreds of millions of dollars from the USG for development of its launch vehicle and associated infrastructure, then it is not only appropriate but required that the USG have a significant role in the decision-making concerning the vehicle.” The letter then goes on to say the Air Force should not give any additional funding to ULA, other than for current launch vehicles, until the company provides “full access, oversight of, and approval rights over decision-making” in its choice of contractors for the engines on Vulcan.

The article also mentions porkmaster Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who also favors Aerojet Rocketdyne because they say they will build it in Alabama. Note also that these elected officials are not only trying to pick the winner in the private competition between these two rocket engines, they also want to force ULA to keep using the Delta rocket, even though it is very expensive and not competitive with the newer rockets being developed by other companies. And their only reason for doing so is because they provide jobs for their districts.

This one story illustrates perfectly the corruption that permeates both parties in Congress. While it is more likely that Democrats will play this pork game, there are plenty of corrupt Republicans who play it as well. These petty dictators all think they have the right to interfere in the private efforts of Americans, whether it involves building a new rocket or buying health insurance. And all we get from this is a poorer nation and a bankrupt federal government.

House approves NASA authorization

The NASA authorization act that the Senate passed on February 21 was approved by the House today.

As I discussed in reviewing the act on February 21, the bill’s overall focus is to shift NASA from running “a space program” to facilitating the success of competing private enterprise. It also eliminates all of NASA’s climate budget so that the money can be spent instead on space exploration.

Trump is expected to sign it. Then will come the hard work, actually writing the budget for NASA.

Aerojet Rocketdyne sets record testing new rocket engine

The competition heats up: In recent static fire tests of its new AR-1 rocket engine Aerojet Rocketdyne set a record for the highest chamber pressure for any American engine using oxygen and kerosene.

They hope to convince ULA to use this engine in its Atlas 5 rocket to replace the Russian engine they presently use. At the moment, though ULA has made no commitment, it appears however that the company is favoring Blue Origin’s engine instead. That Congress favors Aerojet Rocketdyne is their one ace in the hole, since Congress controls the purse strings.

Senate passes NASA budget that slashes environment spending

While keeping NASA’s overall budget the same, the Senate has passed a NASA budget bill that will slash NASA’s environmental spending and pass the money to other programs within the agency.

The budget zeros out all budget items dedicated to climate research. The budget also outlines a number of important space policy approaches that are now endorsed by Congress:

  • Commercial crew and cargo are fully supported
  • Privatizing ISS is encouraged
  • Congress reaffirms its support of SLS and Orion
  • NASA is asked to prep Orion for ISS flights, using other rockets
  • NASA is tasked to create a roadmap for reaching Mars
  • The Mars roadmap is not restricted to using SLS or Orion
  • An alternative to Obama’s asteroid redirect mission is requested
  • Funding is provided to pay for astronaut health needs
  • NASA science is to focus on astronomy, planets, exoplanets, asteroids, aviation, and space technology

It is expected that the House will also pass the bill, and that Trump will sign it.

I also expect that most of NASA’s climate work will now be shifted to NOAA, under new management. Thus, the climate budgets are adjusted, and the people in charge are changed. A nice way to drain the swamp.

Republican leaders propose Obamacare revisions

Cowards: The House Republican leadership today put forth a series of proposals for revisingnot repealing — Obamacare.

A packet distributed to lawmakers at the meeting and obtained by The Hill says the GOP bill will include tax credits, an expansion of health savings accounts, money for high risk pools to care for the sick and a major restructuring of Medicaid to cap federal payments.

No dollar figures for any of the Republican proposals have been presented yet. Lawmakers said that is because the Congressional Budget Office is still analyzing the plan.

Nowhere do these proposals deal with repealing Obamacare’s ban on low-cost catastrophic health insurance plans. In fact, these proposal do little to repeal any of Obamacare’s worst regulations, which make the entire concept of health insurance unsustainable. Instead, these proposals nibble at the edges of the law, and will only serve to make things worse. For example, the proposals will repeal all the taxes that pay for Obamacare’s costs, will eliminate the mandates that force people to buy insurance, but will do nothing to relieve insurance companies from the law’s requirements, such as forcing them to accept every applicant, no matter how sick. Such a crazy arrangement will guarantee that no one will buy health insurance until they need it, making it entirely unprofitable.

The whole mess is simply too complicated. The time has come to do what Alexander the Great did: rather than try to untie the Gordian knot, he simply took a sword and cut it. Congress should do the same to Obamacare. Only then will the health insurance industry have a chance of recovery.

Two congressmen propose naming SLS for astronaut Gene Cernan

Two congressman yesterday introduced legislation that would rename SLS after Eugene Cernan, the last Apollo astronaut to walk on the Moon.

I don’t think anyone would argue with this. First, SLS is a terrible name for the rocket. Second, Cernan deserves the recognition.

At the same time, I suspect this is happening as part of an overall push within the Washington community to sell SLS to Trump and his administration. This proposal, as well as the recent news stories proposing SLS/Orion Moon missions and putting astronauts on SLS’s first flight, all point to a lobbying effort inside NASA, Congress, and the big space community to save SLS, which when compared to the successes and achievements of commercial space since 2010 appears an abject failure.

That comparison is at the heart of my policy paper, Capitalism in Space, which will hit the newstands next week. It makes it very clear how much a failure SLS/Orion has been, and how embarrassing that failure stands when compared to commercial space.

India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing

The competition heats up: India preparing rover for 2018 Moon landing.

Isro’s Satellite Applications Centre Director, M. Annadurai, revealed the tentative launch schedule while speaking to the press at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Shar, Sriharikota on Wednesday. He said a Lander and a six-wheeled Rover were being prepped to go with the Chandrayaan-II mission. The chief scientist added that a launch is likely to take place in the first quarter of 2018. According to Dr P.V. Venkita Krishnan, the director of the Isro Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, engineers were currently testing soft-landing engines.

India’s launch of a record 104 satellites on a single rocket has pumped up the Indian press, as there were almost 20 stories on space and that launch in their press today, almost all favorable.

This article however is from the U.S., and takes a look at the ineffective American space policy that supposedly forbids American companies from launching on Indian rockets.

The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Agreement of 2005 prohibits the launch of commercial satellites on the Indian vehicle. The reasoning is that struggling U.S. commercial launch providers needed time to establish themselves in the market and would be wiped out by India’s PSLV, which is developed by the Indian Space Organization.

Since 2015, commercial satellite owners have successfully obtained waivers to the policy.

The article notes India’s competitive prices, as well as the overall state of the smallsat industry and its dependence on bigger rockets as secondary payloads to get into space. India’s rockets, funded and subsidized by the government but also built to be inexpensive so as to attract customers, is clearly positioned to effectively compete with SpaceX, who until now charged the least.

What will our Congress do? My preference would be for them to repeal this part of the 2005 law so that American satellite companies can fly on whoever they wish. That would increase competition but it would also likely invigorate the overall launch industry because it would increase the satellite customer base for those rockets and thus create more business for everyone.

Sadly, I suspect that Congress will instead demand that the waivers to the law cease, and will thus block the use if Indian satellites by American companies. The short-sightedness of our politicians never ceases to surprise me.

Freedom Caucus to push for swift Obamacare repeal

In a direct clash with the Republican leadership that increasingly wants to slow down a repeal of Obamacare, the conservative House tea party group dubbed the Freedom Caucus announced today that they will push for an immediate repeal of the law.

The House Republican leadership is made up of a bunch of cowards. They fear the polls. They fear the press. They fear the astroturf demonstrations paid for by the left. They fear everything. And they believe in nothing, because if they did believe in freedom and restricting the power of government they would move quickly to repeal Obamacare and let the chips of freedom fall where they may.

Trump to the Moon!

Two stories in the past two days strongly suggest that the Trump administration is planning a two-pronged space policy approach, with the long-term goal of shifting most of space to private operations.

From the first link:

The more ambitious administration vision could include new moon landings that “see private American astronauts, on private space ships, circling the Moon by 2020; and private lunar landers staking out de facto ‘property rights’ for American on the Moon, by 2020 as well,” according to a summary of an “agency action plan” that the transition drew up for NASA late last month. Such missions would be selected through an “internal competition” between what the summary calls Old Space, or NASA’s traditional contractors, and New Space characterized by SpaceX and Blue Origin. But the summary also suggests a strong predilection toward New Space. “We have to be seen giving ‘Old Space’ a fair and balanced shot at proving they are better and cheaper than commercial,” it says.

Another thrust of the new space effort would be to privatize low-Earth orbit, where most satellites and the International Space Station operate — or a “seamless low-risk transition from government-owned and operated stations to privately-owned and operated stations.” “This may be the biggest and most public privatization effort America has ever conducted,” it says.

Essentially, they are going to do exactly what I suggested back in late December, give SLS/Orion a short-term realistic goal of going to the Moon. This is what it was originally designed for, and it is the only technology presently available that has even the slightest chance of meeting the three year deadline outlined above. More important, this will give Congress something in the negotiations, as SLS/Orion has been Congress’s baby — pushed and funded by Congress over the objections of the previous administration and without a clear mission to go anywhere — in order to keep the money stream flowing to the big “Old Space” companies like Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Obama tried to simply cancel its predecessor, Constellation, and that did not sit well with Congress. Trump however understands negotiation and how to play the game. In order to eventually eliminate SLS Trump is going to provide Congress some short term excitement and some viable long term alternatives.

The long term alternatives will be private enterprise. Even as they send SLS/Orion on its grand finale to the Moon, the Trump administration will accelerate the restructuring of NASA to make the agency less of a design and construction operation and more a mere customer of private space. All non-military Earth orbital operations will be shifted to the private sector over time, so that once SLS/Orion has achieved that goal of completing a lunar mission there will be a strong enough private space sector to replace it, allowing Congress to let it go the way of Apollo and the space shuttle.

Congress moves to overturn numerous Obama regulations

Using a 1990s law that allows Congress to overturn regulations with simple majorities, Congress has this week passed a slew of bills doing exactly that.

The article provides a detailed list. What is significant here is that this is only the first week. With a Republican Congress and a Republican President, there is little to prevent the passage of numerous such bills in the coming months. As much as conservatives have fretted in recent years about the cowardice of the Republican leadership, now that they have some control over the situation it appears they are moving to do something concrete and conservative with that control.

Hang on. It is going to be an interesting next few years.

Congressional report worries over Falcon 9 engine cracks

A forthcoming congressional report, reported by the Wall Street Journal, reveals that NASA is concerned about cracks that occur in the turbopumps of SpaceX’s Merlin engines.

The newspaper says the report has found a “pattern of problems” with the turbine blades within the turbopumps, which deliver rocket fuel into the combustion chamber of the Merlin rocket engine. Some of the components used in the turbopumps are prone to cracks, the government investigators say, and may require a redesign before NASA allows the Falcon 9 booster to be used for crewed flights. NASA has been briefed on the report’s findings, and the agency’s acting administrator, Robert Lightfoot, told the newspaper that he thinks “we know how to fix them.”

A spokesman for SpaceX, John Taylor, said the company already has a plan in place to fix the potential cracking issue. “We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks,” Taylor said. “However, we are modifying the design to avoid them altogether. This will be part of the final design iteration on Falcon 9.” This final variant of the Falcon 9 booster, named Block 5, is being designed for optimal safety and easier return for potential reuse. According to company founder Elon Musk, it could fly by the end of this year.

Here’s the real scoop: SpaceX initially built the engines to fly once, just as every single rocket company has done in the entire history of space, excluding the space shuttle. Under these conditions, the cracks could be considered an acceptable issue, which is what they mean when they say “We have qualified our engines to be robust to turbine wheel cracks.” My guess is that they tested the engines, found that the cracks were not a significant problem for a single flight, especially because the Falcon 9 rocket uses nine Merlin engines on the first stage and thus has some redundancy should one fail. And based on SpaceX’s flight record — no launch failures due to failed engines — that conclusion seems reasonable.

SpaceX is now redesigning to eliminate the cracks, however, because such cracks are not acceptable for engines that will fly multiple times on reused first stages.

Thus, this story, as leaked, appears to me to be a hit job by powers in Congress who dislike the competition that SpaceX poses to big government rockets like SLS. SLS will use salvaged shuttle engines, designed initially for many reuses, and thus are superior in this manner to SpaceX’s Merlin engines. The shuttle engines however were also built by the government, which didn’t care very much about the cost of development, or making any profits. The comparison thus is somewhat bogus. Moreover, I suspect these cracks were only discovered after SpaceX successfully landed and recovered some first stages. To put them on trial in the press now for doing good engineering research and redevelopment seems somewhat inappropriate.

The report itself has not yet been released, though it does also note lingering issues with the parachutes being developed for Boeing’s Starliner capsule.

Overall, both companies are struggling to start their operational flights by 2019. For Congress or NASA to try to put more roadblocks up in that development seems most counterproductive.

Major budget cuts and agency eliminations coming from Trump?

It appears that the first budget Trump administration is putting together will include some dramatic budget cuts and the outright elimination of many government agencies, and are based on numerous recommendations made by a variety of conservative policy proposals.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years. The proposed cuts hew closely to a blueprint published last year by the conservative Heritage Foundation, a think tank that has helped staff the Trump transition. Similar proposals have in the past won support from Republicans in the House and Senate, who believe they have an opportunity to truly tackle spending after years of warnings about the rising debt. Many of the specific cuts were included in the 2017 budget adopted by the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus that represents a majority of House Republicans. The RSC budget plan would reduce federal spending by $8.6 trillion over the next decade.

Read the article. I can’t quote it all here, but the cuts would dramatically weaken the Washington leftwing community’s ability to push its agenda. More important, the generally conservative make-up of Congress means that, for the first time in decades there is a real chance these cuts will happen.

Head of ethics office Obama supporter

Surprise, surprise! The head of the Government Ethics Office that the Republicans tried to defang two weeks ago donated money to Obama.

It appears by his actions since the Republicans were forced to back off that their concerns were completely justified. He has since tried to help the Democrats by pushing to have hearings for Trump’s nominees slowed. In addition, he has been harshly attacking Trump’s plans to separate himself from his businesses, in great contrast to his strong support of Clinton when ethics questions were raised about her paid speeches to foreign governments.

There is more at the link. It is quite clear that the Republicans in the House knew this guy was a Democratic plant, and wanted to get him out. They just handled it badly, and are still stuck with him. Fortunately, it appears that they are not only mostly ignoring him, his documented biases are now working against him. Expect them to act to shut this ethics office down not too far into the future.

Senate passes Obamacare partial repeal

In a party line vote last night, the Senate passed an Obamacare repeal bill that ends the law’s tax and financial components.

It must be emphasized that the failure to repeal the law’s regulations is entirely due to the unwillingness of any Democrats to cross party lines, end the filibuster, and allow a vote. The result: we are still stuck with some of the most egregious components of the law. In 2018 many of those same Democrats will be faced with difficult re-elections. It will be time to remove them.

I should add that, just like Obamacare itself, the manner in which this repeal is being written and approved actually appears to be unconstitutional. It is tax policy and it is originating in the Senate. The Constitution however clearly states “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” (Article 1, Section 7) The same section also states that the Senate can propose, so I suppose this is how they get around this issue.

GOP schedules six confirmation hearings for one day

The Senate Republican leadership has scheduled six cabinet appointee hearings all for one day, next Wednesday, despite Democratic demands that they not do this.

Interestingly, the Democrats did exactly the same thing in 2009, when they controlled Congress. And they did it for probably the same reason the Republicans are doing it now, to hamper the opposition’s ability to obstruct the appointment process. The Democrats are of course going to squeal about this. If the Republicans do not back down, it will be a sign that they might be growing a spine and will stand up to them.

Obamacare: The Republican strategy of partial repeal vs full repeal

This National Review editorial today describes very succinctly the strategy being used by the Republican leadership in its effort to repeal Obamacare.

Senate Republicans want to pass a bill that repeals the taxes and spending in Obamacare, but not its regulations. That’s because they think that they can use a legislative process to avoid Democratic filibusters only if they leave the regulations alone. They think that this partial repeal of Obamacare will set the stage for later legislation that repeals the rest of the law and creates a replacement.

The heart of the problem for a full Obamacare repeal is that in the Senate you can pass budgetary items with only 51 votes while regulatory changes require 60. The Democrats plan to filibuster any regulatory changes, thus preventing their repeal.

The editorial opposes this strategy and instead calls for removing the federal government completely from health insurance regulation, the situation that existed prior to the passage of Obamacare. While I totally agree with this stance, I also recognize that the intransigence of the Democrats in the Senate makes it difficult. The only way it could work is if the Republicans could convince 8 Democratic senators to break away from their party and support full repeal. While a large number of Democratic senators are faced with difficult elections in 2018, I don’t think the Republicans could get 8 to agree.

We are thus faced with the unfortunate and bad situation that the Republicans will repeal only part of the law, which will further damage the health care industry. While they hope this damage will strengthen their effort to get the law entirely repealed, I fear that it will instead be used by the Democrats to attack the Republicans and the idea of the repeal itself.

It seems to me that it would be better to offer a full repeal, forcing a Democratic filibuster, and then use that filibuster as a campaign weapon to defeat more Democrats in 2018.

House passes bill requiring Congressional approval for major regulations

The House today passed a bill requiring Congressional approval for regulations having an economic impact of more than $100 million.

The legislation, dubbed the REINS Act, requires a regulation with an economic impact of more than $100 million annually to be approved by both chambers of Congress before it can take effect. Republicans also attached an amendment that requires agencies, when promulgating new rules, to repeal or amend existing rules to fully offset the economic costs. The House also passed comparable legislation in the last congressional session, but it faltered in the Senate. GOP leaders are taking a renewed crack after President-elect Donald Trump offered his support during the campaign.

Not surprisingly, the Democrats opposed the bill. It is unclear whether the Senate will follow suit, but with Trump in the White House and very much in favor of reducing regulation and the power of the bureaucracy, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the Democrats to block all these legislative bills.

Republicans prepare legislation to defund UN

While both houses of Congress are moving forward on meaningless condemnations of the UN’s vote declaring the Oslo Accords null and Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem illegal, Republicans in both houses are also preparing legislation that will actually cut funding to the UN.

The right-wing House Freedom Caucus will meet next Monday to decide between two proposals to bring to the House. One would be to reduce American funding to the UN. The other, more aggressive proposal is to make funding voluntary, thus leaving it to Congress every two years to decide whether to continue contributing to the organization. “One is an incremental step, the other is really a herculean leap,” said Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows.

These ideas also have strong support by a number of Senators. I am hopeful that Congress will go beyond a mere condemnation and pass something that will actually cause the UN some pain.

House passes bill to cancel all regulations created during Obama’s lame duck rule

I like this: The House today passed a bill that would allow Congress to repeal all regulations created during the last sixty days of the Obama administration.

Legislation to allow Congress to repeal in a single vote any rule finalized in the last 60 legislative days of the Obama administration sailed through the House Wednesday, the second time in less than two months. The GOP-backed Midnight Rule Relief Act, which passed the previous Congress in November, was approved largely along party lines by a vote of 238-184 on the second day of the new Congress, despite Democratic opposition. If passed by the Senate and signed by President-elect Donald Trump, the legislation would amend the Congressional Review Act to allow lawmakers to bundle together multiple rules and overturn them en masse with a joint resolution of disapproval.

What is disturbing is how few regulations Congress has cancelled over the decades. This is supposed to be an republic, whereby the rules are set by our elected officials. Instead, they have passed that responsibility off to bureaucrats, and when they hint, as they do here, that they might take back some of that power, the howls of outrage are deafening.

Republicans introduce first measure for repealing Obamacare

A measure introduced in both houses of Congress today begins the process of repealing Obamacare.

Senate Republicans Tuesday took the first step toward repealing Obamacare, with Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi introducing a measure that would lay the groundwork for specific legislation to be proposed later that would repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic program. Enzi’s bill seeks to pave the way for the later bill to pass Congress without fear of a filibuster by Senate Democrats.

The measure, called a budget resolution, directs top congressional committees to cast votes to assemble the repeal legislation by Jan. 27. House Republicans also introduced Enzi’s resolution in the lower chamber.

At this moment we still do not know exactly what the Republicans plan to repeal, and what they intend to keep. What we do know is that in order to pass this repeal in a manner that prevents a filibuster they will not be able to repeal the law entirely. We also do not yet know how quickly they intend the repeal to take effect. There has been much talk of a delay, but that is not yet confirmed.

House moves to weaken its ethics panel

Draining the swamp? Republicans in the House have moved to weaken an independent ethics office, placing it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

This is actually a complicated story, because the panel as it presently exists has been misused a number of times for political partisan reasons, and clearly was a threat to the Republicans now in charge and planning many significant changes to the government in the face of a very hostile and partisan press.

Nonetheless, making this the new Congress’s very first move seems ill-advised politically, and does suggest they are trying to shield themselves from justifiable investigations. It also gives their opponents a convenient hammer to hit them over the head unnecessarily. Then again, those same opponents would have used this ethics panel against Republicans anyway, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

Either way, this story gives us a taste of the coming years. It will certainly not be boring.

Update: The House has pulled the amendment so that no change to the ethics panel will take place. While there are plenty of good reasons why they should not have introduced this change now, and should back off, the manner in which they folded so quickly does not bode well for the more difficult changes that they propose to pass in the coming years. Are they going to fold when they try to repeal Obamacare and the left and the press goes bonkers? I suspect yes. Will they fold when Trump proposes slashing the EPA budget and the environmental movement goes nuts in protest? I suspect yes.

These Republicans have no courage, made worse by their lemming-like herd instincts.

Republicans offer two meaningless resolutions condemning UN-Israel resolution

Failure theater: Two resolutions, one in the House and the other in the Senate, are going to be offered by Republicans to condemn the UN resolution that declared Israel’s presence in parts of Jerusalem and Israel to be illegal.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) was quoted by The Hill as having said on Friday he will introduce a measure on Tuesday expressing support for Israel and throwing the “sense of the Senate” behind disapproving the United Nations resolution. “Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has made a series of blatantly misguided choices when it comes to working with our strongest ally in the Middle East,” Moran said in a statement. He added the Trump administration will “have to work overtime to repair the damage President Obama has done.”

Separately, Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) said Friday he is offering a resolution condemning President Barack Obama and the United Nations “for their dangerous anti-Israel actions”, according to The Hill.

Neither resolution will have any teeth. Essentially, they will declare that the UN was mean for what it did, but the U.S. Congress ain’t going to do anything about it.

Obviously, Congressional action might not end with these resolutions, but do not be surprised if this is all these cowards do.

Republicans consider delaying Obamacare repeal

Failure theater: The Republican leadership is considering a whole range of delays in their so-called effort to repeal Obamacare.

Republicans are debating how long to delay implementing the repeal. Aides involved in the deliberations said some parts of the law may be ended quickly, such as its regulations affecting insurer health plans and businesses. Other pieces may be maintained for up to three or four years, such as insurance subsidies and the Medicaid expansion. Some parts of the law may never be repealed, such as the provision letting people under age 26 remain on a parent’s plan.

House conservatives want a two-year fuse for the repeal. Republican leaders prefer at least three years, and there has been discussion of putting it off until after the 2020 elections, staffers said.

When are these idiots finally going to realize that the voters who put them in office are not Democratic liberals, and specifically want Obamacare repealed, now?

The squealing of pigs

Back in October 2010, just days before the mid-term elections, I wrote the following:

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that, come Tuesday, the Republicans take both houses, in a stunning landslide not seen in more than a century. Let’s also assume that the changes in Congress are going to point decidedly away from the recent liberal policies of large government (by both parties). Instead, every indication suggests that the new Congress will lean heavily towards a return to the principles of small government, low taxes, and less regulation.

These assumptions are not unreasonable. Not only do the polls indicate that one or both of the houses of Congress will switch from Democratic to Republican control, the numerous and unexpected primary upsets of established incumbents from both parties — as well the many protests over the past year by large numbers of ordinary citizens — make it clear that the public is not interested in half measures. Come January, the tone and direction of Congress is going to undergo a shocking change.

Anyway, based on these assumptions, we should then expect next year’s Congress to propose unprecedented cuts to the federal budget, including the elimination of many hallowed programs. The recent calls to defund NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcastings are only one example.

When Congress attempts this, however, the vested interests that have depended on this funding for decades are not going to take the cuts lightly. Or to put it more bluntly, they are going to squeal like pigs, throwing temper tantrums so loud and insane that they will make the complaints of a typical three-year-old seem truly statesman-like. And they will do so in the hope that they will garner sympathy and support from the general voting public, thereby making the cuts difficult to carry out.

The real question then is not whether the new Congress will propose the cuts required to bring the federal government under control, but whether they, as well as the public, will have the courage to follow through, to defy the howls from these spoiled brats, and do what must be done.

The legislative situation with NASA over the summer and fall might give us a hint about whether the next Congress will have the courage to make the cuts that are necessary. In this case Obama actually proposed doing something close to what conservatives have dreamed of for decades: take NASA (and the government) out of the business of building rockets and spacecraft and pass it over to the private sector.

Moreover, despite the strong dislike the right has for Obama and his leftist policies, many conservative pundits both inside and outside of the space activist community publicly supported the President in this effort.

Nonetheless, these policies were not accepted by Congress. Instead, the legislative body passed an authorization bill that requires NASA to build a new heavy-lift rocket and the manned capsule to go with it. Congress did this partly for national security reasons, but mostly because they wanted to protect the jobs in Houston, Florida, and elsewhere that NASA provides, and thus bring home the bacon to their constituents. And they did this because those constituents had squealed at them about the threatened loss of funding.

In other words, elected officials from both parties had teamed up to authorize this pork-laden program in order to keep the pigs quiet. In other words, NASA’s legislative history this past year does not give us an encouraging view of the future. It appears that Congress will give us the same-old same-old, when asked.

More than six years have passed, and my analysis of the situation in 2010 appears almost perfect. While the Republicans did not win both houses of Congress in 2010, they did in 2014. Despite these victories from voters who clearly wanted them to cut back on the power of government, they did exactly what I expected, based on their actions in connection with NASA and SLS: maintain the pork and chicken out whenever challenged by Obama, the Democrats, the press (I repeat myself), and too many spoiled members of the general public.

After the 2016 elections, things have moved even more to the right. The Republicans not only control both houses of Congress, they have a Republican president (though a very unpredictable one) and the leftwing mainstream press has been discredited and no longer monopolizes the distribution of information. What will happen in the coming years?
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Democratic Senators force short government shutdown

Those racists! A handful of Democratic Senators have forced a government shutdown this coming weekend by refusing to allow the end of debate on a continuing resolution that would have funded the government through April.

Though I generally don’t agree with the reasons for this shutdown (they want to spend more money), I wish them luck, and would celebrate if this shutdown ended up lasting weeks. Unfortunately, according to some analysis, it can only last the weekend.

The biggest irony of this story is that the Democrats are forcing the shutdown to supposedly protect the pensions of coal miners, an industry they and Barack Obama successfully worked to destroy during the past eight years.

Update: Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and the Democrats have backed down so that the shutdown was averted.

I am disappointed. I was really hoping they would do it. Every time there has been a shutdown it has clearly shown how little we need the federal government. The more the merrier, I say. Shut it down!

Republican Congress passes National Park bill that raises fees

More bull from the House Republicans: In an effort to fix budget problems at the National Park Service, caused by years of Congressional and Presidential budget malfeasance, the lame-duck Republican-run House today passed a bill that would raise the lifetime fees for a park senior pass.

The House of Representatives moved quickly Tuesday to pass legislation designed to provide the National Park Service with badly needed funds to help the agency chip away at a staggering $12 billion maintenance backlog. However, without concurrence by the Senate by week’s end, the measure could die.

As passed by the House, the National Park Service Centennial Act would increase the price of a lifetime pass for senior citizens 62 and older to $80 from its current $10 lifetime fee. Seniors who don’t want to pay the $80 could purchase an annual pass for $20. Park Service staff estimate that the increase in the cost of a senior pass would generate $20 million a year.

It appears that already purchased lifetime passes would still be valid, though I am willing to bet that, given time, these bastards will change that as well. What really annoys me about this is that the reason the Park Service is short of funds is not really because they don’t have enough money. The budget isn’t really any smaller than it’s been for decades. The reason it is short of money is that the federal government, and the Park Service, wastes enormous amounts on things that are not essential, on pork (such as dozens and dozens of tiny park facilities spread throughout the country that are really outside the Park Service’s original purpose and exist mostly because some elected official pushed for their creation).

What these idiots never do is find ways to reduce or rearrange spending to pay for things that are important. Instead, they constantly work to suck more money from the taxpayer, endlessly. And they wonder why they got Trump.

Pentagon buries report documenting $125 billion of waste

Why the revolt? The Pentagon purposely buried a 2015 report that documented $125 billion in wasteful Defense Department spending because they feared Congress would use it to justify sequestration.

The report, which was issued in January 2015 by the advisory Defense Business Board (DBB), called for a series of reforms that would have saved the department $125 billion over the next five years. Among its other findings, the report showed that the Defense Department was paying just over 1 million contractors, civilian employees and uniformed personnel to fill back-office jobs. That number nearly matches the amount of active duty troops — 1.3 million, the lowest since 1940.

The Post reported that some Pentagon leaders feared the study’s findings would undermine their claims that years of budget sequestration had left the military short of money. In response, they imposed security restrictions on information used in the study and even pulled a summary report from a Pentagon website. “They’re all complaining that they don’t have any money,” former DBB chairman Robert Stein told the Post. “We proposed a way to save a ton of money.”

The corruption in Washington today runs very deep. It will take many years and a lot of change to fix it. Don’t expect a lot from Trump or this Republican Congress. They might be a start (maybe), but even if they worked entirely to get the federal cleaned up they couldn’t do it in the next four years. And no one should expect them to work entirely to clean this up.

Trump and the Republican establishment team up

The House Republican majority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) today said that their partnership with Trump will allow them to ignore the conservative Freedom Caucus.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy signaled that Republican brass doesn’t plan to kowtow to the conservatives anymore. Ryan’s No. 2 predicted that it’ll finally be the other way around. The group will be forced to fall in line. During a forum hosted by The Washington Post, McCarthy forecasted a less influential Freedom Caucus, a bolder GOP leadership team, and a more unified GOP conference. Altogether, the California Republican explained, “you’re going to see us sticking together more.” That’d be a significant change from the last two years.

…Famous for making deals, Trump won’t worry about reaching across the aisle to compromise with Democrats. For the pragmatic president-elect, bipartisanship is a bonus, not a liability. The threat of losing 35 members of the Freedom Caucus won’t fill Trump’s White House with fear. Depending on the significance of the legislation, Trump won’t have much trouble getting his agenda through the House. Democrats have already signaled that they’re ready to work with the new administration. They won’t hesitate to jump onboard a trillion-dollar infrastructure package or a protectionist trade deal.

I am not surprised. I do feel bad for all those conservatives who went with Trump instead of Cruz because they imagined him first as an “outsider” instead of the moderate Democrat that he is.

House passes new tax on concrete companies

The swamp is winning! The Republican House today passed a new law that not only imposes a new tax on concrete industry, it creates a crony Concrete Masonry Products Board to help keep its buddies in that industry in charge.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. (F, 45%), would create a Concrete Masonry Products Board composed of 15-25 members appointed by the Department of Commerce after a referendum approval by producers of concrete masonry products. This board will have the power to establish, finance, and carry out a “coordinated research and education program,” ostensibly to “promote masonry products in the domestic market,” according to a legislative bulletin email from the Republican Study Committee. This program will be paid for by a “federally administered assessment.”

This is corruption, pure and simple. We don’t need this. All it accomplishes is to force the public to pay for this fake board whose only real purpose, when you strip it down to its essentials, will be to favor the already established U.S. concrete companies.

House Republicans to vote on ending ban on earmarks

The swamp is winning! A group of House Republicans have put forth a proposal, to be voted on tomorrow, to partly lift the ban on earmarks imposed in 2010.

Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment, a copy of which was obtained by The Daily Signal. The amendment would bring back legislative earmarks for some government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Bureau of Reclamation. It also would allow lawmakers to provide earmarks for state and local governments, except for recreational facilities, museums, or parks. If the amendment is adopted by a secret-ballot vote Wednesday, lawmakers would be able to request earmarks once again as long as the sponsoring member is identified, the earmarks initiate in committee, and they don’t increase spending.

A senior House aide told The Daily Signal this was the first step to completely ending the earmark ban by slowly peeling it away.

The earmark explosion that occurred under Republican control during the first six years of the second Bush administration was one of the main reasons they lost Congress in 2006. It showed that their claims that they were fiscal hawks was hogwash. And now it appears that some Republicans are trying to pull the same crap, all over again.

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