Legislative Lowdown: Obama officially endorses corporate welfare

Brian Darling Liberty Government Affairs
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First same-sex marriage, now corporate welfare. What will President Obama come out in favor of next?

This week, President Obama proudly signed into law legislation granting the Export-Import Bank an extension to 2014. The law will put taxpayers on the hook for another $40 billion in loan authority for the government-run “bank.”

Back on Sept. 22, 2008, then-Sen. Obama said, “I am not a Democrat who believes that we can and should defend every government program just because it is there. There are some that don’t work.” For the Obama of 2008, the Export-Import Bank, which he described as “little more than a fund for corporate welfare,” was one of those programs. Now, however, President Obama is thanking Congress for “authorizing the Ex-Im Bank for its extraordinary mission.” The mission is corporate welfare and crony capitalism.

Conservatives need to take another run at killing the Export-Import Bank when it comes up again for reauthorization in 2014.

A cap-and-trade treaty?

The Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST) may be a backdoor for the Obama administration to implement “cap-and-trade” regulations. Conn Carroll at The Washington Examiner has written that LOST may be part of Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) plan to pass cap-and-trade greenhouse gas restrictions without Congress ever taking a vote to implement them.

“President Obama’s plans to pass economy-killing cap-and-trade regulations may have died in the Senate in 2010,” Carroll writes. “But if Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., gets his way, they will be resurrected after the presidential election.” Carroll cited a statement made last week by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where she argued that LOST “contains no obligations to implement any particular climate change policies.” Carroll argued that Clinton’s statement “is technically true, it is also completely non-responsive to the binding arbitration threat LOST poses to the U.S. economy.”

That fear is shared by Steven Groves at The Heritage Foundation, who maintains that LOST “would expose the U.S. to baseless climate change lawsuits.” Groves writes that if the Senate ratifies the treaty the “U.S. would be exposed to climate change lawsuits and other environmental actions brought against it by other members of the convention. The economic and political ramifications of such lawsuits would be dire.”

The Senate needs to further study this issue before it rubber-stamps a treaty rejected by President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago.

Transportation overspending

Right now, the House and Senate are conferencing on differing versions of a highway bill. The legislation being debated would fund highway programs at higher levels than money coming into the Department of Transportation-administered Highway Trust Fund (HTF) can support.

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) pushed a vote in the House this week requesting that House members of the conference only vote for spending levels existing in the HTF. Heritage Action for America put out an alert last week arguing that “taxpayers, as opposed to users, are left on the hook when spending on highway and transit programs outpace revenues coming into the HTF.” They referenced the fact that the 2005 transportation bill bailed out the HTF with $30 billion of your tax dollars.

This Congress should not engage in any further Highway Trust Fund bailouts — or any other bailouts, for that matter.

Shakil Afridi

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has put forward an interesting idea. He wants to suspend all foreign aid to Pakistan and grant citizenship to Shakil Afridi, who was sentenced to 33 years in prison for helping the United States capture and kill Osama bin Laden.

Paul has promised to force a Senate vote on his idea as soon as next week.

Obama’s irresponsible veto threat

According to The Hill, “The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a military spending bill that is slated to come to the House floor this week,” because the president has “adopted a policy of rejecting all 12 House annual appropriations bills until Republicans abandon their budget, authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).”

This is an outrageous position, because the Senate refuses to take up and pass any budget. The president’s budget has been unanimously rejected by both the House and Senate, yet he is threatening a veto on every single appropriations bill until they abandon the only budget that passed one chamber of Congress. This is nothing more than election-year politics.

No wonder Americans are disgusted with Congress and the president.

Brian Darling is Senior Fellow for Government Studies at The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).