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House Republicans Pass Defense Bill Packed with Culture War Policies

Reuters
By Yuval Rosenberg and Michael Rainey
Friday, June 14, 2024

Happy Friday!

Donald Trump turns 78 years old today and reportedly plans to celebrate tonight with an appearance before a fan group in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump, the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee, would be the oldest president ever inaugurated if he wins a second term. President Joe Biden, the current record holder, would be 82 on Inauguration Day if he wins a second term. "The risk for the two of them is about the same for demonstrating some degree of cognitive decline over the next four to five years," Joel Kramer, the director of the neuropsychology program at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, told The Washington Post.

On that cheery note, here's what else we’re watching while waiting to see what we get for Father’s Day.

House Republicans Pass $895B Defense Bill Packed with Culture War Policies

The House passed an $895 billion defense policy bill on Friday, narrowly approving a measure that Republicans loaded with controversial culture war amendments via a largely party-line vote that sets up a clash with Senate Democrats.

The 217-199 House vote saw just three Republicans vote against the bill and just six Democrats vote for it. The annual measure, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), lays out policy and recommended funding levels for the Defense Department.

"The threats facing our nation are more complex and challenging than anything we’ve encountered before," Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "To ensure that we stay ahead of our adversaries, the FY25 NDAA keeps the continued modernization of our nuclear deterrent on track, invests in our undersea capabilities, boosts innovation, and supports the capabilities our warfighters need to succeed on any future battlefield."

Republican leaders also highlighted pay raises for the military, including a 19.5% increase for junior enlisted service members, and improvements in housing, healthcare and child care.

Democrats also supported those provisions, and the bill started out in a bipartisan fashion. It cleared the Armed Services Committee last month in a strongly bipartisan vote, 57-1. Republicans then piled on a slew of conservative policy riders targeting abortion access, transgender medical care and Pentagon diversity programs. Democrats oppose those provisions and argue that they demean service members and hurt the national defense.

Those culture war clashes mean that the House bill will go nowhere in the Senate, where lawmakers are working on their own version of the legislation. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday advanced its own version of the NDAA, which calls for an increased $923.3 billion in funding.

"Once again, the House Republican Majority has prioritized MAGA extremism over our national security and our military families. They have undermined a bipartisan national defense bill and warped it into another vehicle for their anti-abortion, anti-freedom, anti-equality agenda," said House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark.

Republicans had also loaded up their version of last year’s NDAA with similar culture war measures. "The legislation was eventually ironed out with the Senate, with the upper chamber making concessions in order to boot out the abortion policy provisions," The Hill notes. "A handful of culture war amendments did, however, make it into the final version."

What’s next: Congress has passed the annual NDAA every year for more than six decades. To continue that streak, Republicans and Democrats will again have to come up with a compromise version of the legislation — one that will most likely exclude the House’s conservative policy provisions, which can’t get through the Senate.

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, urged his colleagues this week to skip the partisan clashes and cut straight to the bipartisan final product. "Let’s just get there earlier this time, save ourselves the aggravation," he said, per The Washington Post. "It’s where we’re going to wind up anyways, so why don’t we just go ahead and do it?"

Appropriations update: House Republicans continue to plow ahead on annual spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday advanced the measures covering Defense; Financial Services and General Government; and the Legislative Branch. The committee also approved the Homeland Security and State and Foreign Operations bills this week.

Trump Tax Policies Would Produce ‘Mother of All Stagflations’: Larry Summers

Speaking on Bloomberg TV Friday, former Treasury Secretary and noted inflation hawk Larry Summers blasted the tax proposals being discussed by former President Donald Trump, which include more tax cuts and massive tariffs. Summers, a Democrat, said those policies would spark rising inflation and unemployment, severely damaging the U.S. and global economies.

"I don't think there's been a more inflationary presidential economic policy platform in my lifetime," Summers told Bloomberg’s David Westin. "What is President Trump advocating? He's advocating substantial increases in budget deficits through the continuation of tax cuts. He's advocating debasing the currency by calling for a lower value of the dollar. He's launching the most direct threat to central bank independence in historical memory. And so on the demand side, it's all inflation stuff."

Summers said there are problems with Trump’s ideas on the supply side of the economy as well. "His tariff proposals are the biggest supply shock, pushing up prices not just of imported goods, but of all the goods that compete with imported goods that anybody who's worried about gouging should think that more competition, including from abroad, is a very, very important step," he said. "And he's for much greater restrictions on the supply of labor, leading to more wage inflation pressures. And he's for scaling back the subsidies to renewable energy, raising energy costs."

Summers said consumption would be crushed by the policies, sparking a downward spiral for the economy. But in response to the rising inflationary pressure, the Federal Reserve would likely feel obliged to raise interest rates.

"This could easily be a prescription for a 10% mortgage rate — something that I lived through when I bought my first house, but that I didn’t think we were going to see again in the United States," Summers said. "This is really dangerous stuff."

X Post of the Day

From Brian Riedl, senior fellow and budget expert at the conservative Manhattan Institute:

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Number of the Day: $7 Billion

Americans who file their taxes on a quarterly basis saw a surge in penalties in 2023, according to IRS data highlighted by The Wall Street Journal Friday. Total penalties for underpayment of estimated taxes rose from $1.8 billion in 2022 to $7 billion in 2023, with the average penalty rising from $150 to $500. More filers were affected, as well, with 14 million people facing penalties in 2023, up from 12 million a year earlier. The biggest culprit in the rising tide of penalty payments? Higher interest rates. The rate on late payments imposed by the IRS has risen from 3% to 8% by the fourth quarter of 2023, driven by the increase in Treasury rates, which are the reference point for the penalty.


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