The Obama administration spends billions of taxpayer dollars each year on border security, but the federal government still has no way of accurately assessing the quality of that security. Department of Homeland Security officials acknowledged during a hearing Wednesday that their agency still is unable to accurately assess border security promising Congress it would put in place the necessary gauge.
Earlier this year, The Fiscal Times’ reported that the federal government spent $17.9 billion in 2011 on border security, more than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined. And the number of agents patrolling the border has doubled over the past seven years. Still, apprehensions of illegal immigrants dropped to a 40-year low in fiscal 2011—reaching about a fifth of what they were in 2000.
The New York Times reported that lawmakers were “stunned” to hear that DHS wasn’t using a measurement to assess the security of the nation’s borders. “I would say to the department, you’ve got to get in the game,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., said during the hearing. Many lawmakers believe that a solid assessment of border security should be a prerequisite before Congress approves comprehensive immigration reform legislation. - Read more at The New York Times
SENATE REJECTS RYAN BUDGET As expected, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget for fiscal 2014, with only 40 members voting in favor of it and 59 opposing it. The House-passed Ryan’s budget purports to balance the budget in 10 years by cutting $5 trillion in spending over the next decade and overhauling Medicare, as well as leaving in place the $600 billion in tax hikes from the fiscal cliff deal. Five Republicans including Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Dean Heller (Nev.), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) voted against Ryan's plan. - See the vote here
SENATE VOTES TO REPEAL MEDICAL DEVICE TAX In a largely symbolic gesture, the Senate on Thursday approved a budget amendment calling for the elimination of a medical device tax enacted as part of President Obama’s healthcare reform law. The 2.3 percent tax on medical devices was implemented to help fund Obamacare. But enactment of the law in 2010 has proven to be highly unpopular with Republicans and Democrats alike. Regardless, the resolution is non-binding and will not change the levy. - See the vote here
LAWMAKERS LOOKING AT ‘CHAINED CPI’ “Talk of adjusting the Labor Department’s consumer price index to more accurately measure real inflation in the economy has now become a bargaining chip” in a renewed effort by the White House and key members of Congress to negotiate a “grand bargain” of entitlement reform and deficit reduction measures, The Fiscal Times’ Eric Pianin writes. With chained CPI, an inflation-adjustment formula that takes into account consumer behavior, government spending on Social Security, Medicare and other benefits would decline by $216 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. - Read more at The Fiscal Times
FEDS CRACK DOWN ON STATE PENSION ABUSE “For years, state and local governments have been playing imaginative or patently dishonest games with their pension funds, thinking they could get away with it,” The Fiscal Times’ Eric Pianin and David Francis write. But federal authorities are catching on and cracking down. In the past week alone, government officials and private investment groups with major government contracts have learned hard lessons about the risks of playing fast and loose with the government retirement systems.” - Read more at The Fiscal Times
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