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Tag Archives: United States Department of Justice

I Said We All Lose With the Budget Deal; It’s Worse Than I Thought

In my last post, I explained why I thought we all lose out in the end when it comes to the budget deal agreed on last week.  Well, now that they put out the details of the agreement, many people are realizing that it’s worse than we thought.  In many cases, “cuts” aren’t cuts at all.

So, what constitutes a “budget cut?”

Many of the cuts appear to have been cuts in name only, because they came from programs that had unspent funds.

For example, $1.7 billion left over from the 2010 census; $3.5 billion in unused children’s health insurance funds; $2.2 billion in subsidies for health insurance co-ops (that’s something the president’s new health care law is going to fund anyway); and $2.5 billion from highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation.

About $10 billion of the cuts comes from targeting appropriations accounts previously used by lawmakers for so-called earmarks – pet projects like highways, water projects, community development grants and new equipment for police and fire departments. Republicans had already engineered a ban on earmarks when taking back the House this year.

Republicans also claimed $5 billion in savings by capping payments from a fund awarding compensation to crime victims. Under an arcane bookkeeping rule — used for years by appropriators — placing a cap on spending from the Justice Department crime victims fund allows lawmakers to claim the entire contents of the fund as “budget savings.” The savings are awarded year after year.

For those keeping count at home, that block of funny money amounts to $24.9 billion of the $38 billion in budget cuts! Yes, the shutdown drama was over about $13 billion in actual cuts, which amounts to a miniscule percentage of the overall budget. Oh, and they managed to find time to tell D.C. how they can and can’t spend their money, too.

This is the type of tomfoolery we have to put up with. Both sides should be ashamed. But we know its just business as usual.

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White House sparks controversy over Defense of Marriage Act–and I’m Torn

In 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which allowed states that did not allow gay marriage to refuse to honor such marriages done in other states.  On Wednesday, the White House sparked some major controversy when Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice would stop defending DOMA:

President Obama has instructed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since 1996 allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex partnerships legally recognized in other states.

The announcement was made in a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to congressional leaders in relation to two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, which challenge a section of DOMA that defines marriage for federal purposes as only between one man and one woman.

President Obama believes that section – Section 3 — “is unconstitutional” given the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (including its equal protection component), Holder wrote, and the president has instructed the Department of Justice to no longer defend the law in those two lawsuits.

Here is where I am torn. On the one hand, I have an issue with the AG saying they are not going to defend a law just based on the President deciding its unconstitutional. That’s for the courts to decide. Per the article, a judge did rule it unconstitutional in 2010, but I don’t think that one judge is able to stop the enforcement of the law. If a sitting president can make such decisions, then it makes laws moot. What other laws could a president decide was unconstitutional?
On the other hand, I must confess–I don’t support DOMA. Contrary to the belief of many, traditional man-woman marriage is not under threat from the prospect of same-sex marriage. I have yet to see how allowing gays to marry (or civil unionize) has had a negative effect on marriage. It puzzles me that many on the right advocate for the government to stay out of folks’ personal business–then want the government to “protect” marriage.
So, as much as I would love to say “right on, mister prez!” my respect for the law says “not so fast.”