House Republicans are constructing a proposal to keep thousands of road and transit projects from grinding to a halt this summer by transferring funds into the nation’s nearly depleted Highway Trust Fund from the already money-losing U.S. Postal Service.
But in a memo to rank-and-file House GOP members dated Friday, Speaker John Boehner and his top two lieutenants cast the plan as one that would also work to benefit the Postal Service — by granting its request to cut most delivery service to five days a week.
Under the plan, first-class mail and bulk mail deliveries — like catalogs and advertising circulars — would be eliminated on Saturdays.
That, members are told, would allow the USPS “to better operate within its own revenue stream” while also providing $10.7 billion over 10 years that could be used to offset a one-year extension of the highway trust fund.
The proposal would still allow for Saturday delivery of packages (including medications) and priority and express mail. And post offices would remain open on Saturdays.
On Saturday, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, characterized the House Republican leaders’ idea as “a strange plan” and “unworkable.”
“Instead of working with Democrats to come up with a sensible user fee which has been the foundation of the Highway Trust Fund, House Republican leadership proposes cutting back mail deliveries to American households,” she complained.
And at least one conservative group, Heritage Action for America, has already come out against the idea.
“The idea Congress would use a supposedly self-funding agency that cannot pay its bills as a piggy bank to fund another bankrupt, self-funding fund is absurd,” said Heritage spokesman Dan Holler.
But Friday’s memo from Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy says, “We firmly believe that this is the best way to ensure continued funding of highway projects in a fiscally responsible manner that implements a needed structural reform to a growing federal liability.”
“As you may be aware, as a result of lower than anticipated revenues into the Highway Trust Fund, the [fund] will require an additional transfer of funds prior to the August District Work Period,” the memo says in explaining the urgency of finding a solution. “Failing to provide additional funds would mean a disruption of ongoing construction projects — right in the midst of the construction season.”
In fact, some estimates are that as many as 700,000 jobs would be lost over a year unless the trust fund is replenished. The fund has run toward insolvency because its primary revenue source is the federal excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales, which currently is 18.4 cents a gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents for diesel. But those rates were set in 1993. Since that time, motor-vehicle fuel efficiency has increased significantly and the fund has not kept pace with rising costs.
Based on Congressional Budget Office estimates of revenues and spending continuing at current levels, an additional $14 billion to $15 billion would be needed for a one-year extension of the trust fund, the memo says.
But under current House Rules, the GOP leaders write, a transfer of general funds into the Highway Trust Fund must be offset.
“Given the limited window for action, we believe it is important that an offset be simple and have the support of the Administration and Congressional Republicans,” they write, adding, “We are preparing a proposal that would combine a move to modified six-day postal delivery along with a short-term extension of the highway bill that places the necessary resources into the Trust Fund to prevent a disruption of highway projects.”
In a question-and-answer section attached to the memo, the issue of taking money from the Postal Service is presented in a positive light — even though the service currently underfunds its own retiree benefit costs, and potentially needs taxpayer bailouts to cover operating losses such as 2012’s $15.9 billion shortfall.
According to the Q&A, one potential proposal would be to end the delivery of first-class mail, catalogs, advertising circulars, and other lower-priority mail on Saturdays.
“Adopting this proposal would save $10.7 billion over the next ten years,” the memo says, adding that this modification could be used to offset the highway fund programs.
“It is a realistic offset because President Obama’s FY 2015 budget also recommends termination of Saturday mail delivery by the USPS,” states the Q&A.
In addition, it says such a postal reform “would help forestall a future federal bailout of the Postal Service by enabling the USPS to better operate within its own revenue stream.”
“This is a real savings for the general fund of the treasury (in the form of reducing the size of a future bailout),” it says.
But in her statement Saturday responding to the GOP proposal, Boxer called the idea “a classic example of House Republicans not planning for a shortfall we have known about for years.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”