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First Presidential Debate Tonight: Will Spending be on the Agenda?

 

The long-awaited Presidential debate season kicks off tonight as Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump squares off against the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. The debate will take place at 9:00 PM at Hofstra University in New York, where both candidates have ties — it is where Trump currently lives and where Clinton was a two-term Senator.

Some pundits wonder about Trump’s temperament, while others question if Clinton has a viable plan for the economy and jobs. Tonight is an opportunity to finally see the candidates side-by-side and compare where they stand on the issues.

This will be the first of three Presidential debates in addition to a Vice Presidential showdown happening on October 4th.

 

Logistically, the debate will be 90 minutes with no breaks, where topics are divided into 6 time segments with a 15-minute time frame for each. The moderator will start with a question that each nominee will respond to and then they will be able to respond to each other’s comments. The topics for the debate include “America’s direction” and “achieving prosperity” and “securing America”.

 

With satisfaction of the two parties’ nominees at the lowest point since the early 90’s, both candidates must do their best tonight to appeal to those on the fence. Fiscal conservatives should be on the lookout for an issue that has thus far been neglected: America’s soaring debt and spending. With Election Day now just about 6 weeks out, both candidates will be looking at tonight as an opportunity to pull ahead and eventually earn the title: President of the United States. Those who care about the debt and spending should be on the lookout to see if our next President will have concrete goals for getting our fiscal house in order.

Is it Time to Audit the Pentagon?

 

As Congress faces off on temporary fall funding, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is rumored to pass in the next couple of months. One critical element that continues to be absent is a legally required audit for the nation’s biggest bureaucracy.

 

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law The Chief Financial Officers Act, which required every federal agency to be auditable. As of today, the Department of Defense is the only department that has yet to fully comply with that law. According to a Congressional Research Service report released in 2013, “DOD’s current objective is audibility.”

 

There is reason to want accountability. According to the same report, between 2007 and 2011, the Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General issued 89 reports that cited data quality problems in the DOD. One of the specific issues mentioned was that the Department was delivering unreliable information of the costs of different missions to Congress. Recent reports have indicated that $6.5 trillion is missing proper documentation.

 

In 2015, Senator Manchin (D-WV) introduced a bill to Audit the Pentagon—this was around the same time Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Michael Burgess (R-TX), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced a similar bill in the House. Neither piece of legislation made it out of their respective committee.

 

This year, legislation on auditing the Pentagon has yet to be introduced, and excuses continue to mount for why the country’s largest agency cannot face transparency.

 

Every year, half of discretionary spending (the money that is allocated through the appropriations process by Congress) goes toward the Pentagon. The Department of Defense has a budget of nearly $600 billion. Defense hawks often argue that we must continue building up our military with larger budgets, and there are valid reasons why this argument may have merit. However, often neglected in these discussions is accountability on how the current budget of half a trillion dollars is actually spent.

 

With the largest budget out of any other federal agency and employing the greatest amount of people in the world, it is apparent that the Department of Defense needs serious oversight.

 

Without up-to-date information on the Pentagon’s finances, there is a huge possibility of taxpayer dollars being misused. There will always be differing opinions on what the Pentagon topline should be, but in an era of soaring debt and deficits, we literally cannot afford to allow potential waste to go unchecked.

 

Republican Study Committee Chair introduces C.R.

 

Chairman Bill Flores (R-TX) of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) initiated the first move toward a government funding bill on Tuesday by filing a continuing resolution – something the Senate has had trouble with thus far. In a press release yesterday, Chairman Flores explained his reasoning behind introducing the legislation by stating, “rather than continuing to allow the Senate to wallow in the misery of Harry Reid’s hostage taking and ever-moving goalposts, the House, by acting first, can stop the uncertainty coming out of Washington today.”

 

The short-term continuing resolution—H.R. 6071—includes a few details that the House Republicans are adamant about implementing. First, it would enact the Zika Response and Preparedness Act, but the funding would not go to Planned Parenthood, a key provision Democrats have been fighting for. The bill also would stop Obama’s push to transition control of the Internet to ICANN as well as implement a strict vetting process for refugees coming from countries dominated by terrorist groups. H.R. 6071 would also not reinstate the Export-Import Bank—another provision that has been discussed.

 

This move by the House is in response to Senate actions last night, when Senators cast a vote to proceed with a continuing resolution – without any actual text of that CR ready. Now that the House has done what they can to try to fund the government, the pressure is now on the Senate to try and come to an agreement—something that must be done in the next 9 days in order to avoid a government shutdown.

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