Failing to adopt a budget, which lays the groundwork for the year’s spending and tax policy legislation, means that it will be nearly impossible for the House to vote before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30 on the detailed bills that stipulate exactly how federal agencies are funded. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he plans to keep writing the bills under the assumption that last year’s spending agreement stands, but for now he is powerless to bring them to the floor without a budget or leadership’s consent.“In essence we passed this year’s budget last year,” Rogers said in an interview. “It is in the law and if there’s nothing that supersedes it we will mark up to the law.”The longer the House waits the more likely it is that Congress will be forced to pass a stop-gap spending bill this summer in order to keep agencies funded at current levels through the election. That short-term punt would provide just enough time for leaders to craft during a “lame-duck” session another massive year-end spending package that Republicans have derided in the past.
TAX SEASON, SCAMMING SEASON. Tax filing deadlines are rapidly approaching, and the chief IRS watchdog is warning taxpayers to watch out for new scams linked to new private bill collectors being used by the agency. Power Post’s Joe Davidson has the details:
What makes this season different is Congress has instructed the IRS to use private bill collectors for certain overdue payments. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has warned this could make it more difficult for taxpayers to distinguish between government tax collectors and con artists.The good news — officials say they are making progress against the charlatans.Counteroffensive measures “have impeded these criminals’ ability to victimize taxpayers over the past few months,” Inspector General, J. Russell George said. “Where the perpetrators used to be able to get a victim every 40-50 calls, now they must make 300-400 attempts to claim a victim.”Yet he said the problem remains “the largest, most pervasive impersonation scam in the history of our agency.”
CONSERVATIVE GROUP CRITICIZES BENGHAZI INVESTIGATION. It is no secret that Democrats have problems with the Benghazi Committee, but Power Post’s Elise Viebeck has a look at how the investigation led by chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is angering some on the right as well.
Judicial Watch, a conservative government transparency group, argues the committee has “bungled” its investigation of the 2012 attacks in Libya by refusing to hold more public hearings and release documents it has collected over the last two years.Tom Fitton, the group’s president, said the panel is conducting its business mostly in secret, causing it to miss opportunities to hold former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration accountable for mistakes in their Libya policy. Fitton argued that the committee’s approach has also lent ammunition to Democratic critics, who see it as a political tool for Republicans.“They have this almost petty approach to transparency that is at odds with the public interest,” Fitton said of the committee in an interview. “It’s not supposed to be a grand-jury style investigation that the public can’t be privy to. There’s got to be at least some public forum for gathering testimony and evidence and that hasn’t happened here to any significant degree … Many folks who have been watching it are just aghast at the approach the committee has taken toward educating the public about what it is doing.”