Already, the ethical integrity of the Super Committee in Congress charged with coming up with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, that will meet the budget balancing required by the debt ceiling compromise of Aug. 2, has come into question. The nonprofit organization Public Campaign has called for all 12 members to stop taking money from lobbyists. There are six Democrats and six Republicans, but cynics note a wide range of “ideological intensity” among members of both parties.
So, a non-partisan group called “That’s My Congress” attempted to measure it. They compiled legislative “scorecards” tied to each member’s voting history, where +100 would mean voting “perfectly liberal” and -100 would mean they voted “perfectly conservative.” The average of the six Democrats came out to 51.7; the average of the six Republicans came out to -48.5. That’s My Congress concluded the six Democratswere slightly more liberal than the Republicans were conservative, on average, but by a difference of just 3 percentage points.
Not to be upstaged by GOP presidential contenders, the President’s own “bus tour” took him to small rural towns such as Peosta, Iowa, this week. Responding to critics that the pair of $1.2 million armored buses and entourage are taxpayer-funded, yet essentially “campaign-focused”, the President argued that he and members of the White House Rural Council were there to host the White House Rural Economic Forum. The purpose? “To bring together farmers, small business owners, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials to discuss ideas and initiatives to promote economic growth, accelerate hiring, and spur innovation in rural communities and small towns across the nation.” Specifically, the Council is said to be focused on 1) increasing rural access to capital, 2) spurring agricultural innovation, 3) expanding digital and physical infrastructure in rural areas, and 4) creating economic opportunities through conservation and outdoor recreation.
Biofuels are also a matter of “strategic” importance to the U.S., according to President Obama in announcing this week that the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy will invest up to $510 million during the next three years, in partnership with the private sector, to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power both military and commercial transportation. The initiative responds to a directive from President Obama issued in March as part of his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future.
“America’s long-term national security depends upon a commercially viable domestic biofuels market that will benefit taxpayers while simultaneously giving our sailors and marines tactical and strategic advantages,” added Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Significance? For critics who want to end such things as the blenders’ credit and other government support for biofuels as unnecessary and too costly, the Administration’s advancing such support to a matter of “national security” will certainly complicate their mission to say the least.
USDA has approved the reallocation of 153,972 CRP acres to an initiative entitled State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), to support conservation and restoration of important habitat for lesser prairie chickens, sage and sharp-tailed grouse, and other grassland, sage or prairie-dependent species. SAFE projects are located in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Montana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas. Officially, SAFE is “a continuous CRP practice that conserves and restores habitat for wildlife species that are threatened or endangered, have suffered significant population declines or are important environmentally, economically or socially.” It’s currently capped at 850,000 acres.