Paul Ryan on the Issues: Energy Policy and Climate Change

Climate change and energy policy have seemed to take a back burner during this 2012 presidential election season. But with much of the United States in a drought and many cities experiencing record heat, the candidate’s policies on climate change should be made a part of the campaign dialogue. Mitt Romney has not said much on the issue of climate change except for his belief that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.” 

The appointment of Paul Ryan as Romney’s running mate should make conservationists concerned as his policy record on environmentalism and climate change is abysmal. Paul Ryan received a 3% voter rating from the League of Conservation Voters for the 1st Session of the 112th Congress – which is basically as low as you can get.

Ryan’s voting record demonstrates his virulent denial of climate science. Paul Ryan has argued that snow invalidates global warming policy, stating in his 2009 op-ed that “unilateral economic restraint in the name of fighting global warming has been a tough sell in our communities, where much of the state is buried under snow”.  He has stated that climatologists “intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change” and has supported legislation that would prevent the limitation of green house gases and block the US Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters.

Here is a sample of his voting record:

Paul Ryan voted to Eliminate EPA limits on Greenhouse Pollution. He voted in favor of H.R. 910 (4/07/11) to block the US Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas pollution. According to the League of Conservation Voters, this bill would “permanently block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act” and “undermine fuel economy standards. This harmful bill would jeopardize public health and the environment, and increase the nation’s dangerous dependence on oil.

Paul Ryan voted to block the USDA from preparing for climate change. He voted in favor of the Scalise Amendment to the FY12 Agriculture Appropriations bill(6/16/11), to bar the US Department of Agriculture from implementing its Climate Protection Plan.  As stated by the League of Conservation Voters, voting “yes” to this amendment was anti-environment. The League states, “Our nation’s food sources and forests are threatened by the increased severity and variability of climate and weather-related events.  The Agriculture Department is working with farmers, the agriculture industry, and forest managers to prepare for these threats and to develop better farming and forestry practices to help reduce the negative impacts of climate change.”

Paul Ryan voted for Keystone XL Pipeline. Ryan voted to expedite the consideration and approval of the construction and operation of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline (7/26/11). Representative Lee Terry (R-NE) sponsored H.R. 1938, the misnamed North American-Made Energy Security Act, to rush a decision on whether to grant a presidential permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline across six states in order to carry tar sands—the dirtiest oil on the planet—from Canada’s boreal forest to an international shipping port in Texas.  The League of Conservation Voters states that “this pipeline would threaten the environment with far more global warming pollution than conventional crude oil and jeopardize surrounding communities, ecosystems, and watersheds.”

Paul Ryan voted against the Energy Efficiency Loan H.R. 4785. This bill (which ultimately passed) aimed to amend the miscellaneous rural development provisions of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 to authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to make loans to certain entities that will use the funds to make loans to consumers to implement energy efficiency measures involving structural improvements and investments in cost-effective, commercial off-the-shelf technologies to reduce home energy use. Journalist Deena Shanker, responded to these votes, stating that the fact “that Ryan would oppose cutting tax incentives for oil companies in order to help those working in renewable shows how his support for Americans and their businesses is reserved only for those exploiting the environment”

Paul Ryan budget kept big oil subsides and slashed clean energy investment. Ryan’s FY 2013 Budget Resolution retained a decades’ worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion, while slashing funding for investments in clean energy research, development, deployment, and commercialization, along with other energy programs. The plan called for a $3 billion cut in energy programs in FY 2013 alone.

In addition to his opposition to meaningful action to reduce global warming pollution, Paul Ryan’s budget called for “drastic cuts in federal spending on energy research and development and for the outright elimination of subsidies and tax breaks for wind, solar power and other alternative energy technologies.”

In order to solve the very real climate crisis that the world is facing, we need political leadership that recognizes the need for action and will fight for policies that move us toward a clean energy economy.

We welcome your comments!

For more information on Paul Ryan and his views check out our page: Paul Ryan on the Issues

Sequestration: It’s Not Only Defense Cuts

An editorial in the NY Times was published on August 1st titled, “The Truth About Military Cuts”. This editorial pointed out the disparity between Republicans’ words and their actions. Around Washington, looming sequestration has become a blame game and it seems that President Obama is the scapegoat for the Republican Party. What many Republican Senators, including Sen. John McCain, forget to mention is that they voted yes for these across-the-board cuts – as is pointed out in the editorial. In town meetings across America, Republican Senators have been scaring citizens over the layoffs that will ensue if Congress cannot make a deal. The Editorial points out that “their goal is partly to drum up opposition to the $500 billion across-the-board defense cuts that begins in January, but it also is to get voters to blame Mr. Obama for those cuts. To do so, they have had to be less than forthright about their role in creating one of the worst examples of governance in many years”.

Another key point that has seemed to garner little attention is the non-defense programs that will also receive cuts. According to the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), the automatic sequestration would reduce non-defense discretionary programs by 7.8% on January 2, 2013. In a letter by Ellen Murray, Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources for the DHHS, she stated that “the deep discretionary cuts projected by CBO would have profound consequences on the Department’s ability to protect Americans’ health and safety and provide critical services to vulnerable populations”

The projects cuts include:

  • The NIH could potentially eliminate 2,300 new and competing research project grants
  • There would be nearly 300 fewer grants issued by the National Cancer Institute
  • Up to 100,000 children would lose Head Start services
  • 80,000 fewer children would receive child care assistance
  • 12,150 fewer patients would receive benefits from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program
  • 169,000 fewer individuals would be admitted to substance abuse treatment programs
  • 14,200 fewer people who are homeless would receive assistance

Not only would the DHHS be affected but sequestration would additionally lead to the layoffs the New York Times of “tens of thousands of teachers, closings of national parks, reductions in food inspections, and cutbacks at the F.B.I. and the Border Patrol”. As stated in the Editorial, the overall budget deal “reduces domestic spending significantly more than defense”.

President Obama and the Democrats have been clear that no deal can be made without revenue increases for which Republicans, thus far, have refused to find a compromise. Sequestration is something no one wants – and while the Pentagon may be able to absorb these cuts – it cannot do so in the way these cuts are laid out – across-the-board. Within the Department of Defense, there are certain Defense programs that should probably be cut more than they will be under sequestration and other programs that should not be cut as much. Sequestration which was seen as an ultimatum in order for Congress to get its act together is becoming a reality, as partisanship within the Senate and House hinder any sort of resolution on this matter. 

As the editorial put it, “If the Senators are serious about averting a problem they helped create, they can support negotiating a deficit-reduction package that includes tax revenues from the wealthy, or they can urge that both sides of the sequester simply be set aside…Blaming the president for their own mistake is not a solution”

Your comments are welcomed!

Looking at the Future of the Foreign Affairs Budget

As Congress approaches the August recess, there are several unanswered questions and much unfinished business. This unfinished business includes: FY13 Appropriations, Finalizing FY13 International Affairs Budget, and looming sequestration.

FY13 Appropriations

Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have approved appropriations bills – yet it seems that there will be no movement to reconcile these bills by the Congress until after October 1st, when the new fiscal year begins. A key issue that is high priority for both chambers is the Continuing Resolution, a type of legislation used by the United States Congress to fund government agencies if a formal appropriations bill has not been signed into law by the end of the Congressional fiscal year.

As of yesterday, Congressional leaders reached a preliminary deal to fund the federal government through March of next year – a “rare breakthrough in a divided Congress that has battled ferociously over the budget for the past two years”. Under the Reid-Boehner deal, Congress would agree to fund the government for six months when the fiscal year expires Sept. 30, setting agency spending for the year at $1.047 trillion. If approved, the deal will ensure that the government will keep operating when the year ends. However, it is not certain that this bill will pass before Congress leaves this summer or even when they get back in September. There are opposing or uncertain forces in the Republican Party and among some Democrats. There is talk of putting unacceptable items in the bill that may draw a veto or prevent it from being taken up in the Senate.

Finalizing FY13 International Affairs Level

There are significant differences between the House and Senate FY13 International Affairs Budgets which will need to be addressed by Congress. The Senate’s State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill is about $4 billion above the House’s State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill.

Here is a snapshot of the differing bills:

Chart Provided by the US Global Leadership Coalition

State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Snapshot:

 

FY12 Enacted 

FY13 Request 

FY13 House Appropriation 

FY13 Senate Appropriation 

Base

$42.0b

$46.3b

$40.0b

$49.7b

OCO

$11.2b

$8.2b

$8.2b

$2.3b

TOTAL

$53.2b

$54.5b

$48.2b

$52.0b

The key differences in the bills come from the terms of funding of non-war related programs. The Senate, for example, went much deeper in proposing 53% less for the Frontline States compared with the Administration’s request. The Senate bill, overall, gives more money to development assistance programs, recommending 36% more for global disaster and refugee relief programs, as well as 21% more for development assistance – compared to the House bill.

Sequestration

The biggest and most talked about challenge for the Congress is the looming across-the-board cuts that will take place if the two parties cannot come to an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. Sequestration was passed as part of the 2011 Budget Control Act, serving as the ultimate incentive for Congress and the White House to agree on a long-term deficit reduction deal.  The “Super Committee” failed to create a plan acceptable to the majority, in part because of Republican unwillingness to compromise on raising taxes on the very rich and putting the cost of the cuts on the middle class and poor.

Sequestration remains in force and has created fear within both parties. Half of the savings must come from Defense programs and half from non-Defense discretionary and entitlement programs – the impact of the size of cuts will be significant across the federal budget.

The consequences of sequestration would be detrimental for International Affairs funding – resulting in post-sequestration funding in FY13 of $47.7 billion – which would be 13% less than current levels.

Looking Ahead:

A range of scenarios surrounding sequestration are possible. Most likely, a long term agreement will not be reached at the end of the year which means lawmakers would either need to delay sequestration until sometime in 2013 or allow the cuts to go into effect January 2nd with the possibility of rolling them back retroactively. The election outcome will also influence the kind of deal made by Congress, and it could end unfortunately with a further large contraction of the US economy as we have seen in Europe and especially in Britain under conservative austerity programs, if those who want to further cut government domestic programs prevail.

Obama and Romney: Foreign Policy Speeches at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Conference

Both Romney and Obama gave speeches this week at the VFW conference and focused on their foreign policy objectives and America’s national security. Obama focused his speech on the promises he has kept over his term including ending the war in Iraq, the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan. Romney took this opportunity to emphasize America’s diminishing presence around the world – and in his opinion Obama’s key role in this decline.

Obama’s Key Points:

Obama focused his speech on the promises he has kept as Commander-in-Chief. He stated, “as we look at the ahead to the challenges we face as a nation and the leadership that’s required, you don’t just have my words, you have my deeds. You have my track record. You have the promises I’ve made and the promises that I’ve kept”

Iraq

He spoke of his success in honorably ending the war in Iraq while jabbing at Romney’s current vagueness in his foreign policy objectives, “When you’re Commander-in-Chief, you owe the troops a plan, you owe the country a plan – and that includes recognizing not just when to begin wars, but also how to end them”.

Afghanistan and bin Laden

He also stated his achievements in both killing Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders as well as finishing the job in Afghanistan. In his speech, he states,“But since I took office, we’ve worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al Qaeda leaders than any time since 9/11”. While not saying Romney’s name, he addressed the criticism of his opponent for his timeline for withdrawal from Afghanistan, stating “there are those who argued against a timeline for ending this war…but you know what, that’s not a plan for America’s security…I felt it was important that the American people – and our men and women in uniform – know our plan to end this war responsibly”.

US Role in the World

Obama emphasized America’s continued leadership and alliances across the world – a point which Romney has been criticizing him for. “We’re leading from Europe to the Asia pacific, with alliances that have never been stronger. We’re leading the fight against nuclear dangers. We’ve applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea…We’re leading on behalf of freedom”

He again stressed America’s role in the world, saying that “because we’re leading around the world, people have a new attitude toward America. There’s more confidence in our leadership”

Syrian Crisis

In discussing American leadership, Obama stated US response to the Syrian Crisis – focusing on working with friends and allies as well as the Syrian opposition to transition the Syrian government from the Assad regime. Obama reinforced Assad’s culpability and stated that. “…given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States”

Defense Cuts

Obama also brought up looming sequestration – calling out Republicans and stating “let’s stop playing politics with our military”.

Obama chastised the Republican Party – reminding them that “there are a number of Republicans in Congress who don’t want to you to know that most of them voted for these cuts…instead of making tough choices to reduce the deficit, they’d rather protect tax cuts for some of the wealthiest Americans, even if it risks big cuts in our military”

*Full Transcript Available Here*

Romney’s Key Points:

Romney focused his speech on America’s decline as the world’s leader and Obama’s relinquishment of US leadership around the world. From Iran, to U.S. relations with Israel, China as well as the Obama strategy in Afghanistan, the Romney speech was a broad assault on the president who, Romney asserted, has “diminished American leadership,” leaving the world “dangerous, destructive, and chaotic.”

America’s Declining Influence under Obama

Romney focused on his belief that President Obama has relinquished US-leadership around the world.  Romney stressed that Obama’s failed leadership has lead to the “consequence of American weakness” as is “seen around us in the world”.

While Romney stressed Obama’s lack of leadership and that if “we do not have the strength or vision to lead, then other powers will take our place, pulling history in a very different direction”, he failed to mention any specific policies that he would take as president.

An “American Century”

A key focus of Romney’s speech was the need for this century to be an “American Century”, touting America’s greatness and the right of the United States to use its power. He stated at the conference, “I am not ashamed of American power…I do not view America as just one more point on the strategic map, one more power to be balanced” 

Afghanistan

The only issue in which Romney actually proposed a plan was Afghanistan – a policy plan, however, which mirrors that of the Obama administration. “As president, my goal in Afghanistan will be to complete successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014. I will evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders”. – In what way is this policy a change from the Obama administration?

Iran

Romney stated Iran as America’s greatest threat in the world and called for “firmness, clarity, and moral courage” against Iran. In what actions should be taken, Romney stated enforced sanctions and effective negotiations. “Sanctions must be enforced without exception, cutting off the regime’s sources of wealth. Negotiations must secure full and unhindered access for inspections”. Romney’s policy plans here again do not differ from Obama’s and while he further stated that he “will use every means necessary to protect ourselves and the region”, he was vague in what this protection entails.

Russia

Romney also emphasized Obama’s concessions to the Russian government and the corruption in Vladimir Putin’s administration – stating that these concessions again showed America’s weakness under the Obama administration on the world stage. Referring to Putin, Romney stated, “He regained the Russian presidency in a corrupt election, and for that, he got a congratulatory call from the Oval Office…why is flexibility with Russian leaders more important than transparency to the American people?”

China

Romney, additionally, stressed the rising challenge of China and condemned China’s “flagrant patent and copyright violations” and currency manipulation. Romney critiqued Obama’s lack of action on stopping China from cheating in these regards, stating “cheating must finally be brought to a stop. President Obama hasn’t done it and won’t do it. I will.”

Israel

Romney criticized Obama’s relationship with Netanyahu and the state of Israel. Referring to Obama, Romney stated, “He has undermined their position…the people of Israel deserve better than what they have received from the leader of the free world”

Defense Cuts

Romney brought up sequestration and blamed Obama for these across the board cuts, saying that now was a time to further strengthen our military might and citing such threats as Iran’s nuclear capabilities and Islamic terrorism. “This is not the time for the President’s radical cuts in the military. Look around the globe. Other major powers are rapidly adding to their military capabilities, some with intentions very different from ours”

*Full Transcript Available Here*

Commentary:

The relative lack of attention that foreign policy has received so far in the election campaign is largely the result of the weak economy and high levels of unemployment.

One of the dangers for Romney of spending so much time talking foreign policy is that it will highlight the lack of specifics behind some of his policies – which leading Republicans have struggled to explain. Instead, Romney has continued with broad jabs casting Obama as a timid leader. While Romney focused his speech on critiquing Obama, he still failed to address what steps or policies he would take that differ from Obama. The Romney campaign has shown few signs that the presumptive GOP nominee will offer more specific areas of contrast with Obama. Biden in response to Romney’s VFW speech, blasted him saying Romney did a “compelling job of laying out exactly what the administration is already doing,” adding that if launching a war against Iran is what Romney is for, “he should tell the American people.”

This foreign policy debate is expected to continue as Romney travels to London, Poland, and Israel this week.

**For more quotes on foreign policy and national security, visit our 2012 Candidate Quotes Section**

On the Ground in Syria: Looking at Human Rights Abuses

On Friday, July 13th, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) held an event titled, “Views from the Ground in Syria”. The main speaker of this event was Donatella Rovera, a senior investigator for Amnesty International, who spent months in Syria documenting the deteriorating situation. News and commentary on the struggle between the armed opposition and the Assad regime has focused mostly on the politics and the generalized bloodshed that is occurring across this nation. What seems to be missing from these conversations is the horrendous human rights violations that are still  happening as we speak. The death toll has reached 18,000 people and still the international community appears at a stalemate, as we await a UN Security Council vote on the next steps in Syria. How many more deaths need to occur in order for the international community to take concrete action. In 10-20 years we do not want to look back and say, we should have done more – as has been the case with other mass killings and genocides in Rwanda, Armenia, and Germany. Ms. Rovera’s comments were important as they humanize the situation and bring to light the atrocities that are being committed. The key remains for the international community in one form or another to act effectively. Increasingly it seems that the outcome will be decided by brute force.

Donatella Rovera’s Comments:

Having viewed the crisis in Syria first hand, it is apparent that the killings have crossed the threshold and are now crimes against humanity. While in Syria, Ms. Rovera  visited 23 different towns in the North.

Aleppo – Syria’s economic capital had not been affected by the armed conflict until recently, unlike other towns where demonstrations started 17 months ago. The actions by the Assad government against the people of Aleppo was the same as it was 17 months ago however. Small demonstrations were broken up by security forces who would fire live rounds those who were injured in the fire could not go to hospitals. 2 medical students in Aleppo tried to secretly help the injured. They were imprisoned by the military, tortured, shot, and then burned.

In the other 22 towns visited, the situation was quite different than that of Aleppo. The violence and armed conflict had been prevalent in those countries since the beginning of the revolution. Within these 22 villages, there were similar patterns of military dissent, demonstrating a calculated effort by the Assad regime to suppress the Syrian people. Typically, security forces would go into houses – take mostly young men/boys where they would commit brutal executions and then would burn down houses and villages.

Case Examples: Security Forces barged into a house at night, took the three sons who had not been involved in any armed conflict of the opposition, took them outside and shot them and then burned their bodies. In another town, a young man (who was not armed) went to pick up his 3 young cousins (all under the age of 11) – the army caught up to him and killed him along with the three children.

In these cases, the same modus operandi exists – quite clearly these actions of the security forces are state policy and are done with a level of premeditation.

The armed opposition was formed because peaceful demonstrators were being shot at by the Assad government. The opposition is becoming stronger, more organized, and gaining more ground. However, they too have begun to commit human rights abuses.

While there is obvious danger of a civil war – it has not come to that point yet because a monopoly of the violence has come from the arms of government forces.

The Role of the International Community: The question that was heard from the citizens of Syria was “why is the world doing nothing?”

The international community is paralyzed on the question of Syria. The key problem is that the only option discussed by the international community was whether or not to intervene militarily. In the case of Libya, the case was referred to the International Criminal Court right away. But in Syria, after 17 months of violence, the case has yet to be referred to the ICC. While the Kofi Annan’s UN Mission had the right idea, the plan was not at the right time, and was ultimately too little, too late. The Annan mission went in with the wrong mandate – as the end to cease fire was not an achievable or realistic goal.

Two useful things that should be done:

  •  The mandate of the UN Mission should be expanded to be given authority, human skills and capacity to look at war crimes.
  • The Syrian case should be referred to the International Criminal Court – in order to send a signal to the Assad regime that time for impunity is over.

The Future of Afghanistan: What Will the Money Achieve?

Donors met in Tokyo on July 8 and pledged a total of $16 billion in aid to Afghanistan over the next four years. The participants at the meeting, attended by 80 countries and international organizations, pledged these funds (which fell short of the amount the Afghan Central Bank has said will foster economic growth) on the condition that swift and tangible improvements are made in governance,  the fight against corruption, and the strengthening of civil rights. These provisions were expressed in the Mutual Accountability Framework drawn up at the meeting to guide Afghanistan to a more stable future. The framework lists specific actions for Afghanistan to take and demonstrates that Kabul has made big promises and joint commitments with the international community.

Hillary Clinton emphasized the need for President Karzai and the Afghan government to take measures toward economic development and anti-corruption, stating, “We know Afghanistan’s security cannot only be measured by the absence of war; it has to be measured by whether people have jobs and economic opportunity, whether they believe their government is serving their needs, whether political reconciliation proceeds and succeeds.”

Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress believes that if the Afghan authorities fail to do a better job curbing corruption, then “the whole framework for international support could collapse”. There are doubts of the actual improvements and developments that this $16 billion will achieve, considering the country’s past. International donors provided $35 billion in aid to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010, but the return on that investment has been mixed and the country remains one of the poorest and most corrupt in the world. There is the possibility of the money being misused in Afghanistan, which provokes anxiety for donor countries. While the mutual accountability framework lists specific actions that must be taken by both Kabul and the international community, there is no certainty that these provisions or the foreign aid will help Afghanistan reach a stable and democratic future

Although money has been pledged and a framework for the stability of Afghanistan has been crafted, the future of this country is still up in the air. Days after the meeting, a video of the execution of Afghan women began circulating and has re-ignited fear of what Afghanistan will be like after the West leaves and what role the Taliban will fill. The video highlights ongoing struggles in Afghanistan between the forces of progress and the forces of regression. Bombings in Southern Afghanistan that killed six US troops, several days after the Tokyo meeting, have increased doubt of achieving stability.  Continued violence and the potential return of the Taliban make it difficult to be optimistic about Afghanistan’s future. 

For the Tokyo Conference Declaration, click here!

National Defense Authorization Act, FY 2013: Comparing the House Bill and Senate Markup

The Senate full committee is not set to vote on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) until later this year, but the Senate Armed Services Committee markup of the House bill shows the potential clash between the two houses of Congress as well as a clash between the two parties. The House full committee and the Senate Armed Services committee put out two different bottom lines for Pentagon Funding, with the SASC below the President’s budget and the House bill over the President’s budget by $4 billion and above the Budget Control Act by $8 billion.

The House bill produced many questionable provisions including a measure that would thwart the Obama administration’s efforts to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and would impede its ability to carry out the nuclear arms reduction treaty ratified by the Senate in 2010. The White House had many concerns with the House bill specifically over the overall spending levels, detainee policy, and nuclear weapons deployment. The SASC markup joined the House on several provisions but overall set a different bottom line for DoD spending making a total of 150 changes to the President’s budget proposal. With looming sequestration and debates rising over defense spending, the outcome of the NDAA FY 2013 and the Senates provisions will be of great importance. For a more in depth look at the House bill and the SASC markup, visit our page: National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 2013: Comparing the House Bill and Senate Markup.