Highway Trust Fund Politics 1NC First, A Highway funding bill will pass now, but it will require a fight Bolton June 28 [Alexander Bolton; June 28, 2015; Looming Highway debate stirs tax fight; The Hill; http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/246354looming-highway-debate-stirs-tax-fight; accessed July 4, 2015; AC] fight over raising taxes has bloomed as the chief obstacle to passing a desperately needed multiyear transportation bill by the end of next month, raising the specter of a possible shutdown of highway programs. Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is tasked with finding a way to pay for a multi-year deal, has ruled out the prospect of raising taxes, putting him on a collision course with Democrats. Senate Democratic leaders have called for a six-year, $478 billion transportation bill paid largely by taxing overseas corporate profits. They warn it would be "very hard" for them to accept another short-term extension of highway funds after having done so 33 times. A bipartisan group A of senators, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the panel, have proposed a less ambition six-year, $275 billion highway bill. But Inhofe and Boxer are leaving it up to the Finance Committee to find a way to pay for a $90 billion funding shortfall not covered by federal gasoline and diesel taxes. Lawmakers will have four weeks to solve the impasse before the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money on July 31. The battle over tax increases will return to the forefront when lawmakers get back from the Fourth of July recess, now that the trade debate — which consumed May and June — is finally over. “We hope we can get the highway bill done before the end of July,” Hatch told reporters but he identified the funding shortfall as a major obstacle. He says a three- or four-year transportation bill is more realistic than the sixyear proposals put forth by the president and Senate colleagues. Furthermore, Obama’s focus is key to passage – there is no room for other bills Atler June 24 [Jonathan Atler, June 24, 2015; How Obama can heal the democrats’ split on trade; The Daily Beast; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/24/how-obama-can-heal-the-democrats-split-on-trade.html; accessed 4 July 4, 2015; AC] With the highway trust fund and tax reform both on the table, Obama should devote the rest of 2015 on the domestic side to finding the money for infrastructure. Unlike immigration reform or gun safety, this is achievable with Republicans. Few Republicans recall that the GOP was founded in the 1850s on what were then Fortunately there’s still time for the president to put his nose to the grindstone on jobs in the same way he has with trade. known as “internal improvements” as well as opposition to slavery in the territories. But many seem ready for creative policy-making on the issue. Representative Barbara Comstock and other influential conservatives I’ve spoken with are open to a big transportation bill if a way can be found to pay for it other than an increase in the gas tax. And, The Freedom act passage changed the landscape – any additional new surveillance limits uniquely causes a major fight Gross 15 [Grant Gross, Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for the IDG News Service, and is based in Washington, D.C., IDG News Service, PC World, June 5, 2015, http://www.pcworld.com/article/2932337/dont-expect-majorchanges-to-nsa-surveillance-from-congress.html; accessed 6 July 2015; Don't expect major changes to NSA surveillance from Congress After the U.S. Congress approved what critics have called modest limits on the National Security Agency’s collection of domestic telephone records, many lawmakers may be reluctant to further change the government’s surveillance programs. The Senate this week passed the USA Freedom Act, which aims to end the NSA’s mass collection of domestic phone records, and President Barack Obama signed the bill hours later. After that action, expect Republican leaders in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to resist further calls for surveillance reform. That resistance is at odds with many rank-and-file lawmakers, including many House Republicans, who want to further limit NSA programs brought to light by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. Civil liberties groups and privacy advocates also promise to push for more changes. It may be difficult to get “broad, sweeping reform” through Congress, but many lawmakers seem ready to push for more changes, said Adam Eisgrau, managing director of the office of government relations for the American Library Association. The ALA has charged the NSA surveillance programs violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. “Congress is not allowed to be tired of surveillance reform unless it’s prepared to say it’s tired of the Fourth Amendment,” Eisgrau said. “The American public will not accept that.” Other activists are less optimistic about more congressional action. “It will a long slog getting more restraints,” J. Kirk Wiebe, a former NSA analyst and whistleblower said by email. ”The length of that journey will depend on public outcry—that is the one thing that is hard to gauge.” With the USA Freedom Act, “elected officials have opted to reach for low-hanging fruit,” said Bill Blunden, a cybersecurity researcher and surveillance critic. “The theater we’ve just witnessed allows decision makers to boast to their constituents about reforming mass surveillance while spies understand that what’s actually transpired is hardly major change.” The “actual physical mechanisms” of surveillance programs remain largely intact. Blunden added by email. “Politicians may dither around the periphery but they are unlikely to institute fundamental changes.” Next, A Long-term highway bill is key to the economy – stability, jobs and increased economic activity O’Sullivan July 1 [Terry O’Sullivan, July 1, 2015; Think passing a highway bill is hard? Try building a highway; The Hill; http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/246675-think-passing-a-highway-bill-is-hard-try-building-a-highway; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] Each day thousands of construction laborers go to work — and thousands more want to — building the critical transportation infrastructure of our country. It is grueling physical work, often performed in the worst of heat, the dampest of rain and the most penetrating of cold. It offers physical exhaustion and physical dangers. It’s not the kind of job you can make excuses for if you don’t get it done. Yet it is the kind of work has led many a father or mother to say to their child with pride, “See that? I built that.” If only Congress could say the same. A year ago, Congress scrambled for spare change underneath seat cushions at the Capitol to patch the Highway Trust Fund, the main way our nation invests in its roads and bridges. The best Congress could do was find nine months of resources, all with the promise that the short-term measure would allow them time to develop a long-term bill to fix our nation’s crumbling roads and bridges. Fast-forward to today: Up against yet another deadline to act, Congress has passed another patch — the 32nd since 2009 — once again to buy more time, as if lawmakers didn’t know the last time they kicked the can down the road, they would come upon it again. If construction laborers arrived at a jobsite and weren’t ready to work and do their job, they would rightfully be sent home. Yet that is exactly what Congress has done when it comes to the Highway Trust Fund. The impact on America has been profound. Because of a lack of confidence in the long- term stability of the Highway Trust Fund, another summer construction season will end without the creation of additional family-supporting blue-collar jobs a stable fund can support. And needed long-term projects to enhance safety and boost economic growth will be left on the drawing board. The Highway Trust Fund means real jobs and real money for real families. According to the U.S. Transportation Department, every federal dollar invested in transportation infrastructure generates an additional $2.54 in economic activity, and every construction job created to fix our roads and bridges results indirectly in the creation of 2.5 more jobs. Fixing the Highway Trust Fund is about more than livelihoods and economic growth. It is, in fact, about saving lives. According to the independent transportation research group TRIP, poor road conditions, such as potholes, contribute to a third of all traffic fatalities, or about 10,000 needlessly lost lives each year. The key cause for falling bridges and roadway deaths is not a mystery — it is because the federal gas tax has been stuck at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993, losing 40 percent of its value. It appears that many in Congress have calculated that adjusting the tax makes a stronger political talking point against them than being complicit in the deterioration of the very backbone of the nation. Democrats and Republicans appear to have become immune to our nation’s needs even when it costs lives, livelihoods and our place in the world. Construction workers are ready to do their jobs. This Congress needs to do its job. It has many viable options to choose from. And, Finally Decline leads to global nuclear war O’Hanlon 12 Kenneth G. Lieberthal, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center and Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and Global Economy and Development at the Brookings Institution, former Professor at the University of Michigan [“The Real National Security Threat: America's Debt,” Los Angeles Times, July 10th, http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/07/10-economy-foreign-policylieberthal-ohanlon] Alas, globalization and automation trends of the last generation have increasingly called the American dream into question for the working classes. Another decade of underinvestment in what is required to remedy this situation will make an isolationist or populist president far more likely because much of the country will question whether an internationalist role makes sense for America — especially if it costs us well over half a trillion dollars in defense spending annually yet seems correlated with more job losses. Lastly, American economic weakness undercuts U.S. leadership abroad. Other countries sense our weakness and wonder about our purported decline. If this perception becomes more widespread, and the case that we are in decline becomes more persuasive, countries will begin to take actions that reflect their skepticism about America's future. Allies and friends will doubt our commitment and may pursue nuclear weapons for their own security, for example; adversaries will sense opportunity and be less restrained in throwing around their weight in their own neighborhoods. The crucial Persian Gulf and Western Pacific regions will likely become less stable. Major war will become more likely. When running for president last time, Obama eloquently articulated big foreign policy visions: healing America's breach with the Muslim world, controlling global climate change, dramatically curbing global poverty through development aid, moving toward a world free of nuclear weapons. These were, and remain, worthy if elusive goals. However, for Obama or his successor, there is now a much more urgent big- picture issue: restoring U.S. economic strength. Nothing else is really possible if that fundamental prerequisite to effective foreign policy is not reestablished. Uniqueness Level Will Pass Highway bill will pass now Pianin June 24 [Eric Pianin, June 24, 2015; Senators Move towards a big infrastructure; The Fiscal Times; http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/06/24/senators-move-towards-big-infrastructure-deal?onswipe_redirect=no&oswrr=1; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] Congress has finally been shamed into doing something about the near bankrupt federal highway program after infuriating the nation’s governors, mayors, businessmen and labor leaders by postponing tough decisions about long term funding. Key Republican and Democratic senators reached a tentative agreement on Tuesday on the broad outlines of a new six-year transportation bill aimed at addressing the country’s crumbling infrastructure and need for more construction jobs. Highway bill will pass – it’s just a question of hammering out the details Fricke June 19 [Peter Fricke; June 19, 2015; Lawmakers Predict Long Highway Bill despite impasse over details; The Daily Caller; http://dailycaller.com/2015/06/19/lawmakers-predict-long-highway-bill-despite-impasse-over-details/; accessed 4 July 4, 2015; AC] Lawmakers are adamant they will pass a long term highway bill, but they are equally insistent on promoting long-term, bipartisan solution to this dilemma will be difficult to their own, disparate proposals. “A achieve and, some days, it almost seems out of reach,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said at a committee hearing Thursday, but “my goal as chairman of this committee is to find a way to fund a long-term infrastructure bill.” Congress has until July 31 to come up with a solution. After that, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) will no longer have enough money to meet all of its obligations Top of Docket Highway bill is on the very top of the docket Davis July 5 [Susan Davis, July 5, 2015; Congress in July: Highways, education and iran; USA Today; http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/07/05/congress-july-agenda/29570627/; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] WASHINGTON — Congress returns Tuesday for a four-week legislative sprint to confront a number of domestic and foreign policy matters before lawmakers adjourn for the annual August break. A muchanticipated and long-delayed transportation bill will take top billing with a July 31 deadline on how to keep funding flowing to the nation's highways and other popular infrastructure projects. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee recently approved a six-year highway bill, but how to pay for it remains a significant hurdle. Many lawmakers, mostly Democrats, want to pay for it in part by raising the gas tax, which has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. But that's a nonstarter for the GOP-controlled Congress. There is also a bipartisan effort afoot to raise revenues by raising taxes on profits U.S. companies earn overseas. Link Level Generic Obama fights intensely against plan – all their turns are links Greenwald 14 [Glenn Greenwald, November 19, 2014, journalist, constitutional lawyer, and author of four New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, "Congress Is Irrelevant on Mass Surveillance. Here's what Matters instead", The Intercept, https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/11/19/irrelevance-u-s-congress-stopping-nsas-mass-surveillance/, accessed 6 July 2015; AC] There is a real question about whether the defeat of this bill is good, bad, or irrelevant. To begin with, it sought to change only one small sliver of NSA mass surveillance (domestic bulk collection of phone records under section 215 of the Patriot Act) while leaving completely unchanged the primary means of NSA mass surveillance, which takes place under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, based on the lovely and quintessentially American theory that all that matters are the privacy rights of Americans (and not the 95 percent of the planet called “non-Americans”). There were some mildly positive provisions in the USA Freedom Act: the placement of “public advocates” at the FISA court to contest the claims of the government; the prohibition on the NSA holding Americans’ phone records, requiring instead that they obtain FISA court approval before seeking specific records from the telecoms (which already hold those records for at least 18 months); and reducing the agency’s “contact chaining” analysis from three hops to two. One could reasonably argue (as the ACLU and EFF did) that, though woefully inadequate, the bill was a netpositive as a first step toward real reform, but one could also reasonably argue, as Marcy Wheeler has with characteristic insight, that the bill is so larded with ambiguities and fundamental inadequacies that it would forestall better options and advocates for real reform should thus root for its defeat. When pro-privacy members of Congress first unveiled the bill many months ago, it was actually a good bill: real reform. But the White House worked very hard— in partnership with the House GOP—to water that bill down so severely that what the House ended up passing over the summer did more to strengthen the NSA than rein it in, which caused even the ACLU and EFF to withdraw their support. The Senate bill rejected last night was basically a middle ground between that original, good bill and the anti-reform bill passed by the House. * * * * * All of that illustrates what is, to me, the most important point from all of this: the last place one should look to impose limits on the powers of the U.S. government is . . . the U.S. government. Governments don’t walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power, and that’s particularly true of empires. The entire system in D.C. is designed at its core to prevent real reform. This Congress is not going to enact anything resembling fundamental limits on the NSA’s powers of mass surveillance. Even if it somehow did, this White House would never sign it. Even if all that miraculously happened, the fact that the U.S. intelligence community and National Security State operates with no limits and no oversight means they’d easily co-opt the entire reform process. That’s what happened after the eavesdropping scandals of the mid-1970s led to the establishment of congressional intelligence committees and a special FISA “oversight” court —the committees were instantly captured by putting in charge supreme servants of the intelligence community like Senators Dianne Feinstein and Chambliss, and Congressmen Mike Rogers and “Dutch” Ruppersberger, while the court quickly became a rubber stamp with subservient judges who operate in total secrecy. Ever since the Snowden reporting began and public opinion (in both the U.S. and globally) began radically changing, the White House’s strategy has been obvious. It’s vintage Obama: Enact something that is called “reform”—so that he can give a pretty speech telling the world that he heard and responded to their concerns—but that in actuality changes almost nothing, thus strengthening the very system he can pretend he “changed.” That’s the same tactic as Silicon Valley, which also supported this bill: Be able to point to something called “reform” so they can trick hundreds of millions of current and future users around the world into believing that their communications are now safe if they use Facebook, Google, Skype and the rest. In pretty much every interview I’ve done over the last year, I’ve been asked why there haven’t been significant changes from all the disclosures. I vehemently disagree with the premise of the question, which equates “U.S. legislative changes” with “meaningful changes.” But it has been clear from the start that U.S. legislation is not going to impose meaningful limitations on the NSA’s powers of mass surveillance, at least not fundamentally. Those limitations are going to come from—are now coming from —very different places: Plan’s unpopular – congressional division blocks reform – fights guaranteed, even supporters get drawn into battles over specific details Kiefer 14 (Francine Kiefer, Staff Writer and Congressional Correspondent for CS Monitor, NSA reform? Obama faces headwinds in a Congress divided on surveillance policy, January 17, 2014, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/DC-Decoder/2014/0117/NSA-reformObama-faces-headwinds-in-a-Congress-divided-on-surveillance-policy; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] President Obama says he’d like to put the US government out of the business of storing Americans’ phone records – though he maintains it’s still necessary to collect those records en masse for anti-terrorism purposes. To make this and other suggested changes to the National Security Agency's surveillance system, he’ll need the help of Congress. Capitol Hill, however, is as divided on the subject as is the American public. Libertarian-minded conservatives align with liberals in opposing the phone-dragnet program altogether, while other Republicans and Democrats largely support it. Last July, the House fell short of ending the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records, on a close, bipartisan vote. On the key House and Senate committees responsible for drafting relevant legislation, members of the judiciary panels tend to want wholesale changes, while those division also marks the committees. The upshot is that Congress could well have a tough time agreeing on the legislation required to alter the program. President Obama proposes that the government stop holding phone records. In making this recommendation, the president followed the dealing with intelligence want only tweaks. But even that is a bit of a generalization, as advice of a blue-chip review panel he convened after the furor over massive leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Although the panel found no intentional abuse of the records so far – and the NSA collects data about a phone call but not its content – it warned that the government's storage of the data creates the potential for abuse and public mistrust. Mr. Obama has asked the attorney general to come up with an alternative storage arrangement. The panel suggested either keeping it with the phone companies or entrusting it with a third party. "While I am encouraged the president is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, in a statement. The senator, a tea party favorite, described Obama’s solution as “the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.” In the end, Senator Paul told CNN, little changes: Private records will still be collected without a search warrant. He gave Obama an “A for effort” though. In the House, Rep. Adam Schiff (D) of California, a senior member of the Intelligence Committee, welcomed the changes. But in a statement – and in legislation he introduced – the congressman says the government should obtain an individualized court order to get at phone records “already held by phone companies as part of their normal business practices.” He opposes a third party holding records because it would be “perceived as a subsidiary of the NSA and would do little to build public confidence.” Conversely, letting the phone companies store the records “may create as many privacy problems as it solves,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this week. He pointed to recent examples of hacking at Target and Neiman Marcus. Rep. Peter King (R) of New York, a strong defender of the NSA's bulk data collection, tweeted, in part: “Pres Obama NSA speech better than expected. Most programs left intact.” Indeed, the need to keep up the mass collection of phone records has staunch defenders on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She says that collecting phone records is “important to prevent another [9/11] attack.” House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio took on a cautionary tone. "When lives are at stake, the president must not allow politics to cloud his judgment," he said, in a written response. "The House will review any legislative reforms proposed by the administration, but we will not erode the operational integrity of critical programs that have helped keep America safe." An independent voice The president also seeks to change the workings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), the secret court that provides judicial review of the NSA phone collection program. Obama wants Congress to “authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates provide an independent voice in significant cases” before the court. This, too, drew criticism from the Hill. Such a “public advocate” can’t be trusted if it even works for the government or is appointed by the from outside government to government, said Senator Paul. Representative Schiff echoed that an advocate panel must be “truly independent.” On the other hand, legislation passed by Senator Feinstein’s committee last year gives the FISA court the ability to select a more sympathetic panel – “friends of the court” – to argue for privacy or to provide an independent legal perspective. there are members. In Congress, it seems, there are as many views about how to proceed as Executive Order Links Executive Orders cause backlash in congress Ulrich 08 Marybeth P. Ulrich, European Studies – Wilson Center, June 2008, Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College (SSI), National Security Powers: Are the Checks in Balance?, online Executive orders have mainly been used in three areas: to combat various forms of discrimination ¶ against citizens, to increase White House control over the executive branch, and to maintain secrets.21 When Congress perceives that executive orders are taken to bypass Congress on controversial¶ issues, they may elicit great political controversy and be a source of conflict between the two¶ branches. This is why the congressional reaction to President George W. Bush’s series of executive¶ orders authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on the conversations of¶ Americans without warrants as required in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) has¶ been uncharacteristically strong. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle saw the action as a¶ challenge to the Congress’ power vis-à-vis the executive.¶ Even the prospect of an executive order being issued can erupt in major political controversy as¶ was the case with President Bill Clinton’s proposal to lift the ban on gays serving in the military.¶ There was no question that the President had the legitimate authority to issue such an order as ¶ President Truman had done to integrate the armed forces in 1948, but the political backlash was so¶ strong in 1993 that President Clinton abandoned the idea in order to salvage his domestic agenda¶ before Congress.22 Executive orders creates conflict with Republicans Billy Hallowell 13, writer for The Blaze, B.A. in journalism and broadcasting from the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, New York and an M.S. in social research from Hunter College in Manhattan, “HERE’S HOW OBAMA IS USING EXECUTIVE POWER TO BYPASS LEGISLATIVE PROCESS” Feb. 11, 2013, http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/02/11/hereshow-obamas-using-executive-power-to-bylass-legislative-process-plus-a-brief-history-of-executive-orders/ “In an era of polarized parties and a fragmented Congress, the opportunities to legislate are few and far between,” Howell said. “So presidents have powerful incentive to go it alone. And they do.”¶ And the political opposition howls.¶ Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, said that on the gun-control front in particular, Obama is “abusing his power by imposing his policies via executive fiat instead of allowing them to be debated in Congress.”¶ The Republican reaction is to be expected, said John Woolley, codirector of the American Presidency Project at the University of California in Santa Barbara.¶ “For years there has been a growing concern about unchecked executive power,” Woolley said. “It tends to have a partisan content, with contemporary complaints coming from the incumbent president’s opponents.” Section 702 Restricting Section 702 powers drains political capital – 4 warrants Hattem 15 [Julian Hattem, staff writer for The Hill, 4-30-2015, "Expansive surveillance reform takes backseat to House politics", The Hill, http://thehill.com/policy/technology/240641-expansive-spying-reforms-take-backseat-to-house-politics; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] Congress is waving the white flag about moving forward with more expansive intelligence reform. As lawmakers stare down the barrel of a deadline to renew or reform the Patriot Act, they have all but assured that more expansive reforms to U.S. intelligence powers won’t be included. It’s not because of the substance of the reforms — which practically all members of the House Judiciary Committee said they support on Thursday — but because they would derail a carefully calibrated deal and are opposed by GOP leaders in the House and Senate. The House Judiciary Committee killed an amendment to expand the scope of the USA Freedom Act — which would reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and some other provisions — by a vote of 9-24. “If there ever was a perfect being the enemy of the good amendment, then this is it,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a supporter of the idea behind the amendment who ultimately voted against it. “What adoption of this amendment will do is take away all leverage that this committee has relative to reforming the Patriot Act. ... If this amendment is adopted, you can kiss this bill goodbye,” he added. The amendment from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) would block the spy agency from using powers under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to collect Americans’ Internet communications without a warrant. The NSA has relied on the powers of Section 702 to conduct its “PRISM” and “Upstream” collection programs, which gather data from major Web companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as to tap into the networks that make up the backbone of the Internet. The amendment would have also prevented the government from forcing tech companies to include “backdoors” into their devices, so that the government could access people’s information. “Unless we specifically limit searches of this data on American citizens, our intelligence agencies will continue to use it for this purpose and they will continue to do it without a warrant,” Poe said. “A warrantless search of American citizens' communication must not occur.” The discussion during Thursday’s markup offered a fascinating glimpse into the political calculations and sacrifices lawmakers make in order to advance legislation. While every committee member who spoke up was in support of the amendment, it ultimately failed because of fear that it would kill the overall bill. “We have been assured if this amendment is attached to this bill, this bill is going nowhere,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said. “This amendment is objected to by many in positions who affect the future of this legislation.” In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) have introduced legislation to renew the Patriot Act without changes. If the USA Freedom Act were to be scuttled because of the new amendment, backers said, that Senate effort would become the default path forward. The move to drop the fix was all the more frustrating, supporters of the amendment said, because Congress overwhelmingly voted 293-123 to add similar language to a defense spending bill last year. “How can it be when the House of Representatives has expressed its will on this very question, by a vote of 293-123, that that is illegitimate?” asked Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who supported the amendment. While lawmakers blocked Thursday’s amendment, many suggested that it would be brought up as an amendment to various appropriations bills in coming months. The 702 powers are also set to sunset in 2017, which should force a debate on them then. Goodlatte also pledged to hold a hearing on the matter “soon.” But that provided little reassurance to critics of the NSA’s powers. “We’re talking about postponing the Fourth Amendment and allowing it to apply to American citizens for at least two years,” said Poe. Internal Link Level Focus is key There is absolutely no more room in July’s session – anything else will distract from the firm July 31st deadline Mimms July 5 [Sarah Mimms; July 5, 2015; Must-Pass Highway Bill Dominates Jammed July; National Journal; http://www.nationaljournal.com/congress/must-pass-highway-bill-dominates-jammed-july-20150705; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] With a month-long recess looming in August, Congress is going to try to pack as much as possible into July. In the next three weeks, members will have to contend with several pieces of must-pass legislation, meet a July 31 deadline to fill the nation's Highway Trust Fund, and lay the groundwork for even more critical legislation due in the early fall. The House plans to take up two appropriations bills during its remaining summer stint in D.C., funding the Department of the Interior and filling the coffers for financial services, the White House, and a handful of other related agencies. Passing those two bills will get the House a third of the way through its appropriations process before the August recess, giving the lower chamber just three weeks to deal with eight additional bills—and coordinate passage through the Senate—before the government's funding runs out on Sept. 30. The Senate is much further behind and has not passed a single appropriations bill yet this year. Whether the upper chamber will attempt to pass any of the 12 spending bills in July is unclear, given the current stalemate between the two parties. Democrats have not backed off their vow to block each of them until Republicans agree to raise the coming sequestration on nondefense programs. Given that each of the 12 appropriations bills takes about a week in the Senate, the upper chamber is already running short on time, raising the likelihood of a last-minute omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown this fall. In the meantime, the Senate will take up education legislation revising No Child Left Behind as its first act of the July session. The bipartisan bill, coauthored by Republican Lamar Alexander and Democrat Patty Murray, looks likely to pass. But the House will revive its own, much more conservative version of the education legislation during this session as well, likely leading both chambers to conference. The only true deadline this session is July 31, when the nation's Highway Trust Fund—which gives federal funding to states to build and maintain roads and other infrastructure projects—runs dry. Obama Pushing Obama is pushing transportation bill Jones July 2 [Kevin Jones, July 2, 2015; Fleetowner; Congress Goes Away, highway bill issue remains; http://m.fleetowner.com/blog/congressgoes-away-highway-bill-issues-remain; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] Congress may be on an extended Independence Day break, but debate over the next highway bill continues with the White House, business groups and think tanks all weighing in this week. The problem, however, is that none of these has a vote. And federal funding for surface transportation programs runs out at the end of the month. President Obama, in a joint press conference with the president of Brazil, named the highway bill near the top of the “hard things” still to tackle in his time left in office. “I want to see if we can get bipartisan work done with Congress around rebuilding our infrastructure,” Obama said. “Brazil just talked about their rebuilding of highways and roads and ports and bridges. You know what, we’ve got the same work to do and we need to put people back to work there.” Obama offered similar remarks earlier in the week at a bill signing for a bipartisan trade authorization package. “[The trade bill] is a reminder of what we can get done—even on the toughest issues—when we work together in a spirit of compromise,” the president said. “I hope we’re going to be able to summon that same spirit on future challenges, like starting to rebuild some of our roads and bridges and infrastructure around the country, because the American people deserve nothing less from us.” This comes as the Dept. of Transportation updated its Highway Trust Fund “ticker,” a monthly calculation of the balance remaining in the account from which states draw the federal portion of highway construction funds Obama Pushing for highway bill in Congress Fabian July 3 [Jordan Fabian, July 3, 2015; Obama Defies Second Term Slump; The Hill; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/246750obama-defies-second-term-slump; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] Difficult talks over raising the debt ceiling and ending the sequester will take place this fall. And every president approaches lameduck status in their second term. “Even with his really big week, there are limits on how much has changed in terms of the dynamics between him and Capitol Hill,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of public affairs at Princeton University. Still, there is room for the White House to work with Republicans on the TPP, a legislative debate that is likely to fall during the heat of the 2016 primary fights. Obama has also called for a long-term highway bill and a criminal-justice reform measure, both of which would be heavy lifts for Congress. But the White House said that won’t stop the president from pushing Congress to tackle them. “There is nobody here taking their foot off the gas in the next 18 months,” the official said. Impact Level Key to Economy Long-term highway bill key to the economy – uncertainty kills projects Everett and Cagyle June 3 [Burgess Everett and Heather Cagyle, June 3, 2015; Democrats steer towards highway funding cliff; Politico; http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/democrats-steer-towards-highway-funding-cliff-118605.html; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] The impact of Capitol Hill inaction on the highway program has already started to ripple across the country. Seven state DOTs have canceled or delayed construction projects worth more than $1.6 billion this year according to a tally kept by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. A further 12 states have warned they might be forced to take similar action. With Republicans overseeing highway funding in both chambers of Congress for the first time in more than eight years, their vows to govern responsibly are about to be tested. And no one expects the Democrats to be particularly helpful. Long-term highway bill is key to the economy – uncertainty over funding kills projects Pianin 15 [Eric Pianin, May 11, 2015; The Fiscal Times; Deadlock over highway spending could stall economy; http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/05/11/deadlock-over-highway-spending-could-stall-economy?onswipe_redirect=no&oswrr=1; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] Just as the job market appears to be picking up steam again, congressional gridlock over new highway, bridge and infrastructure funding legislation could seriously dampen the economic recovery, economists and transportation experts are warning. Last Friday, the stock market soared on news that the labor market had snapped out of its winter lethargy and added 223,000 jobs in April, while the unemployment rate dipped to 5.4 percent — its lowest level since mid-2008. But uncertainty about the fate of federal surface transportation funding in the face of a May 31 deadline for action has forced many state officials to place new projects on hold and could undercut the happy economic narrative. “With continued uncertainty at the federal level, many states and localities are delaying construction projects and remain trapped in a cycle of deferred maintenance that hurts thousands of employers and workers alike,” wrote Joseph Kane and Robert Puentes, senior fellows at the Brookings Institution, in a revealing new analysis. The importance of infrastructure spending to the economy is well documented. Some economists say that every $1 billion of new highway spending can directly and indirectly create up to 13,000 jobs a year. Many of these jobs — such as civilian engineers, construction workers and laborers, electricians, truck and tractor drivers, concrete mixers and plumbers — represent long-term and well-paid employment for both college and high school trained workers. Roughly 14.5 million workers — or 11 percent of the U.S. workforce — were employed in infrastructure-related jobs in 2013, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Far more workers were employed in infrastructure construction than, say, in education (12.7 million), manufacturing (12 million) and professional scientific services (8 million). Yet federal spending on highway and bridge projects has remained static in recent years at roughly $50 billion annually, even at a time of historically low interest rates that ought to be prompting massive borrowing to fund long-delayed infrastructure improvements. With less than a month before temporary funding runs out for the federal Highway Trust Fund, Congress is nowhere close to a multi-year deal to provide increased funding and stability to the nation’s highway, bridge and transit systems. A long-term bill is key to the economy – certainty, jobs, trucking Burch July 3 [Kevin Burch; July 3, 2015; America Depends on long-term highway funds; The Hill; http://thehill.com/blogs/congressblog/economy-budget/246474-america-depends-on-long-term-highway-funds; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] Bipartisan bickering continues to imperil the prospects of a long-term highway bill. Instead of providing certainty to members of the trucking industry, Washington is at it again with its favorite game of punting on passage of a long-term highway bill. Our industry is at a crossroads, and Washington needs to realize that trucking is the lifeblood of the American economy. Rain or shine, sleet or snow, our drivers, mechanics and member companies safely move the goods and products that you need each day, from the fresh fruit and vegetables in the grocery store to critical medical supplies to those affected by natural disasters. If you bought it, chances are a truck delivered it. Trucking remains an integral part of our economy. In 2014 alone, trucking carried over 65 percent of our nation’s domestic freight and pumped over $700 billion into America’s economy. More than 7 million people have careers in the trucking industry. We’re proud of the hard work we do to move our nation forward, and Americans should not have to settle for a transportation system that is second best. Countries around the world strive to provide certainty to businesses and their economies by modernizing and investing in transportation networks. America can and should make these same commitments and improvements to ensure efficiency, secure our future and maintain our global competitiveness. Unfortunately, Congress has given America’s transportation system patch after patch, with more than 30 extensions and five revenue shortfalls in transportation funding in the past decade. Well-maintained roads and bridges are important to highway safety. America’s highways and roads need a serious, long-term plan to fix bridges and improve roads instead of failed short-term fixes to the potholes. The cost of inaction has been steep, with costs topping $200 billion from delayed or canceled road construction projects, productivity costs and automobile repairs. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, congested roads total an estimated $100 billion per year in wasted time and fuel. With roads in such a poor state, motorists take an additional financial hit by losing 5.5 billion hours sitting in congestion and spend an average of $324 per year in vehicle repair and operating costs. If we continue on this path, costs will climb for products, the industry and for consumers as productivity is reduced. With no agreement, highway construction could be shut down O’Brien July 2 [Edward O’Brien, July 2, 2015; Highway construction funding in jeopardy without congressional funding; http://mtpr.org/post/highway-construction-funding-jeopardy-without-congressional-action; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] Highway funding will likely be near the top of the Congressional agenda when business resumes after the holiday break. That's because the Highway Trust Fund will run out of money late this month or early next. It receives money from federal fuel taxes and funds several accounts, including the one that pays for road construction. Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke says he hopes a long term solution can be hammered out. "A lot of these projects have been delayed. Uncertainty causes great cost. I'm looking for some solutions to have a long term highway bill and I'm working with all parties to come up with some ideas. I don't sit on that committee, but certainly have some influence because Montana - we have a lot of infrastructure and a lot of roads and roads are important to Montana." Long term funding of the trust has proven elusive. Politicians don't want to anger constituents by hiking gas taxes or enacting billions of dollar in spending cuts. So instead, they've opted for a series of short-term funding extensions. If Congress can't reach an agreement this summer that raises the possibility of a transportation construction shut down at the height of construction season. Economic Decline is bad Economic decline would cause all forms of conflict Panzer 7—Michael J. Panzner, Faculty Member specializing in Equities, Trading, Global Capital Markets and Technical Analysis at the New York Institute of Finance, 25-year veteran of the global stock, bond, and currency markets who has worked in New York and London for HSBC, Soros Funds, ABN Amro, Dresdner Bank, and J.P. Morgan Chase, 2007 (“Geopolitics,” Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes, Published by Kaplan Publishing, ISBN 141959608X, p. 130-138) With the United States losing its place at the head of the economic table, the energizing force that has long led the charge for open markets and free trade will itself retreat into isolation and protectionism. In fact, the American public, spurred by feelings of anxiety, fear, distrust, and paranoia, will likely raise a growing clamor for barbwire and poured concrete as well as legal barriers. The turnaround in attitudes toward porous borders and the disintegration of one of the world’s leading marketplaces for other nations’ goods and services will parallel anti-American sentiment sweeping across the globe. For many, America’s long-time paternalistic arrogance and self-appointed role as global police officer, economic authoritarian, and enforcer of the Judeo-Christian ethic was seen as tolerable only when others either stood to benefit or had little choice. But with the cult of consumerism crumbling, the economy in a tailspin, the nation’s financial system being consumed from within, public finances in tatters, and military resources stretched to the breaking point, outsiders will no longer have an incentive to ignore the new reality: the end of American hegemony. [end page 130] Economic and financial shocks will reverberate back and forth between rich and poor, allies and adversaries, producers and consumers, and mature and developing nations. A siege mentality will take hold, where survival and gaining an advantage are the primary goals and “every man for himself” becomes the guiding principle. As time goes on, the United States will lose ever more control over its own destiny, especially in economic and financial matters, a development already apparent in the years after the 1990’s boom ended and the equity bubble burst. In the international energy markets, for example, prices and supply-demand dynamics were increasingly dominated by speculative interests and governments operating in hotspots around the world. In the financial markets, monetary policy changes in Japan, Europe, and China often had a more pronounced effect than did the activities of the Federal Reserve. The war in Iraq and other military operations, which involved spending more than $500 billion per year, will become untenable burdens. They will also foment widespread anti-Americanism and growing calls to send U.S. troops home and leave the responsibility to others. With America’s diminishing role on the world stage will come a reappraisal of many points of contention that were either discounted or ignored when other nations depended on the United States for their good fortune. Signs of a shift were already apparent in the summer of 2006 amid the collapse of the Doha round of global trade negotiations, initiated at the behest of the United States after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. In the end, the failure came down to bitter and continuing disputes over farm subsidies and a raft of tariff measures, as well as a “widening gap between America and others over what the round should achieve,” according to The Economist. All of a sudden, more was to be gained from resisting American impetus for multilateral global accords and focusing instead on the benefits of self-sufficiency and regional alliances. For no small number of interested parties, the appropriate endgame [end page 131] was a world split into self-contained, protectionist trading blocks, resembling in some respects the original vision of a European Union with its porous internal borders and common currency. This reassessment and realignment of international interests, together with a diminished respect for the United States’ role as global agenda setter, underscored another transformation that was under way. In a July 2006 article, “Russia-U.S. Shift in Power Balance May Mold Summit,” the Wall Street Journal notes that the Bush administration’s decision to allow Russia to store spent nuclear fuel ahead of a gathering of top nations reflected a “shifting power balance between a United States facing challenges on several fronts and a Russia moving to reassert itself on the world stage.” The United States is also losing the ability to influence alliances it might once have anchored or refused to sanction. Based on common economic, social, religious, or environmental interests, nations such as Russia and China, Venezuela and North Korea, and even Iran and Iraq are finding potentially dangerous common ground. No small number of commentators also note that years of relatively strong economic performance in Asia has spurred a shift in influence from West to East. A period of rising commodity prices, aided in large part by a massive consumption boom in China, has swung the balance in favor of resource producers such as Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. In many cases, unstable regimes are no longer willing to play second fiddle to the clique of leading nations such as the Group of Eight. Instead, they are vying to assume what they believe is their rightful place at the center of the global power nexus. Increasingly, they assert their rights to protect their own strategic national interests, and they seek to regain control of valuable resources, either through nationalization or expropriation, by claiming that outsiders are exploiting these resources. Aided by sizable cash hordes and spurred by the need to source reliable and plentiful supplies of energy and raw materials, many of the economically awakened nations also seek to invest in businesses and markets outside their own borders. But those efforts [end page 132] have triggered backlashes from the United States. In 2005, for example, the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation voluntarily withdrew its bid for energy company Unocal at the request of the White House following a public outcry. Several months later, a hullabaloo erupted over government-owned Dubai World’s bid to acquire the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which held contracts to manage six U.S.-based port facilities. In the wake of such moves, legislators in Washington scrambled to introduce measures that would change the process for reviewing foreign investments in the United States, especially those involving state-owned companies and that would allow authorities to keep closer tabs on what nonresident investors were up to. But frictions over trade and investment weren’t the only points of contention. When China’s economy was expanding at a double-digit pace and its rapidly rising output was absorbing an ever-greater share of the American import bill, the Asian nation also faced unwelcome pressure from the United States and elsewhere to revalue its currency, the yuan, which many believed was fixed at an artificially low level relative to the dollar. No doubt many of these difficulties can be traced to America’s structural deficiencies and external imbalances, which include large current account and budget deficits that worsen by the day. There is also the issue of the trillions of dollars held by those outside our shores—most of whom have no natural interest in the currency. For the better part of three decades, the United States ran a current account deficit, an excess of imports and current payments over exports and current earnings. This was the result of a declining manufacturing base, a rapidly expanding thirst for energy that could only be produced elsewhere, and an unhealthy predilection for foreign-made goods. By 2005, imports were more than 16 percent of gross domestic product, up from less than 6 percent only three decades earlier. When the trade deficit climbed to 6.6 percent of GDP by the second quarter of 2006, it had reached a dangerous stage. Americans had spent way more than they could [end page 133] afford for far too long and had relied on a staggering amount of borrowed money to pay for it, with much of the financing coming from foreigners. As attitudes toward the United States change, more foreigners will question the dollar’s longstanding role as a global reserve currency and international unit of account, especially when they realize how many of these paper promises have actually been created and put into circulation. Moreover, those who might once have had an interest in continuing to hold the currency and perhaps to add to the $13 trillion of stocks, bonds, factories, and other American assets that foreigners owned at the end of 2005 will reconsider. In a world of intense competition, heightened protectionism, and collapsing consumer demand, they will no longer have the same incentive to support the greenback and invest in America as an adjunct to an export-driven strategy as they did during the upswing. Already in 2006, there were signs of a sea change. After years of massive purchases, some overseas holders began to diversify out of dollar-denominated securities. In March, the Wall Street Journal wrote that net foreign purchases of U.S. government securities fell 86 percent to a three-year low, while central banks were net sellers for the first time in a year. Other reports noted that the greenback was becoming increasingly vulnerable to a reshuffle of dollar reserves by Mideast and Asian nations. With foreigners holding more than 40 percent of U.S. Treasury bonds, 25 percent of outstanding corporate bonds, and 12 percent of corporate equities, the prospect of an abrupt, widespread exodus could only add to a dismal outlook for domestic securities’ prices. More than a few foreign countries also seek to diversify out of the dollar into precious metals and other assets. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for instance, reportedly ordered the nation’s central bank in 2006 to boost gold’s share of its $277 billion of foreign reserves from 5 to 10 percent, while China, which held only 1.4 percent of reserves in the precious metal, according to the World Gold Council, was being urged by domestic officials to increase its exposure. There has also been persistent and growing chatter, led [end page 134] by anti-American oil producers such as Iran and Venezuela, about changing the reference price for crude oil from dollars to euros, or even to units of gold, per barrel. As sentiment toward the United States changes for the worse, the advantages of a widely held and readily tradable but intrinsically worthless and suddenly depreciating dollar will quickly be lost, transforming a once desirable asset into a liability. Along with this realization will come what many observers have long feared: a rapid and disorderly unwinding of existing global imbalances— and a plunge in the dollar. Still, although little doubt exists about the longer term outlook for the greenback, especially given that U.S. officials will eventually be forced to turn on the monetary spigot full blast, the dollar may well swing noticeably higher versus other currencies in the short run. The combination of massive speculative bets against the currency; widespread margin calls at major financial intermediaries as volatile markets boost collateral requirements; unexpectedly tight monetary policy; and frantic efforts to convert assets of all kinds into cash to service trillions in dollar-denominated loans, bonds, and other obligations will likely trigger a short-term boost in demand. These moves will ultimately prove unsustainable, however, as the wholesale destruction of purchasing power amid a hyperactive increase in the supply of the currency proves overwhelming. With the Fed eventually seeking to monetize anything and everything in sight, those who can will do their utmost to bail out of American currency. Dollar-denominated assets of all kinds, including former safe-haven investments such as Treasury bills and the debts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, belatedly recognized as unbacked by government guarantee, will come under relentless selling pressure. Markets will also suffer from the violent aftershocks of a dramatic increase in capital flight, as the remaining wealthy Americans and exposed foreigners try to exit before the door slams completely shut. A rash of financial problems, bank failures, legal [end page 135] proceedings, arbitrary decrees, and rising concern over a government that seems to have abdicated any semblance of fiscal discipline will further exacerbate those fears. Many will wonder whether the United States might renege on some of its financial obligations or even declare an outright default on its once AAA securities. Likely adding to a widespread sense of panic will be the exodus from an array of global fiat currencies into gold, silver, property, and other tangible assets, which can hold their value in a world of government finances run amok. Needless to say, systemic financial pressures and domino-like bank failures will make preservation of capital the utmost concern. Rising angst will also wreak havoc with links among markets, financial systems, economies, and countries. Many people could find themselves subject to stricter government controls or even find avenues closed off as a result of attempts to stem contagion effects. The widespread urge to withdraw will feed rising xenophobia, already inflamed by illegal immigration, unfair trade practices, and leaking borders. Playing to populist sentiment, politicians around the country will respond enthusiastically to calls for restrictions on foreigners. This will further feed a brain drain, as scientists, students, and other temporary visa holders are left with little choice but to uproot and go elsewhere, further sapping America’s economic resiliency. Continuing calls for curbs on the flow of finance and trade will inspire the United States and other nations to spew forth protectionist legislation like the notorious Smoot-Hawley bill. Introduced at the start of the Great Depression, it triggered a series of tit-for-tat economic responses, which many commentators believe helped turn a serious economic downturn into a prolonged and devastating global disaster. But if history is any guide, those lessons will have been long forgotten during the next collapse. Eventually, fed by a mood of desperation and growing public anger, restrictions on trade, finance, investment, and immigration will almost certainly intensify. [end page 136] Authorities and ordinary citizens will likely scrutinize the cross-border movement of Americans and outsiders alike, and lawmakers may even call for a general crackdown on nonessential travel. Meanwhile, many nations will make transporting or sending funds to other countries exceedingly difficult. As desperate officials try to limit the fallout from decades of ill-conceived, corrupt, and reckless policies, they will introduce controls on foreign exchange. Foreign individuals and companies seeking to acquire certain American infrastructure assets, or trying to buy property and other assets on the cheap thanks to a rapidly depreciating dollar, will be stymied by limits on investment by noncitizens. Those efforts will cause spasms to ripple across economies and markets, disrupting global payment, settlement, and clearing mechanisms. All of this will, of course, continue to undermine business confidence and consumer spending. In a world of lockouts and lockdowns, any link that transmits systemic financial pressures across markets through arbitrage or portfolio-based risk management, or that allows diseases to be easily spread from one country to the next by tourists and wildlife, or that otherwise facilitates unwelcome exchanges of any kind will be viewed with suspicion and dealt with accordingly. The rise in isolationism and protectionism will bring about ever more heated arguments and dangerous confrontations over shared sources of oil, gas, and other key commodities as well as factors of production that must, out of necessity, be acquired from less-than-friendly nations. Whether involving raw materials used in strategic industries or basic necessities such as food, water, and energy, efforts to secure adequate supplies will take increasing precedence in a world where demand seems constantly out of kilter with supply. Disputes over the misuse, overuse, and pollution of the environment and natural resources will become more commonplace. Around the world, such tensions will give rise to full-scale military encounters, often with minimal provocation. In some instances, economic conditions will serve as a convenient pretext for conflicts that stem from cultural and religious [end page 137] differences. Alternatively, nations may look to divert attention away from domestic problems by channeling frustration and populist sentiment toward other countries and cultures. Enabled by cheap technology and the waning threat of American retribution, terrorist groups will likely boost the frequency and scale of their horrifying attacks, bringing the threat of random violence to a whole new level. Turbulent conditions will encourage aggressive saber rattling and interdictions by rogue nations running amok. Age-old clashes will also take on a new, more heated sense of urgency. China will likely assume an increasingly belligerent posture toward Taiwan, while Iran may embark on overt colonization of its neighbors in the Mideast. Israel, for its part, may look to draw a dwindling list of allies from around the world into a growing number of conflicts. Some observers, like John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, have even speculated that an “intense confrontation” between the United States and China is “inevitable” at some point. More than a few disputes will turn out to be almost wholly ideological. Growing cultural and religious differences will be transformed from wars of words to battles soaked in blood. Long-simmering resentments could also degenerate quickly, spurring the basest of human instincts and triggering genocidal acts. Terrorists employing biological or nuclear weapons will vie with conventional forces using jets, cruise missiles, and bunker-busting bombs to cause widespread destruction. Many will interpret stepped-up conflicts between Muslims and Western societies as the beginnings of a new world war. As events unfold, unsettling geopolitical tensions and the continuing economic collapse will weigh heavily on the familiar routines of everyday life, forcing many Americans to wonder when, or if, it will ever end. A2: Short-Term Bill Passes A short-term bill will not pass. It’s July 31st or bust. Barron-Lopez June 17 [Laura Barron-Lopez; June 17, 2015; Senate Dems Threaten to block more short-term highway fixes; Huffington Post; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/17/democrats-block-highway_n_7603874.html; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster any short-term extension of the federal fund that pays for the nation’s highways, bridges, roads and mass transit when the clock runs out at the end of July. Last month, Congress passed a short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund, ensuring that the Transportation Department can use the rest of its reserves until July 31. Lawmakers have talked of passing a second short-term patch in six weeks after the current one runs out, giving Congress time to work out the details of a multiyear bill by the end of 2015. But Democrats want a long-term fix for the highway fund, which has been limping along with a series of short-term patches for the past few years. And they want it now. “Critical infrastructure is bleeding out,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for coming up with a funding mechanism for the trust fund. “If you look at the record of these short-term patches, it’s always a short-term patch and then everybody just goes off into budget lala land,” Wyden said Tuesday. Affirmative Answers Won’t Pass Transportation Bill won’t pass – Gas tax hike won’t get through the house Hasley June 18 [Ashley Hasley III, June 18, 2015; Sen. Hatch vows to find cash to fund transportation bill despite roadblocks; Washington Post; http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/orrin-hatch-vows-to-find-cash-to-fund-transportation-bill-despiteroadblocks/2015/06/18/e4b37826-15d1-11e5-89f3-61410da94eb1_story.html; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] The federal gas tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon since 1993. A 10-cent per gallon increase would revitalize the Highway Trust Fund for another decade, Joseph Kile of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office told the committee.LaHood has been outspoken about raising that tax since leaving the administration in 2013. He now co-chairs the advocacy group Building America’s Future Educational Fund. A hike in the gas tax also could provide cash more quickly than any option other there’s strong opposition to it in the House. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, ruled it out Wednesday. “I don’t think a massive increase in the gas tax could be enacted into law,” Hatch said Thursday. “The House says they’re not going to take it.” With the prospect last year that they might gain control of both houses, Republicans thwarted attempts in the fall to pass than continued borrowing from the general tax fund, but a long-term transportation bill, setting a May 31 deadline to approve one. When that date neared, a two-month extension was passed. Now, with the new July 31 deadline six weeks away, Ryan acknowledged the likely need to tap the general fund for another $3 billion to reach the end of the fiscal year. Although Senate staff members are hard at work crafting a long-term bill and although Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that Congress could beat the July deadline, some of the persistent issues that have bedeviled transportation funding for years were evident again Thursday. Obama is overextended and can’t pass a long-term highway bill Fabian June 21 [Jordan Fabian; June 21, 2015; Obama’s unfinished business; The Hill; http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/245572-obamasunfinished-business; accessed 4 July 2015; AC] Obama has long pointed to infrastructure spending as a way to boost the economy and create jobs, but has been repeatedly thwarted in winning approval of a long-term highway bill. “It’s the president’s view that the era of short-term patches ... must come to an end,” spokesman Josh Earnest said in May, noting that latest short-term funding bill was the 33rd temporary fix for highway funding since 2008. Most would bet that this piece of business will remain unfinished given the difficulty Obama and congressional Republicans face in agreeing on a way to pay for the new projects. Winners Win Winners win Parnes and Sink 13 [Amie Parnes and Justin Sink; March 20, 2013; Obama honeymoon may be over; the Hillhttp://thehill.com/homenews/administration/289179-obama-honeymoon-may-be-over; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] The second-term honeymoon for President Obama is beginning to look like it is over.¶ Obama, who was riding high after his reelection win in November, has seen his poll numbers take a precipitous fall in recent weeks. ¶ A CNN poll released Tuesday showed Obama’s favorability rating underwater, with 47 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving of Obama’s handling of his job. ¶ Much of the president’s agenda is stuck, with climate change regulations delayed, immigration reform mired in committee negotiations and prospects for a grand bargain budget deal in limbo at best. ¶ On Tuesday, in a decision that underscored Obama’s depleting political capital, the White House watched as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced only a watered-down version of Obama’s gun control proposals would be considered on the Senate floor. ¶ Republicans, sensing the sea change, are licking their chops. They point to the lack of movement on Obama’s signature issues, noting the contrast to the ambitious plans outlined in the early weeks of his second term.¶ “The president set very high goals for himself during his State of the Union, but the reality is very little of his agenda is actually moving,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said. “He allowed himself to get caught up in the legislative quicksand, [and] the cement is beginning to harden. “¶ History isn’t on Obama’s side. ¶ The last four presidents who won a second term all saw their poll numbers slide by mid-March with the exception of Bill Clinton, whose numbers improved in the four months following his reelection.¶ Clinton may have only been delaying the inevitable. His numbers dropped 5 points in April 1994. Even Ronald Reagan, buoyed by a dominant performance over Walter Mondale in the 1984 election, saw a double-digit erosion by this point in his second term.¶ Obama has yet to complete the first 100 days of his second term. But without a signature achievement since his reelection, he faces a crossroads that could define the remainder of his presidency. ¶ White House aides maintain that the 24-hour news cycle makes comparisons to previous presidents difficult.¶ “I think the nature of our politics now is different than Ronald Reagan’s honeymoon,” one senior administration official said. “The ebb and flow of politics doesn’t follow that model anymore.”¶ But observers say a drop in popularity is typical for second-termers.¶ “There may be some typical second-term honeymoon fade happening,” said Martin Sweet, an assistant visiting professor of political science at Northwestern University. “Honeymoon periods for incumbents are a bit more ephemeral.”¶ But like most other presidents, Sweet added, “Obama’s fate is tied to the economy.”¶ “Continuing economic progress would ultimately strengthen the president but if we are hit with a double-dip recession, then Obama’s numbers will crater,” he said.¶ The White House disputes any notion that Obama has lost any political capital in recent weeks.¶ “The president set out an ambitious agenda and he’s doing big things that are not easy, from immigration to gun control,” the senior administration official said. “Those are policies you can’t rack up easily, and no one here is naive about that.”¶ The White House is aware that the clock is ticking to push its hefty agenda, but the official added, “The clock is not ticking because of president’s political capital. The clock is ticking because there’s a timetable in achieving all of this. [Lawmakers] are not going to sign on because the president’s popular.” ¶ And administration officials believe they still have the leverage.¶ “There’s a decent amount of momentum behind all of this,” the official said. “It looks like immigration is closer [to passage] than ever before.”¶ Republican strategist Ken Lundberg argued that current budget fights “have cut short the president’s second-term honeymoon.” ¶ He said this could also hurt the president’s party, warning “the lower the president’s approval rating, the bigger the consequence for vulnerable Democrats.”¶ “Voters want solutions, and if they see the president headed down the wrong path, lockstep lawmakers will be punished in 2014,” he said.¶ Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis maintained that as long as he’s president, Obama still has the leverage.¶ “Immigration reform doesn’t get impacted by whether Obama’s poll numbers are 55 or 45,” Kofinis said. “Does it make certain things a little more difficult? Possibly. But while his numbers may have fallen, he’s still more likeable than the Republicans are on their best day.”¶ Kofinis said the real question for Obama is what kind of emphasis he’s going to place on his second term because the public will have less patience than they did during his first.¶ “The challenge in a second term is the American people look at certain things and have a higher tolerance in a second term,” he said. “When they know you’re not running for reelection again, they hold you to a higher standard.” ¶ Bonjean and other Republicans are aware that Obama could potentially bounce back from his latest slip in the polls and regain his footing.¶ “He has the opportunity to take minor legislative victories and blow them up into major accomplishments—meaning if he got something on gun control, he can tout that that was part of his agenda and the work isn’t over. If he were able to strike a grand bargain with Republicans, that’d be a legacy issue.”¶ Still, Bonjean added, “It’s not looking so good right now.” A2 Focus Focus links are wrong – Obama has proven he can divide focus Mann 10. [Thomas Mann, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, “American Politics on the Eve of the Midterm Elections” Brookings Institute – November 2010; http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2010/10/11-midterm-elections-mann; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] Those who argue that Obama should have focused exclusively on the economy and jobs during his first two years, pushing health reform, climate change and other centerpieces of his campaign agenda into the future, are blind to the realities of governing. Multiple problems and issues crowd a presidential agenda. They cannot simply be set aside. The window for health reform, which he considered an essential element in dealing with the long-term revenue imbalance, would be open early and briefly at best. Obama wisely concluded it was "now or never" and won a seemingly impossible legislative victory. Bill won’t solve econ Even if the bill passed it would not help the economy – no funding mechanism Plautz June 23 [Jason Plautz; June 23, 2015; Congress finally has a highway bill. It wouldn’t fix anything; National Journal; http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/transportation-bill-funding-congress-20150623; accessed 6 July 2015; AC] June 23, 2015 With just over a month left before transportation programs are set to expire, the Senate has a bill on the table that would set state spending levels for roads and bridges all the way out to 2021. On the surface, this appears to grant states some certainty after having watched Washington plan highways through a string of last-minute, short-term extensions. But while the bill would direct states on how to spend their highway dollars and sets new policy on matters like environmental reviews and a backlog of funding for freight facilities, it doesn't do anything to actually provide the dollars that states will have to spend. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee released a bipartisan bill Tuesday that would offer six years of highway and transit policy for state transportation agencies. Delivering the actual funding for that policy, however, depends on the Finance Committee coming up with new revenue to supplement the fading federal gas tax, and there, lawmakers still haven't reached an agreement. The "Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy Act," or DRIVE Act, is scheduled to be marked up Wednesday, and with support from Environment and Public Works Chairman James Inhofe and ranking member Barbara Boxer, is expected to pass easily. Sponsors and supporters applauded the bill for finally offering the kind of stability that states want after years of stopgap measures on highway funding. Congress passed a 27-month funding bill in 2012 and has since been keeping the spigot open through a series of short-term extensions. This week's bill would even give states some extra money, setting levels at about 3 percent more per year than previous levels, for a total funding level of between $260 and $270 billion over six years. But it's all rhetoric without a financing plan to pad the depleted Highway Trust Fund. That plan would have to come from the Finance Committee, and there, lawmakers are far apart. Highway programs are currently funded through the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, but raising it is a political nonstarter, and it hasn't been indexed to inflation. That's left the trust fund facing bankruptcy without an injection of cash or a permanent source of revenue, and there's no guarantee that anything the Finance Committee comes up with will match up with the desired policy. "I doubt that we'll get to six years; it's going to be pretty hard to do that. I'm just hoping for multi-years," said Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch Tuesday. "We've got to find the funding one way or the other, and if we can't find it for a six-year bill, then clearly we've got to reduce" the bill. The latest short-term extension extended funding out to July 31, giving Congress until the end of next month to pass some type of legislation or else leave states without transportation dollars during peak construction season. Democrats have been hammering Republican leadership for weeks to do something, saying in a press conference last week that they want a long-term deal by mid-July. Economy Resilient No econ collapse – the economy is flexible NT Bangladesh 13 [The News Today (Bangladesh.) October 14, 2013 Monday “Emerging markets to weather capital outflows on QE3 exit” lexis. Pg. 1999, Accessed 3 July 15; AC] Despite a more resilient U.S. economy, the uncertainty caused by U.S. central bank chief's talk of taking foot off the monetary accelerator leads to greater volatility of capital flows, while emerging market (EM) economies should take flexible measures to cope with the challenges, said economists from the Institute of International Finance (IIF). U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers Wednesday painted a brighter picture of U.S. economy on the back of a housing recovery. After a policy meeting, the Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke told reporters that later this year the central bank would start scaling back its massive bond-buying program, the so-called (QE3) quantitative easing, if the economy improves as expected and may end it by mid-2014 altogether. "The U.S. economy is showing resilience against strong fiscal headwinds. We expect growth to accelerate gradually in the second half of 2013 and further in 2014," Robin Koepke, an IIF associate economist, said in a recent interview. "In our view, economic conditions are correctly perceived to have improved sufficiently to warrant contemplating a scaling back of QE and to start a process of normalization. It is important to note that an actual tightening of policy (raising rates) is still some way off," Koepke contended. Bernanke's announcement was largely in line with market expectation. However, some experts, including James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, believed that setting out the QE3 exit timetable now was premature. "The Fed's expected timing of both the reduction of purchases and the end of QE3 were broadly in line with our expectations and market expectations," Koepke said. The Washington-based IIF has forecasted for a while for the Fed to taper off bond purchases around the fourth quarter 2013, while Bernanke's indication of mid2014 as the end of QE3 is a few months later than the IIF's estimate. "To the extent that QE3 has lifted U.S. growth, this provides support to the global economy," Felix Huefner, deputy director of Global Macroeconomic Analysis of the IIF, told Xinhua, adding that QE3 also introduces additional uncertainty to global financial markets, as reflected in the recent jittery financial markets. The news of gradually ending QE3, the monetary stimulus program initiated in September 2012 to bolster lending and economic activity, has roiled global financial markets. U.S. stock market sank after Bernanke's QE3 exit comment before stabilizing Friday. U.S. Treasuries tumbled for three consecutive days, with the yield on the 10-year note hitting its highest levels in about two years. "It was always clear that exiting from ultra-easy monetary policy would be a formidable communication challenge. In our view, it is too early to assess whether the Fed efforts to this effect have been successful, although it probably would have been beneficial to convey more new information in writing rather than verbally," Koepke said. Since the onset of the financial crisis, the Fed has kept its short-term interest rate at the historically low level and completed two rounds of quantitative easing programs, known as QE1 and QE2. It is now purchasing longer-term government debt and mortgage-backed securities at a pace of 85 billion U.S. dollars per month, dubbed as the QE3. Experts held that QE helped boost the U.S. housing sector and employment, but it also made it difficult to wean investors off the addiction to the Fed's newly injected liquidity which could lead to asset bubbles. "In its early phase, QE3 has meant a weaker dollar and additional capital flows to EM economies. Now that markets focus on the end of QE3, the pendulum has swung to the opposite side," observed Huefner. First, the uncertainty associated with the exit from QE3 results in greater volatility of capital flows. Second, the exit process is likely to be accompanied by some retrenchment of foreign capital from EM economies, with countries that depend on external financing most at risk, Huefner cautioned. There has been a retrenchment of foreign capital from EM economies, as indicated by high-frequency data on flows to dedicated EM equity funds in recent months and weaker inflows to EM bond funds. Presumably outflows from EM assets, which are perceived to be relatively risky, should benefit low-risk asset classes such as moneymarket funds in the United States and other developed economies, Huefner noted. Emerging market equities posted steep declines in May amid disappointing growth news from China and Brazil, coupled with fears about earlier-than-expected ending of QE in the United States, the IIF's latest Capital Markets Monitor showed. "As the economic recovery and the end of QE3 in the United States coincide with slowing economic activities in China, we see that some international capital have flown out of China, which put some pressure on Yuan's depreciation. The interbank rate in China spiked at record highs in the past week," said Guo Feng, a senior economist of the Asia Pacific Department of the IIF. "Apart from the factor that the central bank refrained from injecting more liquidity, it was also attributable to this capital outflows. However, the impact should be smaller than other EM economies, given China's capital controls and structural surplus on the balance of payments," noted Guo, adding that China's central bank should be more flexible in accommodating these changes. Global economic growth has been led mainly by EM economies in recent years. However, they have been showing signs of slowing lately. The main risk in the United States is a "disorderly exit" of easy monetary policy by the Fed. Slowing economic growth trends in China and India would end soon, but regaining momentum will prove difficult, the IIF noted in a recent Global Economic Monitor report.