In an interview with USA Today, Secret Service Director Randolph "Tex" Alles said the agency is bumping up against federally mandated salary and overtime caps in executing its mission to protect the president and his family.
USA Today’s Kevin Johnson notes that 42 people in the Trump administration have Secret Service protection, including 18 of the president’s family members. Under President Obama, 31 people had such protection.
“The compensation crunch is so serious that the director has begun discussions with key lawmakers to raise the combined salary and overtime cap for agents, from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for at least the duration of Trump's first term,” Johnson reported.
In a statement, Alles said the agency has the funding it needs for the rest of the fiscal year, which runs through Sept. 30, but estimated that 1,100 employees run into statutory pay caps as a result of overtime work during this calendar year.
“This issue is not one that can be attributed to the current Administration’s protection requirements alone, but rather has been an ongoing issue for nearly a decade due to an overall increase in operational tempo," Alles said in the statement.
Back in 2009, Tom Price spoke out against House Democrats who wanted to spend $550 million on private jets for lawmakers to use. A Republican representative from Georgia at the time, Price told CNBC that the purchase of the jets was “another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok.” Now Secretary of Health and Human Services, Price seems to have changed his mind about the virtue of government officials using private jets at taxpayer expense. Just last week, Price used a chartered private jet to travel to three HHS events — including one at a resort in Maine — at an estimated cost of $60,000, Politico reports.
While previous HHS secretaries typically flew commercial, reports indicate that Price has been traveling by private jet for months. “Official travel by the secretary is done in complete accordance with Federal Travel Regulations,” an HHS spokesperson told Politico.
Critics on Twitter have been harsh:
More in-your-face kleptocracy from Tom Price.Take food stamps from poor, hungry kids- spend $25k from taxpayers to charter plane to Philly— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) September 20, 2017
1️⃣ Attack Medicaid while trading health stocks.— Harry Stein (@HarrySteinDC) September 20, 2017
2️⃣ Spend funds that could give someone 4 years of Medicaid coverage to fly a private jet. https://t.co/GO5cfJgWgO
In a few weeks the Social Security Administration will announce its cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for 2018. Inflation data for the month of August suggests that the adjustment could be the highest in five years, possibly over 2 percent, according to the Washington Examiner. Adjustments for the past five years have been relatively small: The cost of living adjustment for 2017 (announced last October) came in at a modest 0.3 percent, and the adjustment for 2016 was zero. Some retirees have complained in the past about small COLAs, but it’s worth remembering that higher adjustments are driven by higher inflation, which is bad news for people living on fixed incomes.
Gallup finds that just 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way the nation is being governed, down from 33 percent a year ago. And as we approach some potential fiscal battles, it's worth noting that the lowest satisfaction levels since Gallup started updating the measure annually in 2001 came in 2011 (19 percent) after a debt ceiling showdown that led to the U.S. credit rating being downgraded by S&P analysts and in 2013 (18 percent) during a federal government shutdown.
Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) told reporters on Friday that he’s getting close to securing enough votes to pass the last-ditch ACA repeal and replacement bill he’s put forth with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV) and Ron Johnson (R-WI).
“I am pretty confident we’ll get there on the Republican side,” Cassidy said. “We’re probably at 48-49 [votes] and talking to two or three more.” And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the effects of the Cassidy-Graham bill, which would speed up the scoring process.
Of course, those last two or three votes have been the challenge for the GOP all along, and they may not be any easier to round up this time. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who voted for a prior repeal bill, said Friday that he won't support this one. Plus, opponents are already stepping up their criticisms about the effects of the bill. And time is running out: Cassidy and his colleagues only have until September 30 to pass the bill this year under a process that would require only 50 supporters in the Senate. So while the Obamacare repeal may still have life, it remains a longshot.