Goobergunch Political Report

26 July 2011

Countdown to Political Crisis

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance, Ways and Means

NITE OWL: Rorschach…? Rorschach, wait! Where are you going? This is too big to be hard-assed about! We have to compromise…
RORSCHACH: No. Not even in the face of armageddon. Never compromise.

I was going to write something up on the Boehner proposal for raising the debt ceiling (as embodied in the House Amendment to S. 627), because it’s the first actual legislative text that I’ve seen on this subject. (There are some specific provisions regarding student loans that I haven’t really seen discussed anywhere, for instance.) However:

Moments after the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis finding that the House Republicans’ debt limit bill falls far short of one their key goals, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) decided to rewrite the legislation, and according to GOP leadership, an expected Wednesday floor vote on the package will be delayed until Thursday at the earliest.

At this point it seems entirely possible that there are enough Republican hard-liners in the House to prevent any serious Republican-only proposal from passing that body, which will make the negotiations even more silly. It’ll be a bit harder for Boehner to take a hard line when he can’t get anything through his House. Of course, given that it’s looking like the bill will see large spending cuts and absolutely no tax increases in the name of deficit reduction (while unemployment remains high), I’d say the Republicans already won the policy battle. It’s just a question of how complete the victory will be.

One week to go. I’ll have a post on any bills that actually get written. We can only hope they look like this:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That subsection (b) of section 3101 of title 31, United States Code, is amended by striking the dollar amount contained therein and inserting “$14,894,000,000,000″.

22 July 2011

The Hostages Begin To Fall

Goobergunch @ 22:00 PT
Posted in: Transportation, Ways and Means

The big political story, of course, continued to be the ongoing negotiations (or lack thereof) over the debt ceiling increase, now needed within eleven days. With the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Bill” vote being brought forward (surprise surprise, it failed 48-51), Congress won’t be back in session until Monday. But there’s another provision of law that expires today.

The Federal Aviation Administration faced a partial shutdown Saturday morning as Congress adjourned Friday without approving a routine stop-gap funding measure amid partisan acrimony.

More than 4,000 FAA workers, 1,000 of them in the Washington region, and tens of thousands of airport construction workers under FAA contract faced immediate furlough. The nation’s air travel system will not be affected, with air traffic controllers remaining on the job and airline operations continuing as normal.

While partisan wrangling continues regarding the full FAA reauthorization, House Republicans decided to insert a couple of the more contentious provisions (i.e. cuts to the Essential Air Service program) into the short-term extension. Senate Democrats balked, demanding a extension without policy changes. As no agreement could be made by today, the partial FAA shutdown begins at midnight.

I’m sure this news item will reassure everybody that a debt ceiling deal will be reached by 2 August.

25 May 2011

Senate Budget Watch

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means

In Senate news today, there were a few votes on various budget proposals today. As can be expected from the Senate, nothing passed.

  • House-passed budget: Failed 40-57
  • Original White House budget: Failed 0-97
  • Toomey (R-PA) budget: Failed 42-55
  • Paul (R-KY) budget: Failed 7-90

The Senate will vote tomorrow at 10:00 EDT on invoking cloture on the USA PATRIOT Act extension I’ve discussed previously. There may also be amendment votes.

15 April 2011

Budget Resolution Voting

Goobergunch @ 13:49 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means
Congressional Black Caucus budget Failed, 103-303
Congressional Progressive Caucus budget      Failed, 77-347
Republican Study Committee budget Failed, 119-136 (172 present)
House Democratic Caucus budget Failed, 166-259
House Republican Caucus budget Passed, 235-193

Democrats forced Republicans to defeat the Republican Study Committee budget, which is even more conservative than the Paul Ryan budget that eventually passed, by themselves through mostly voting “Present”. A bare majority of Republicans voted against that budget.

The final vote on the Republican budget plan went down almost purely on party lines. Only four Republicans voted against it: Walter Jones (NC), David McKinley (WV), Ron Paul (TX), and Denny Rehbert (MT).

10 April 2011

Happy House Budget Week

Goobergunch @ 14:00 PT
Posted in: Appropriations, Providing for the General Welfare, Ways and Means

It’s going to be a busy week in the House. On deck for Wednesday:

  • H.R. 1217, which would repeal the Prevention and Public Health Fund established by Section 4002 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. (The committee report is due late Monday night.) Such fund “provide[s] for expanded and sustained national investment in prevention and public health programs to improve health and help restrain the rate of growth in private and public sector health care costs”. $750 million is authorized for this fund in FY 2011, and that number increases to $1 billion in FY 2012.
  • The big consolidated appropriations bill that implements the Friday night deal. Full details on that when it gets unveiled.

Thursday and Friday have been set aside for the Budget Resolution. Much of the current text involves Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) making up numbers that will never actually happen (if he thinks that his plan to abolish Medicare will actually reduce the long-term debt, I have a couple bridges in San Francisco to sell him), but since the FY 2012 numbers will be binding on Congress once both houses agree on something, those are worth looking at in detail.

Over in the Senate, there are a couple judicial nominations set for Tuesday. Forecasting the Senate much in advance is a fool’s game, but if the aforementioned big consolidated appropriations bill doesn’t appear this week, I’ll be very surprised. And so will lots of federal workers who would be suddenly furloughed.

5 April 2011

Enrolled Bill

Goobergunch @ 17:00 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means

As I mentioned a month ago, the House passed a bill, 314-112, to repeal “1099 reporting requirements”. A majority of House Democrats had objected to the bill paying for this repeal by increasing certain tax repayments, so I expected that pay-for to be modified before passing the Senate.

It seems I overestimated the Senate Democrats’ ability to stand up for policy alternatives. The bill passed the Senate today, 87-12. It now goes to President Obama for his signature. Even if he vetoes it, the margins in both Houses are enough to override.

2 March 2011

H.R. 4, the 1099 Report (Repeal) Bill

Goobergunch @ 07:00 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means

Besides the continuing resolution (which passed the House yesterday 335-91; the Senate will vote on it at 11 AM EST today), the big item in the House this week is H.R. 4. This bill repeals the infamous “1099 reporting requirements” that small businesses have been objecting to as overly burdensome. As this costs about $19 billion, the repeal is paid for by increasing tax repayments for health exchange subsidy overpayments. (An amendment to strike that tax change was defeated in the Ways and Means committee by a party-line vote.)

Tomorrow, the House will be considering H.R. 4 under a closed rule (which will be voted on today). Two and a half hours of debate and no amendments (except for the usual motion to recommit) are in order.

25 January 2011

H.R. 359, the Presidential Campaign Fund (Removal) Bill

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means

On Wednesday, 26 January 2011, the House will consider H.R. 359, a bill to remove public funding of Presidential campaigns and party conventions. For the text of the bill, see here.

This bill is pretty straightforward—it would eliminate the option to send $3 of one’s existing taxes to help publicly fund Presidential campaigns, and so eliminate public funds for that purpose. Any leftover funds designated for that purpose would go into the Treasury’s general fund. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the bill will save $617 million over 10 years.

The Federal Election Commission has a thorough description of the program that the bill would eliminate.

The Presidential nominee of each major party may become eligible for a public grant of $20 million (plus a cost-of-living adjustment) for campaigning in the general election. To be eligible to receive the public funds, the candidate must limit spending to the amount of the grant and may not accept private contributions for the campaign. Private contributions may, however, be accepted for a special account maintained exclusively to pay for legal and accounting expenses associated with complying with the campaign finance law. These legal and accounting expenses are not subject to the expenditure limit.

These spending restrictions are important—President Obama, for instance, opted out of public funding so his 2008 campaign could spend in excess of the caps. With the rise of increased spending in political campaigns, it’s possible that this program could effectively become dead due to candidates being unwilling to subject themselves to spending limits. However, CBO still estimates that $215 million dollars would be spent from the fund in 2012.

Speaking of the President, the White House has expressed its “strong opposition” to H.R. 359. It would prefer to strengthen the program so as to discourage opting out, and not eliminate it.

The House will be considering H.R. 359 under a modified open rule; after the usual hour of general debate, any amendment pre-printed in the Congressional Record may be considered under the five-minute rule. The amendments in order are:

  1. Requires money transferred to the Treasury from the fund’s removal to be used only for deficit reduction. (Peters (D-Oakland Co., MI).)
  2. Requires money transferred from the fund’s removal to be used to pay for national convention security costs. (Castor (D-Tampa, FL).)
  3. Replaces the Presidential Election Campaign Fund with a Presidential Nominating Convention Security Fund. (Castor (D-Tampa, FL).)
  4. Prohibits the use of any Federal funds for lobbying or Presidential campaigning. (Tsongas (D-Lowell and Lawrence, MA).)
  5. Substitute. Allows individuals to donate any amount of money to the campaign fund as an added tax. (Polis (D-Boulder, CO).)
  6. Substitute. Makes the $3 contribution an added tax rather than part of one’s existing tax return. (Moore (D-Milwaukee, WI).)

UPDATE [8:48 CST by Goobergunch]: Added amendments from this morning’s Record.

15 December 2010

Tomorrow: Tax Cuts in the House

Goobergunch @ 19:29 PT
Posted in: Ways and Means

There have been a number of rumors about how the House intends to pass the Obama/McConnell tax cut bill, many involving interesting procedural tricks and various counter-proposals.

It turns out most of those rumors were wrong. Tomorrow, the House will vote on an alternative extension of the estate tax, and if that fails, there will just be a straight-up vote on the Senate language.

The House Rules Committee has released the rule for considering the Senate Amendment to the House Amendment to the Senate Amendment to the Bill H.R. 4853. In regular English, that’s the Senate-passed tax cut bill.

The rule provides for three hours of debate. After debate, there will be a vote on agreeing to the Senate amendment with the Pomeroy Amendment, which is an extension of the 2009 estate tax rates (45%) through the end of 2012, instead of 35% as provided by the Senate.

If this vote fails, there will then be a vote on simply agreeing to the Senate’s bill.

If either of these votes pass, the House concurs in all of the Senate language that isn’t related to the estate tax. No amendments (such as the Sherman Amendment) have been permitted relating to the payroll tax cuts or any other provision of this bill. Also, there’s no way to support the alternative estate tax language without also voting for the rest of the bill.

22 September 2010

Closing Out the House Session

Goobergunch @ 17:46 PT
Posted in: Small Business, Ways and Means

The rule [PDF] for the Small Business Jobs bill just got released, and it’s pretty standard. So look for that bill (it’s the same version [PDF] as passed the Senate last week) to finally get cleared for the President tomorrow.

The most interesting thing about this rule, though, is Section 3, which permits same–day consideration of Rules Committee resolutions in the House through next Friday, 1 October. In plain English, that means that the Democratic leadership doesn’t have to give more than a few hours’ notice of any legislation that comes up. While I’ve seen “martial law” rules before from both parties, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen one that’s been valid for more than a week before. I’m guessing that this is to permit flexibility in considering the tax cut extension bill about which all kinds of wonderful rumors are percolating, but I’m guessing we won’t hear anything more specific until some of those rumors coalesce into fact.

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