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Capitol Hill Update, 31 March, 2014
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are in session this week and next, and will recess for two week on April 11th.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: The Senate is voting Monday to pass H.R. 4302, the “doc fix”, which would prevent a mandatory cut in payments to doctors for Medicare services. Without this patch, the payment cut would take place on April 1st. However, the fix is expected to cost over $17 billion more over five years, while supposedly leading to a slight savings over ten years. Taxpayers should always be suspicious of any bill that claims to spend now and save later, and this one is no exception.
Senate/Unemployment: The Senate will spend much of the remainder of the week on their new agreement to extend unemployment benefits, H.R. 3979 (an unrelated bill being used as a vehicle for the unemployment language). Because a number of Republicans have agreed to support this amended extension, it is likely that there are enough votes to pass it this time. Although the extension is nominally paid for (there are serious doubts about the pay-fors), further extending unemployment insurance is bad policy in and of itself. FreedomWorks holds to its Key Vote: NO against extending federal unemployment insurance.
House/ObamaCare: On Wednesday, the House will consider H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act. Sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN), this bill would redefine full-time employment under ObamaCare to mean 40 hours per week rather than 30. Although ObamaCare’s employer mandate has been repeatedly delayed, many businesses have planned ahead for the fines it would impose by reducing their hourly employees’ hours to under 30, which has been particularly devastating to lower-income workers.
House/Budget Reform: On Friday, the House is expected to take up the first of several budget reform bills that will come to the floor over the next two weeks - H.R. 1874, the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act, sponsored by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA). This bill would simply require that the Congressional Budget Office use dynamic scoring, meaning that when evaluating the overall costs of a bill, they should consider the economic impacts instead of just direct costs and savings. For example, a bill to cut taxes would be considered as a net cost under current scoring because of lost revenue, whereas dynamic scoring would take into account the economic growth (and thus increased revenue) caused by a decreased tax burden.
House/Budget: On Wednesday, the House Budget Committee will mark up a budget plan for Fiscal Year 2015. Although details of this budget have not yet been released, it will aim to balance the budget in ten years. The simple fact that Republican leadership is insisting upon a “balance-in-ten” approach is a demonstration of the impact of the grassroots over the past few years. Even as recently as 2011, the Republican budget plan would have taken decades to balance. The budget will likely come to the floor of the House next week.