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Hill Update, 6 January, 2014
House & Senate/Schedule: Both chambers are back in session this week for two weeks, and will both recess for the week of January 20th for Martin Luther King Day.
Legislative Highlight of the Week: The Senate will spend much of this week considering an emergency 3 month extension of unemployment benefits, S. 1845. The entire point of federal unemployment insurance is supposedly to be a temporary backstop while employees get back on their feet and find a new job, but instead Congress has been constantly extending the duration of unemployment benefits since the recession of 2008. This extension will also cost taxpayers $6.6 billion, which Harry Reid has said he will not offset with spending reductions elsewhere in the budget.
Continuing to allow people to reap nearly unlimited unemployment just reduces their incentive to make hard decisions to find new employment – with this tough, stagnant economy it’s actually easier to keep qualified for the benefits than it is to find a job. Instead of extending a perpetual welfare check, Congress ought to be enacting policies to free up economic growth, such as reducing corporate taxes and reining in excessive regulations. FreedomWorks will score NO votes on our online scorecard.
Senate/Flood Insurance: The Senate may vote this week on S. 1846, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act. This bill would delay (for four years) reforms that were made to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that were intended to make the program more sustainable. Currently, the federal government operates all flood insurance, and the program is $25 billion under water. Having all flood insurance under government control hides the price signals for people who build in flood-prone areas.
House/ObamaCare: The House will vote on two bills on Friday that relate to ObamaCare’s exchanges.
House/Energy: On Thursday, the House will vote on H.R. 2279, the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act, sponsored by Rep. Gardner (R-CO). This bill takes away some of the EPA’s authority regarding hazardous materials storage sites in the states, and forces them to get a state’s permission before starting a removal project at such a site. Since these projects are currently being better handled by the states anyways, and because they can incur a major cost to the state, the federal EPA should