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Hill Update, 30 January 2012
This Week’s Legislative Highlight: On Wednesday, the House will finally vote on a bill, H.R. 1173, to repeal the Class Act provision of Obamacare. The Class Act is a long-term care insurance program that even advisors to the Obama administration warned back in 2009 would be absolutely impossible to fund. Worse, it was used as a budget gimmick, as it was funded by collecting taxes for two years before the benefits were to begin, so that the extra years of taxes were counted as a surplus. While the program was recently suspended by the administration after Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebilius admitted that it was not fiscally solvent, this bill would make sure it never comes back.
House/Senate Schedule: The House and Senate are both in session all week, and with both parties having returned from their legislative strategy retreats, the business of lawmaking is back in full swing. Both chambers will be in town until the week of Presidents’ Day (20 February).
Senate/Insider Trading: There will be a cloture vote today at 5:30 on the STOCK Act, S. 2038, a bill which would bar members of Congress from making stock transactions based upon private information. The legislation would require that members of Congress instead set up blind trusts for their money.
Senate & House/FAA: Both chambers will go to conference on the extension of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. A temporary measure has been agreed to in order to get ahead of the January 31st deadline, but a longer-term extension is in the works and may come to a vote as soon as this week.
House/Spending: Last December, Congress passed a two-year freeze on pay increases for all civilian government employees, including members of Congress. The House will vote Wednesday on H.R. 3835, a bill to extend the freeze for a third year. This is in contrast to President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he suggested a 0.5% pay increase for all federal workers.
House/Budget: Two bills are being introduced from the House Budget Committee as part of a series of ten bills seeking to reform aspects of the budget process. The two bills this week are:
House/Member Initiative: Rep. Tim Scott (SC-1) has introduced a bill, H.R. 2145, which would prohibit unions from automatically deducting dues from any federal government employee’s paychecks, thus empowering those employees to make their own decisions regarding whether they want their money to go towards supporting the activities of a union they may not have even voted to join.
House/Member Initiative: Rep. Lynn Jenkins (KS-2) is introducing a Concurrent Resolution (no bill number yet) which would check the abuse of Executive Orders by making all spending authorized by executive order invalid until approved by legislation in Congress. Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution is very clear that all appropriations should originate in the House of Representatives, and this bill merely clarifies that point.