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Hill Update: 24 October, 2011
House/Senate Schedule: The House is back in session after last week’s recess – the next recess will be for a constituent work week from 7-11 November. The Senate is in recess this week, and will remain in session until Thanksgiving week.
House/Agenda: The House has a fairly light schedule this week, with a few votes scheduled on Tuesday and Thursday. Next year’s legislative calendar is set to be released (unusually early) by Leadership this Thursday. Also, the Balanced Budget Amendment looks like it will come up for a vote some time during the second week of November.
Senate/Agenda: When the Senate reconvenes next week, they will finish consideration of the ongoing “minibus” appropriations bill, which includes Fiscal Year 2012 funding for the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development. There are six Republican amendments awaiting votes for this bill, after which a vote on the actual passage of the bill should occur. In addition, Senate Democrats are likely to offer more parts of Obama’s jobs bill, broken up into small individual bills.
Senate/Appropriations Amendments: Last week, during consideration of the “minibus” appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) in the Senate, an amendment passed that is worthy of note. S. Amdt. 857, introduced by Senator Menendez (NJ), extends the loan limits for several federal programs, including the Federal Housing Administration and the “government-sponsored enterprises” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Given that poor lending practices by the likes of Fannie and Freddie were a primary cause of the financial crisis of 2008, extending their credit line is an inexcusable misallocation of taxpayer money. Unfortunately, this vote (Senate roll call: 180) received bipartisan support, with 7 Republicans voting “Yea”.
House/Energy: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce will consider H.R. 1633, the Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act. Just as the title suggests, the EPA has proposed increasing Clean Air Act regulations to include dust raised by farmers working their fields. Such regulations would merely create additional compliance costs on the part of farmers, many of whom are already struggling with drought conditions and other natural hardships, so passing this bill is another important part of stopping the EPA’s regulatory train wreck.
House/Taxation: On Thursday, the House will consider H.R. 674, a bill which would eliminate the 3% Withholding Tax on payments made by vendors for certain government projects. This tax, passed in 2006, has been postponed in implementation several times due to concerns that it essentially adds 3% to the cost of doing business with the federal government and therefore costs jobs as companies cut back to compensate for this new expense. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Wally Herger (CA-02) would repeal this job-killing tax for good, with lost revenue being offset by H.R. 2576, which is set to be considered and passed concurrently.
House/Entitlements: Also on Thursday, the House will consider H.R. 2576, a bill sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (TN-06) which would correct a flaw in Obamacare’s calculations for who would be eligible to receive government health care. The current baseline for eligibility to receive money from these programs is calculated using modified adjusted gross income (“MAGI”). By these calculations “a married couple could have an annual income of about $64,000 and still get Medicaid,” according to the Chief Actuary for federal health programs. This legislation would simply change that calculation to more accurately reflect a family’s real income, in order to ensure that only those who are truly in need can receive these taxpayer-funded benefits.
House/Member Initiative: Representative Justin Amash (MI-03) has introduced and is seeking support for his “Business Cycle Balanced Budget Amendment” (BCBBA), which has been introduced as H.J.Res. 73. This balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution has received bipartisan support, including from a few members of the House Progressive Caucus. The biggest difference between this proposal and other BBAs is that it indexes its spending cap to the previous three years’ revenues (adjusted for population growth and inflation), thus allowing for more flexibility than other such proposals while still not allowing Congress to spend more money than it takes in.
House/Member Initiative: Representative Jeff Flake (AZ-06) is collecting signatures for a letter to House leadership urging them to keep the appropriations process for Fiscal Year 2012 under regular rule, keeping the House floor open while the appropriations are under consideration. Leadership allowed open proceedings for the FY2011 appropriations, resulting in the most open and transparent budget process in a number of years, and this letter merely urges leadership to continue to use this process.