Monthly Archives: October 2009

Support Fairness in the Impact Aid Program

Senator Dan Boren is asking for your support in improving the Impact Aid Program through H.R. 3651.

click here to read his letter

Compare Senator Boren’s legislation (H.R. 3651) with Senator Hinrono’s legislation (H.R. 2280)

click here for comparison

If you have questions or would like to co-sponsor this legislation, please contact Jaryd Bern at jaryd.bern@mail.house.gov  or call (202) 225-2701.

Capitol Decisions

Weekly Legislative Report Oct 16, 2009

John P. Murtha (D-PA), expressed confidence that the alternative engine’s development would not disrupt the overall F-35 program and that the money would be included in a House-Senate compromise. 

On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reiterated administration threats against the alternative engine and the VH‑71 presidential helicopter program, both of which are funded in the House version of the FY10 Defense spending bill.

Senate and House appropriators have been working out the details of the Defense spending bill (HR 3326), but Murtha said he and his Senate counterpart, Appropriations Committee and Defense Subcommittee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), have not yet met to discuss the bill.

Appropriations- Energy

Thursday afternoon the Senate approved the final version of the $33.5 billion FY10 Energy and Water Appropriations bill, sending it to President Obama for his signature. The vote passed 80-17 after the Senate on Wednesday voted 79-17 to limit debate on the measure.  Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) lamented on the drawn-out pace in which the bill was moved.  “We’ve got to get appropriations bills moving, and apparently it doesn’t mean anything to some people,” Dorgan said.  His comments were directed at Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who held up the measure because a Senate-adopted Coburn amendment to require public disclosure of reports from agencies to Congress mandated by appropriations bills, excluding sensitive reports on national security and defense, was not included in the final version of the bill.

Transportation

The House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) says he will not proceed with a plan to finance a $500 billion highway bill until he is certain his colleagues have the resolve to pay for it.  House Democratic leaders are making a renewed push to enact a six-year surface transportation authorization by year’s end, as a way to initiate an economic recovery, but Rangel said Wednesday he will only take up a revenue-producing plan if he knows it has the votes to pass.

The House is waiting on the Ways and Means Committee to find a revenue source before moving ahead with an authorization of highway and transit programs.  Among the ideas being suggested are proposals to tap funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or transfer additional money from the general fund.

Senate leaders are not moving from their plan to pass an extension of the current authorization that would run through March 2011, postponing an overhaul of transportation programs and difficult decisions on revenue-raisers until after the 2010 elections.  The dispute is likely to culminate before the end of this month, when the current one-month extension of highway and transit authorization is set to expire.

Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-IL) said he would prefer a longer-term transportation bill and might even support a gasoline tax increase to pay for it.  However, he said the biggest hurdle is getting the House and the Senate on the same page.

At a House Democratic Caucus meeting on October 13, Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) made a passionate plea for colleagues to support the surface transportation bill as “the future stimulus.”

Oberstar said there are an assortment of proposals to help pay for the measure, including transferring $20 billion from the general fund to repay the Highway Trust Fund for money taken out over the years for emergency spending and to reimburse the trust fund on interest it has not been paid since 1999.  That is the funding the Senate has included in its plan to extend authorization through March 2011.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman John B. Larson of Connecticut said he supports getting a bill done by the end of the year and has suggested using money from TARP, the $700 billion financial industry bailout fund, to pay for it.

Congress has been circulating the idea of another stimulus to create more jobs.  Rangel said that after health care, the priority is to deal with unemployment.  But Oberstar rejected any compromise that might add more money for ready-to-go highway projects to the Senate’s 18-month extension, holding firm to his support for a long-term reauthorization.

Veterans Affairs

The Senate cleared a bill Tuesday that would put politically sensitive veterans’ health care programs on a two-year budget cycle.

The measure (HR 1016), cleared by voice vote, would authorize appropriations for Veterans Affairs Department medical care programs one year in advance of the start of each fiscal year.  The authority would start in FY11 for three Veterans Health Administration medical care accounts: medical services, medical support and compliance, and medical facilities.  The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

Supporters of the change, say that for years the agency’s health care system has been beset by consistently late and, at times, inadequate budgets.  Final appropriations for the VA have not been enacted before the start of the fiscal year in 19 of the past 22 years.  The trend has continued into the current fiscal year.  Additionally, requests for supplemental appropriations for VA health care have increased in frequency.

The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to study the adequacy and accuracy of the budget projections for VA health care expenditures for the fiscal year involved and the subsequent four fiscal years.  It also would require the president to submit a budget request for the VA’s medical care accounts for the fiscal year after the one for which the budget is submitted.

The legislation would require the VA to provide an annual report to Congress by July 31 of each year detailing cost estimates.

Washington Outlook

Both chambers undertake sizeable agendas next week, with the Senate considering two conference reports and a Medicare payment bill and the House taking on a solar energy measure and a Coast Guard reauthorization.

Conference reports for the Homeland Security spending measure and the Defense authorization bill are expected to consume most of the Senate’s week.  Both would prohibit the transfer of detainees from the U.S. facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to the United States.

But first the chamber will spend time on a bill (S 1776) that would change the formula that determines how much Medicare reimburses physicians.  The Senate will hold a vote Monday night to limit debate on a motion to proceed to the measure.

The Homeland Security spending bill (HR 2892) would provide $44.1 billion in FY10, including $42.8 billion in discretionary funds.  It also would extend the authorization of the E-Verify program for three years.

The Defense authorization act (HR 2647) would authorize $680.2 billion for defense programs in fiscal 2010, including approximately $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other operations.  The measure would also extend federal hate crimes laws to cover offenses motivated by a victim’s gender identity, sexual orientation or disability and would prohibit attacks on military personnel based on their military service.

The Senate may also take up a bill (HR 3548) that would provide 14 additional weeks of unemployment aid in all 50 states.  Those in states with high jobless rates, defined as a three-month average rate of at least 8.5 percent, would get an additional six weeks of benefits for a total of 20 weeks.

In the House, lawmakers will begin the week by taking up a solar energy bill (HR 3585) that would establish a committee in the Energy Department tasked with identifying the country’s solar power needs.

The measure, sponsored by Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) would sanction $2.25 billion for the committee and a variety of solar technologies in fiscal 2011 through 2015.  Debate will likely focus on the cost of the bill, which Republicans complain is too expensive.

The House is also expected to consider legislation (HR 3619) that would authorize funding for the Coast Guard at approximately $10 billion for FY10, while increasing the number of military personnel by 1,500 for a total of 47,000 members.  In past years, authorization bills for the Coast Guard have not been taken up in the Senate.  The agency was last authorized in 2006.

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Sarah Strup

Capitol Decisions

Suite 675 East

101 Constitution Ave, NW

Washington, DC 20001

Phone: 202-737-8727

Fax: 202-638-0353

Capitol Decisions

Weekly Legislative Report Oct 2, 2009

was on the floor most of this week, but has been stalled by debate over military strategy in Afghanistan and weapons spending.  If approved, it would provide $636.3 billion in discretionary spending, which is $3.8 billion less than the president’s request, but $4.4 billion more than the current level, which includes supplemental appropriations.

The House passed its version of the spending bill on July 30, 400-30.

Among the amendments set to be considered next week are a proposal from Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), that would increase spending on research and development for a ground-based missile defense system by between $50 million and $151 million. 

The bill already would provide $7.7 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, a proposed $1.4 billion reduction in the agency’s funding from current year spending.  The House approved the same amount in its version.

Other amendments due to be considered include: a proposal by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) that would deny funds for the CIA’s Center for Climate Change, and another by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) that would require the secretary of Defense to provide Congress with a report outlining the National Guard’s modernization priorities.

Energy

In order to draw Republican support, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) says he is open to negotiate language that would promote development of new nuclear power plants.

Kerry and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA), released details Wednesday of a broad proposal expected to be the main Senate vehicle for President Obama’s clean energy and climate agenda.

The announcement came as the EPA announced a proposal to limit greenhouse gas emission from large sources, such as power plants and refineries, under the Clean Air Act.  The proposal is the most recent warning from the Obama administration that if Congress does not enact legislation to curb carbon emissions, the executive branch will impose regulations on its own.

The Senate bill is modeled on the House-passed cap-and-trade bill (HR 2454), but is full of blanks and placeholders on several key issues, with the aim of creating space to negotiate toward getting 60 Senate votes.

Overall, the bill would cap carbon emissions at 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050 and create a market for buying and selling pollution credits.  The cap-and-trade approach worries several moderate Democrats and has been slammed by many leading Republicans.

While any measure curbing carbon emissions is likely to lead to increased demand for nuclear-generated electricity, industry leaders say they want to see stronger incentives in the bill, including tax incentives, loan guarantees, and increased funding for research and development into nuclear waste storage and reprocessing.

Transportation

States are facing the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars they were counting on for job-producing highway projects, after the Senate failed Wednesday to repeal an $8.7 billion budget cut.

Senate Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) worked out a deal with ranking Republican James M. Inhofe (R-OK) to offset the extra highway spending by tapping the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (PL 110-343). 

Opposition arose when several Republicans objected to the source of money that would restore the fund, therefore defeating a deal to extend surface transportation programs for three months and repealing the rescission of previously enacted budget authority set to take effect Thursday.  Instead, the highway, transit and safety programs were extended for one month in a stopgap spending measure (HR 2918) that cleared Wednesday.  The extension was needed because the 2005 highway law (PL 109-59) expired with the end of the fiscal year.  A condition in repealing the $8.7 billion rescission written into the 2005 law was the need to find offsets under pay-as-you-go budget rules.

Even if the Senate had passed its bill, there was virtually no way that the House (which had already finished voting for the day) could have taken it up Wednesday night.  The House had already passed a three-month extension (HR 3617) but left the rescission in place.  Although states will lose money they expected because the rescission was not repealed, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-MN) believes large increases in transportation funding in the six-year authorization bill he wants to pass would more than make up for the loss, his spokesman said.

Now the Senate and the House have one month to determine how long to extend surface transportation law.  The House passed its three-month extension September 23, hoping it can complete a six-year authorization bill before the end of the year.

The Senate will continue working on an 18-month extension bill that would keep the programs funded at current levels until March 31, 2011.  Several states already had plans to spend their share of the $8.7 billion budget rescission, anticipating that it would be repealed, and may have to cancel or delay the projects.

Washington Outlook

Spending bills and conference reports are expected to dominate Congress next week, while the Senate also focuses on the spending bill that funds the Commerce and Justice departments.

The House is not anticipated to be in session on Monday but will begin its week Tuesday with consideration of the conference report on the FY10 Agriculture spending bill (HR 2997).

Leaders have reconciled their differences on the measure, and a conference report is likely to see quick adoption in the House.  The spending measure, which totals approximately $121 billion, would direct $23.3 billion in discretionary funds to the Agriculture Department, the Food and Drug Administration and related agencies.

Later in the week, the House may take up the conference report on the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 (HR 2892), if conference negotiators can reach an agreement.

The House is also expected to make another attempt at passing the Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009 (HR 2442) that recently failed under suspension of the rules.  The measure, which would authorize $32.2 million in federal assistance for six water recycling programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, has seen opposition from Republicans who say attention should be paid to the water needs in other areas of California.

In the Senate, consideration of the $636.3 billion Defense spending bill (HR 3326) will continue into next week.  The chamber will reconvene on Monday and take up another spending measure, the fiscal 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill (HR 2847) — which is predicted to headline the workweek.  The first votes are expected on Tuesday, with more than a dozen amendments to the Defense spending bill still pending.

The Senate version of the Commerce-Justice-Science bill would provide $64.9 billion in discretionary spending, including $14 billion for the Commerce Department, $27.4 billion for the Justice Department, $18.7 billion for NASA and $6.9 billion for the National Science Foundation.

“We were able to write a very good bill,” said Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D‑MD), who chairs the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee.  “But the stringent budget environment required the subcommittee to make difficult decisions.”  The legislation would give a major boost to the Census Bureau and significantly cut funding for the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which gives a partial subsidy to police forces for jailing illegal immigrants convicted of breaking state or local laws.

The Senate could also take up appropriations conference reports sent over from the House.

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Sarah Strup
Capitol Decisions
Suite 675 East
101 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Phone: 202-737-8727
Fax: 202-638-0353