An assortment of other policy items were also included in the manager’s package, including a provision by Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) that would require the director of national intelligence to submit to the congressional Intelligence committees a report on the lessons learned from the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. Language from Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), which was incorporated into the manager’s package, would require the Transportation Security Administration to check the “no fly” passenger list within 30 minutes of the list being updated.
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) offered an amendment, adopted by voice vote, which would prohibit NASA from terminating contracts for the Constellation program, which the Obama administration has proposed rescinding. The bill also includes $22 million to reduce an accumulation of unresolved cases at the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission. Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) pushed for the funding after 29 coal miners were killed during an explosion at a West Virginia mine last month.
Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA) and several other Senators gave notice of amendments they plan to offer on the floor. Harkin wants to include $23 billion in aid for states in order to avoid hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs.
The overall bill was approved 30-0, and would meet the president’s emergency request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, disaster response and foreign operations. It would provide $45.4 billion in discretionary funding, as well as $13.4 billion in mandatory funds to compensate Vietnam War veterans exposed to the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.
The Department of Defense would get $33.4 billion, which would fund 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. It would also provide $2.6 billion for operations in Afghanistan and $1 billion for the Iraq Security Forces. The bill would also provide $4.9 billion for procurement. Democrats like Vermont’s Patrick Leahy and Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski voted for the bill despite concerns over continued war funding. The Federal Emergency Management Agency would receive $5.1 billion to pay for costs of past disasters, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Midwest floods of 2008 and California wildfires.
The State Department would get $6.2 billion for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Haiti would get $893 million in aid to help recover from January’s earthquake, with an additional $465 million set aside for international disaster assistance. The bill would also provide Obama’s request for $219 million to cancel existing debts owed by Haiti.
After the markup, Inouye said the timing of a floor vote on the measure was uncertain, but is confident it will be taken up for consideration and passed before the recess.
House members continue to argue over the tardy budget resolution, with Republicans charging that Democrats have acknowledged there will not be a resolution this year. Democrats maintain that budget talks are still in the works.
Republicans attacked comments made by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) yesterday when discussing the chamber’s upcoming schedule. In his weekly floor colloquy, GOP Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia asked Hoyer about Democrats plans to consider a budget resolution. Republican staff members have interpreted that by excluding any mention of a budget, which Democrats were instead working on a “deeming” resolution to set a top-line discretionary spending cap for the year that would allow appropriations bills to move forward without a budget resolution.
The fiscally conservative “Blue Dogs” and House liberals are at odds on where to make cuts on discretionary spending, delaying progress on moving the budget. Liberals are open to cuts as long as spending is reduced across the board, while the Blue Dogs have resisted cutting defense spending. Democrats insist that talks are in the works, and that there is still a possibility they will be able to agree on a budget. A Democratic aide said that Hoyer and Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt had held a constructive meeting Thursday regarding the budget, which could allow Spratt next week to distribute some proposals in order to get House Democrats on the same page.
Republicans have criticized Democrats management of fiscal matters because of their lack of progress on a budget.
The Senate Budget Committee adopted its $3.7 trillion resolution (S Con Res 60) on April 22, and leaders have said they would like to bring it to the floor for a vote.
Next week, the Senate will complete the final stages of their work on the financial regulatory bill, while the House is expected to proceed on a stalled tax extensions measure and a science bill that was pulled off the floor this week.
In the House, a modified version of the American Workers, State and Business Relief Act of 2010 (HR 4213) is expected to come to the floor next week. Democratic tax writers have spent weeks attempting to hash out differences between versions that passed in each chamber, with their ultimate goal being to revive and extend tax breaks and social safety net programs through 2010.
Although the package has not been finalized, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said it will likely include the Build America Bonds program and a summer jobs program. It also will include extensions of long-term unemployment insurance and health insurance assistance for jobless Americans, as well as several tax credits for individuals and businesses that both chambers have backed.
The House is also likely to address the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (HR 5116) that would reauthorize science and technology programs. The measure was pulled from the floor on Thursday after Republicans successfully moved to considerably cut its funding levels and added language to prohibit the use of funds to pay the salaries of government employees who have been disciplined for using work computers to look at pornography. The bill aims to improve U.S. economic competitiveness through federal support of various science and technology education and research programs. It would authorize funds for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, and certain Energy Department research programs.
The Senate seeks to complete the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (S 3217) by next week. In order for Democratic leaders to complete work on the measure, Reid could possibly file a cloture motion on the bill as early as Monday, in order to cut off debate and block unrelated amendments. The Senate could also consider the tax extenders legislation when the House completes work on the measure.
Before leaving for the Memorial Day recess, the Senate may also request to move an emergency supplemental spending bill (HR 4899) that the Senate Appropriations Committee approved Thursday.