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The Shrinking Unemployment Bill

June 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Once again, Democrats are downsizing H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance/tax extenders bill, in order to lessen its impact on the deficit and round up the support to pass it. The bill has been floundering in the Senate for weeks, and yesterday, it officially stalled out after the Democrats failed 45-52 to overcome an important procedural hurdle requiring 60 votes to pass.

According to Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] and the Senate Finance Committee, these are the big changes in the revised bill:

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It has now been a full two weeks since Congress left for recess without finalizing their bill to extend unemployment benefits, and there is still no end in sight for the bill. As a result, hundreds of thousands of unemployed Americans have been suddenly cut-off from their only source of income. Most lawmakers from both parties agree that unemployment benefits need to be extended, so what's holding up the bill?

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Senate Democrats are honing in on a compromise for moving forward with the jobs/tax extenders bill. According to Congress Daily, the plan is to soften a provision raising taxes on hedge fund managers who have been paying discount rates due to a loophole in the tax code. Unemployed workers whose health care subsidies were cut during the House's work on the bill would not see any gains under the new compromise.

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On May 28, before leaving for recess, the House split the extender bill, known as the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, into two pieces and passed them both. But by the time the House finished their work on the bill, the Senate had already left town, causing the bill to linger as unfinished business over the week-long recess. As a result, on June 2, unemployment insurance benefits began expiring for hundreds of thousands of people, and the pay cut for doctors is set to take effect imminently (the only reason it hasn't happened yet is that Medicare has temporarily postponed its claims processing).

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] initially said that passing the bill would be the first thing the Senate does on Monday morning. But, as The Hill is reporting, it now looks like that isn't going to happen. Senate Democrats have yet to schedule a debate on the bill, and they likely do not have the votes to pass it in its current form.

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House Passes Scaled-Back Jobs Bill

May 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After cutting COBRA health care benefits for the unemployed and Medicaid funds for states with budget problems, the House has finally passed their economic recovery bill, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010.

But they are a day late. The Senate adjourned this afternoon and won't be back to vote on the bill until Monday, June 7. The current unemployment benefits extension that was approved by Congress in April is set to expire on June 2. According to the Department of Labor, more than 300,000 unemployed people will exhaust their current tier of benefits and be left without a lifeline by the time the Senate gets back to take up the bill.

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To most liberals and many economists, the first $787 billion economic stimulus bill (H.R.1) didn't do enough to promote job growth and general recovery given the depth of the recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis. The national unemployment rate, for example, is still at 9.5%, and in areas that were hit especially hard by the recession, the unemployment rate is still going up.

So, the Democrats have prepared a second, smaller stimulus bill of about $127 billion in new short-term spending called the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, and they are planning to hold a vote on it in the House on today. Late on Wednesday night, the bill was revised. Here's what's in the final bill.

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Dodd Throws Volcker a Bone

March 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Obama-proposed Volcker Rule, which is designed to prohibit banks from engaging in high-risk speculation that has no societal benefit, was supposed to be "dead on arrival" in the Senate. Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd [D, CT], who is retiring and hopes to pass financial reform as a last boost to his legacy, saw the proposal as a poorly-timed addition to the legislation that could threaten its support from conservative, pro-Wall Street lawmakers.

But from the summary of the bill released today by Dodd, it appears to be included ...just in a watered-down, toothless iteration:

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Obama Budget Takes on Oil, Hedge Fund Subsidies

February 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

President Obama's 2011 budget proposes repealing two corporate subsidies that the Democrats in Congress have been trying to get rid of for years. Will Congress have the will this year to stand up to these powerful industries and enact Obama's proposals?

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