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The Budget Nobody Noticed

May 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As Congress resumes working on the 2012 budget, almost all of the discussion will be on striking a deal between the President's proposal and the House Republicans' proposal. But there is another budget proposal in Congress that would do far more than either of those for eliminating deficits, reducing the debt and ensuring solvency of our entitlement programs. The Progressive Caucus' "People's Budget" would produce budget surpluses by 2021 -- the GOP budget would still be producingannual deficits of more than $400 billion at that point -- and would add more than $2 trillion less to the debt than the GOP plan over the ten year period. How would it work? By doing things most members of Congress are afraid to go anywhere near, like raising tax rates for the rich and making major cuts to the military budget.

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Balance the Budget, But How?

April 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Should taxes be on the table for balancing the budget, or should we look at spending cuts only? This is they key partisan debate right now in Congress, and it's going to come to a head in the next few weeks when the House and Senate vote on the debt limit and, likely, some kind of structural enforcement mechanism for bringing annual deficits down to zero.

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The upcoming debt ceiling increase is pretty much the ultimate must-pass bill. If Congress doesn't pass it, it's not just that some programs would be put on hold or that some federal workers would be furloughed; the entire economy would collapse much more deeply than in 2008, and we would have no chance of recovery since our international credit worthiness, our principle financial asset, would be permanently ruined. Of course, every member of Congress knows that the debt ceiling increase has to be passed. That's why they're hoping to use it as a means to pass other legislation that they know cannot stand on its own. Fox News reports that Senate Republicans are planning to filibuster the debt ceiling increase unless the Senate passes a constitutional balanced budget amendment:

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With the giant Defense budget, the tax-cut extensions, the bailouts, and the lack of tax reciepts from the economic crisis, the ceiling on our national debt is going to have to be increased, by the end of March according to Tim Geithner, if we are to avoid defaulting on our debt and destroying whatever modicum of creditworthiness we have left in the international community.

Voting to raise the debt ceiling is always unpopular, and its must-pass nature makes it a perfect tool for the minority party to force the majority to register an unpopular vote. Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2] admitted as much last year, arguing that the unpopular debt ceiling vote was not his party's responsibility. "That is the burden of the majority," he said.

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Obama-GOP Tax Bill Set to Pass the House Today

December 16, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE 4: After more than 6 hours of delay, the Democrats passed a slightly revised rule by a 214-201 vote. The new rule doesn't change how many or which amendments will be voted on, it just allows for a separate up-or-down vote on the bill even if the estate tax amendment passes. The original rule would have deemed the bill passed once the amendment is passed.

 

Original post below. I'll be rolling updates on this post, so check back again shortly for more (and follow along on Twitter)...

The House Rules Committee met last night to hammer out the rule that will govern today's House debate of the Obama-GOP tax bill, and, as expected, they're protecting it by allowing only one amendment vote. There will be no votes on letting the upper-income tax rates expire, making the payroll tax provision less regressive, lengthening the unemployment insurance filing extension, or adding an extra tier of benefits for the 99ers. The only vote allowed will be on an amendment to raise the estate tax from the Senate's very low level to the almost-as-low 2009 level as set by Bush, and House leaders are whipping against this because they don't want to have to send the bill back to the Senate.

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Hot on the heels of Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee's [D, TX-18] statement Thursday on the House floor that an extension of unemployment insurance for 99ers should be added to Obama's tax deal, the Congressional Black Caucus has announced that adding 99ers relief is essential for winning the support of their members. "The CBC has reached a consensus on three areas that we believe we can unite behind, Rep. Bobby Scott [D, VA-3] said at a press conference on Friday. "First, we support the 13-month extension of unemployment insurance benefits, but we all agree that we also ought to extend benefits for the so called 99ers -- those who are exhausting the benefits they have."

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President Obama on Monday announced the "framework" of a deal with congressional Republicans for dealing with the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. It's a two-year deal, and it includes a bunch of other stuff, all at a cost about $900 billion. None of it is offset, so this will be a direct increase in the deficit. Let's take a look at the specifics of what's included:

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Senate Democrats violated a constitutional provision with their food safety bill by including language that would levy new fees on food facilities as revenue raisers. Under the Constitution, all legislation increasing taxes must originate in the House, and these fees qualify. "By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House," Roll Call is reporting. "The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides."

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The Tax Cut No One Noticed

October 20, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Did you notice that your federal tax bill was lower last year? If you're like most people, you didn't. But believe it or not, one of the first things Barack Obama and 111th Congress did when they took office in 2009 was pass an income tax cut for about 95% of U.S. tax payers. The New York Times reported yesterday on why this went so unnoticed:

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A New Obama Jobs Bill

September 1, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Having pushed aside energy/oil spill legislation until the lame-duck session, the weeks between when Congress reconvenes from the August recess on September 13 and before they adjourn for election season in October will be focused on one thing -- saving the U.S. economy from slipping deeper into recession. There's a small business jobs bill on tap (H.R. 5297), a vague plan to do something with the expiring Bush tax cuts, and now, according to the Wall Street Journal, a new jobs package from the Obama Administration.

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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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Another day, another battle over health care reform. A false claim made by Congressional Republicans that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will result in the hiring of 16,000-16,500 new IRS agents, who might possibly be armed, is receiving some high-profile and well-deserved pushback.

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Eliminated Tax Subsidy Painted As Obamacare Cost

April 1, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The price of Obamacare is apparently sky-high, according to several corporations. Construction equipment manufacturer Caterpillar announced that the Affordable Care Act (H.R.3590) will cost the company $100 million. John Deere expects to lose $150 million and AT&T will take a $1 billion hit.

In context, however, there's less to these costs than meets the eye. Click through for the full story, or head straight to today's edition of Congress Links.

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Not Much of a Mandate

March 25, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Ezra Klein reminds us of a provision in the health care bill dating back to the Senate Finance Committee's work in October that is important, but largely forgotten. If you don't abide with the bill's requirement starting in 2014 that you have acceptable health coverage, you are supposed to pay a fine to the government. But, under the new bill, those who fail to get insurance and fail to pay the fine will pretty much get off scott free.

And what happens if you don't buy insurance and you don't pay the penalty? Well, not much. The law specifically says that no criminal action or liens can be imposed on people who don't pay the fine. If this actually leads to a world in which large numbers of people don't buy insurance and tell the IRS to stuff it, you could see that change. But for now, the penalties are low and the enforcement is non-existent.

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Tax Cuts for Craft Beer

March 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Did you know that the House of Representatives has a Small Brewers Caucus? Me either. But, then again, I also didn't know about the "I‐73/74 Corridor Caucus" or the "Modeling and Simulation Caucus," so my ignorance on the matter isn't much of a surprise.

The Small Brewers Caucus is pushing a bill (H.R. 4278) from Rep. Richard Neal [D, MA-2] that would redefine "small" in the age of craft beers and create a new graduated excise tax rate for small breweries so that brewers who produce 100 barrels a year aren't paying the same tax rate as, say, Yuengling.

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