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Shutdown Averted

September 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After FEMA announced earlier in the day that it could stretch its remaining disaster funding out through Friday, the end of the fiscal year, the Senate reached a deal that will keep the government open and operating, for now at least. The deal sidesteps what was the sticking point -- whether or not extra FEMA funding for the rest of the year should be offset with cuts to other programs -- and, once passed by the House, will keep the government funded until November 18th.

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Please Enjoy This Phony Debt Debate

July 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans have been hammering Democrats and the Obama Administration for negotiating the debt limit and deficit deal behind closed doors and out of the public view. They have a point. Unless there's something you're bringing to the table that you'd rather hide from the public, why not put a camera in the negotiating room and broadcast the talks?

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We already know that the House Republicans support increasing the debt limit. All but four of them recently voted in favor of a budget blueprint that calls for adding $9 trillion to the debt subject to limit over the next decade. Yet somehow they have convinced Obama and the Democrats that they have to get something in return, like spending cuts that make tax increases less likely, in exchange for actually voting for the debt limit increase they've already endorsed.

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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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Last Week's Debt Ceiling Vote

April 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess, raising the debt ceiling to accommodate necessary borrowing will be on the top of the agenda. It's estimated that the current $14.3 trillion limit is going to be surpassed in mid-May, and if Congress does not pass an increase in the limit by then the Treasury will have to begin withholding federal payments or default on its intergovernmental obligations. Republicans in the House are threatening to vote down an increase if their spending demands are not met. However, they (all but four of them) have already gone down on the record in favor of increasing the debt limit -- by $2 trillion next year and by nearly $9 trillion over the next decade.

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House Republicans Pass 2012 Budget Resolution

April 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last Friday before Congress left for their two-week recess, the House passed a Republican budget resolution for FY2012 that proposes to reduce the deficit while lowering taxes by cutting social program funding across the board and fundamentally alter entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. While the Republicans' budget is not going to directly effect how Congress allocates federal funds over the next couple years, it will be hugely influential as the Democrats in the Senate and the White House work towards a compromise that can pass Congress and keep the government operating beyond the 2011 fiscal year.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

April 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

With a deal in place on funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year, the House and Senate now have to go through the motions of actually putting the appropriations legislation into effect. As of Monday morning, the House Appropriations Committee is still drafting the legislative language of the deal, and they're not expected to unveil an actual bill until late Monday night. As you'll see below, the bill is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, which suggests that once again the House leadership is going to exploit the weak language of their "read the bill" rule and make the bill available for public review for far less than 72 hours, the minimum standard of public availability before votes they themselves promoted on the campaign trail. Of course, we'll be doing everything we can to get the bill text online for commenting and sharing as soon as it's released. With all of the controversial policy riders that have been involved in the closed-door negotiations with the bill, folks with interests in just about any major political issue are going to have something to look for in the text.

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Defunding Libya

March 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess they're going to have about a week and a half to pass another stopgap bill to prevent the government running. If the military operation in Libya are still going on at that point, as many expect they will be, the bill, which is considered a "must pass," will give Congress an opportunity to use their authority over federal budget to wind it down. That effort is going to be led by Rep. Dennis Kucinich [D, OH-10], who announced his intention to introduce a defund Libya amendment in a "Dear Colleague" letter yesterday:

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Three-Week Stopgap in the Works

March 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Following the Senate's rejection of two long-term government funding proposals -- one from Republicans and one from Democrats -- congressional negotiators are back to working out another stopgap bill to keep the federal government from shutting down. The current stopgap bill is set to expire next Friday. According to reports, the plan now is to move a three-week funding extension that continues the same rate of cuts from the current extension -- about $2 billion per week below 2010 levels -- and gives Congress until early April to work out a longer-term solution.

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Two More Weeks of Federal Government

March 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate has followed up on the House's action yesterday and passed a two-week stopgap spending bill that cuts about $4 billion from the current funding level, mostly by eliminating some of last year's earmarks. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 91-9, with 3 Democrats5 Republicans and 1 Independent-Democrat voting against. President Obama will sign the bill, averting a government shutdown that would have taken place otherwise beginning this Friday. But don't be fooled -- this is a temporary agreement and the negotiations to fund the government beyond these two weeks are extremely contentious. A government shutdown is still the most likely scenario.

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The Looming Government Shutdown

February 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Congress may not be in session this week, but the negotiations on how to fund the government are continuing. At this point, however, we're still looking at two sides that disagree and are unwilling to budge -- a Democratic Senate that wants to pass a clean short-term continuing resolution to forestall a government shutdown until the year-long budget can be worked out, and a Republican House that will go along with a short-term solution, but only if it includes cuts. The most likely scenario still seems to be a government shutdown.

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Boehner Gets His Earmark

February 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Amid all the cuts in the Republicans' continuing resolution is a provision that would spend millions on a program that nobody besides the defense contractors who benefit from it seems to want. Why? As Sott Lilly at CAP reports, "The item is a down payment that would obligate the federal government to future payments that could well be three or four times the increased spending added to this particular piece of legislation, with a big portion of the funds flowing to two cities in Ohio—Cincinnati, where Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) grew up, and Dayton, the largest city in his congressional district." That "looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark."

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The Week Ahead in Congress

February 13, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House kicks things off this week with a quick vote on extending three government surveillance powers from the PATRIOT Act. It's going to be done under a closed rule so it's expected to pass without any hiccups, though it's going to be interesting to see what kind of motion to recommit the Democrats go with on this. Once that's all set, the House will transition to budget land, with debate beginning on the Republicans' budget proposal for the rest of the year just one day after President Obama is scheduled to officially his preferred plan for next year. The 2011 budget was left unfinished by the Democrats last year and is being handled as a continuing resolution. A copy of the cuts Republicans are proposing can be downloaded here.

The Senate, meanwhile, will continues debating that left-over FAA Authorization bill that they've been on for two weeks already. Remember, this passed the Senate last year by a vote of 93-0. It's not a controversial bill, it's just taking forever because Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has left it open to amendments as a test run of his gentlemen's agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY]. There's no way of knowing how long this "debate" will last.

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Default At Home First

February 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

In other words, if the Republicans in the House do not pass a debt limit increase, this bill would automatically enforce a deep domestic austerity program. The guiding idea here is to avoid an international default scenario that could permanently destroy U.S. creditworthiness by, apparently, defaulting instead on legal obligations at home, like Social Security payments and benefits for veterans. Toomey himself noted in a recent op-ed that if his bill was triggered, "projects would be postponed, some vendor payments would be delayed, certain programs would be suspended, and many government employees might be furloughed."

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The Week Ahead in Congress

January 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The big event this week, of course, will be Obama's third State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Some senators and representatives are planning to buck the age-old tradition of sitting across the aisle from their counterparts in the other party and will instead disburse throughout House Chamber in an ad hoc, bipartisan buddy system. Ideological opposites Sen. Chuck Schumer [D, NY] and Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] will be watching the President side-by-side, as will centrists Sen. Mary Landrieu [D, LA] and Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME]. Rep. Joe Wilson [R, SC-2], famous for his "You lie!" outburst at last year's speech, will be sitting with Rep. Madeleine Bordallo [D, Guam]. It's all very pleasant and nice. Outside of the SOTU speech this week, however, both chambers have some less cute work-type stuff to take care of.

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