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The Week Ahead in Congress

February 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Congress comes back from their week off today, and it appears that the Republicans in the House and the Democrats in the Senate have just about struck a deal to keep the government operating, at least temporarily. On Friday, Republicans proposed a two week continuing resolution with $4 billion in cuts from the current funding level and on Sunday Senate Budget Committee Chaiman Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND] sounded ready to work with that offer. "It is acceptable to me to have $4 billion in savings in a two-week package, sure. The makeup of that, you know, is up for discussion and negotiation. That negotiation is ongoing. And I'm confident we'll achieve conclusion on that," Konrad said. His comments follow a positive reaction to the Republican proposal from Majority Leader Harry Reid on Friday.

While the final details of this are being worked out, here's how the House and Senate will be keeping themselves busy on the chamber floor. First, the House schedule:

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Shutdown Averted?

February 25, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

It's looking like the government may not be shutting down after all, at least not on March 4. House Republicans today unveiled their bill to extend government funding for two weeks, and the response from Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid's office is considerably more positive than what we've been hearing lately. The bill would cut a little more than $4 billion from the current funding level over a two week period and it does not include any of the controversial language that the Republicans included in their full-year funding bill, like defunding Planned Parenthood or blocking the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases.

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Still Worlds Apart

February 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

If progress is being made on keeping the government up and running beyond the March 4 deadline, it's not being shared with the public. Both Democrats and Republicans have spent the week digging in their heels and pledging to move forward on their separate, conflicting paths, virtually guaranteeing that we will see a government shutdown while things are being worked out.

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Should Congress Be Exempt From a Government Shutdown?

February 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Unlike just about all other federal employees, the salaries for members of Congress ($174,00) and the President ($400,000) are paid from permanent mandatory spending accounts that are not subject to annual renewal from Congress. They are, by law, effectively exempted from shutdowns. In case you're wondering who decided that Congress's pay should be immune to Congress failing to fund the government, the answers is, of course …Congress! Funny how that works.

With a government shutdown now looking very likely in early March, some members of Congress want to end their special salary protections. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] in the Senate and James Moran [D, VA] in the House have introduced legislation that would deny basic pay to Congress and the President if there is a more than 24-hour lapse in government funding as a result of a failure to enact appropriations bills or if the statutory debt limit is reached because is was not increased in time.

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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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House Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood

February 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The Republican House of Representatives took their latest shot at limiting access to abortions today by passing an amendment to their 2011 government funding bill that would defund Planned Parenthood. There amendment has some big problems, however, and it's very unlikely that it will become law.

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On Monday I wrote about a provision in the Republicans' continuing resolution that would spend $450 million on a redundant DoD project that is and opposed by the Pentagon, but is included because, as it appears, it benefits defense contractors in House Speaker John Boehner's [R, OH-8] district. As long-time Appropriations Committee staffer Scott Lilly concluded, the provision "looks, feels, and smells very much like an earmark." Remember, the Republicans claim to have banned earmarking this session. Thanks to Rep. Tom Rooney [R, FL-16], the provision has been removed from the bill, saving $450 this year from a bloated military budget that rarely scrutinized by members of Congress from either party.

 

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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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Killing Financial Reform by Defunding the Regulators

December 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

There was something odd about the death of the omnibus appropriations bill last week. The bill would have funded the government at the exact level requested by the Republican leadership and of the oft-criticized earmarks in the bill, the top beneficiaries would have been Republicans. The bill was produced through a long, bipartisan, and mostly agreeable committee process.

So why did the Republicans suddenly turn against it?

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Dems Lowering Expectations for the Lame Duck Session

November 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Before the elections, congressional Democrats were talking about using the upcoming lame duck session for passing on a renewable energy standard bill, creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that complete high school or serve in the military, setting tariffs for countries that manipulate their currency, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and much more. But in the wake of their midterm "shellacking," they are quickly scaling back their ambitions. Inside sources who spoke with The Hill are saying not to expect anything beyond a continuing resolution to keep the government running until the end of the year and a debate on the expiring Bush tax cuts.

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Omnibus Budget Bill Looking More Likely

November 18, 2009 - by Avelino Maestas

Donny is working on a post about the soon-to-be-released CBO score of the Senate health care reform bill, but I thought I would just write a quick hit on the budget. Most of the government was operating on a continuing resolution: federal agencies are using last year's budget formula to conduct business. Fiscal year 2009 ended on September 30, and while five appropriations bills have been approved, seven have not

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The Senate kicks off the week with a busy start, as Democratic leaders attempt to keep the caucus in line on the omnibus spending bill. In the House, a vote on D.C. voting rights legislation is probable on Tuesday, and House members may be required to approve any changes made to the omnibus spending bill. In addition, the Employee Free Choice Act will be introduced in both chambers Tuesday.

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