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Here's an idea for how Congress and the supercommittee can overcome gridlock and reduce deficits: stop paying so much attention to pundits and corporate lobbyisyts, and, instead, start listening to the people they were elected to serve. Unlike the hardened and polarized Washington establishemnt, the public-at-large has broad agreement on several proposals for handling budget deficits.

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Supercommittee Eyes Social Security Cuts

November 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The supercommittee bill will have even stronger protections than budget reconciliation bills. It can't be filibustered or amended on the floor, and, most importantly, there are no restrictions on what can be included in it. Five of the six Byrd-Rule restrictions are about ensuring that reconciliation bills are actually relevant to budgetary matters. The sixth, however, is about protecting Social Security. Nothing that recommends changes in Social Security can be done through budget reconciliations. Since the Byrd Rules were enacted by Congress in 1985, any legislation affecting Social Security has been filibusterable -- until now.

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Previewing the Obama Jobs Plan

September 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Various news outlets are out this morning with a top-line number for the stimulus measure that Obama will be proposing before a jointy session of Congress tomorrow night -- $300 billion. According to the reports, most of that money would be used for extending current measures that are scheduled to expire soon. Just $100 billion or so would be spent on new stimulus measures, which is clearly not enough of an investment to create the levl of demand for goods and services that's needed to get businesses hiring. Let's take a look at the specifics.

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The Trigger

August 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As has been the fate of every other bipartisan congressional sub-group that has met recently to talk about cutting deficits, the most likely outcome for the supercommittee is gridlock. The supercommittee is split evenly between the parties, and the members that have been chosen are probably too partisan to achieve a grand bargain on taxes and spending that can win a majority vote. If gridlock occurs, an automatic spending cut trigger that Congress created in the debt ceiling bill will go into effect. Let's take a look at how that would work.

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'Super Congress' Must Be Open and Transparent

August 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The debt ceiling bill that was signed into law yesterday shunts off much of the dirty work of deciding exactly what to programs to cut or whose taxes to increase to a new "joint select committee on deficit reduction," a.k.a the "Super Congress." Whatever the Super Congress comes up with will be brought to the Senate and House for votes under expedited rules that bar amendments and limit filibusters. And the bill contains an enforcement mechanism designed to persuade members to vote for the Super Congress' plan -- if it fails, massive cuts to two sacred cows, Medicare and the Defense Department, would automatically take effect.

The Super Congress appears to be designed so that just a handful of lawmakers, who will probably be selected from very safe districts, have to make decisions about which constituents will bear the burdens of austerity. The vast majority of Congress will only have to take an up-or-down vote, and with the threat of cuts to seniors' health care and precious jobs in teh defense industry, even if they vote for the Super Congress plan they'll be able to tell constituents that they voted for the less bad of two bad options.

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The Boehner Plan

July 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As usual, when Congress does something that's actually important, they do it the least transparent way possible. This time around it's the Boehner debt plan, which calls for trillions in cuts to social spending and a "super Congress" for reforming taxes and entitlements in exchange for allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year. It's a plan that was negotiated 100% behind closed doors, and it's not being introduced through the regular legislative order, thereby hindering the public's ability to read it and contact their elected officials with feedback.

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If this NYT report is accurate, then congressional Democrats, led by the Obama Administration, are lined up for another epic cave in. The Republicans, on the other hand, are looking poised to score yet another big victory. First, the Bush tax cuts extension, then the 2011 spending bill cuts, and now a debt-ceiling deal that would reduce the deficit entirely through cuts to social spending.

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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 Senate has just passed a $140 billion bill includes an extension for unemployment benefits through the end of the year, tax credits and billions in emergency aid to states.

One week after approving a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits (H.R.4691), the Senate today passed the American Workers, State, and Business Relief Act (H.R.4321), which provides a longer-term extension of those benefits. Specifically, the bill extends federal unemployment assistance through Dec. 31 and provides a 65 percent subsidy for COBRA health insurance premiums. The coverage is retroactive to Feb. 28.

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Dems Push Longer-Term Unemployment Benefits

March 3, 2010 - by Eric Naing

A bill extending unemployment insurance and COBRA health insurance benefits for 30 days was signed into law last night and congressional Democrats are now hoping to extend those benefits through the end of this year. Amidst the chaos surrounding Sen. Jim Bunning's [R, KY] filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] and Sen. Max Baucus [D. MT] on Monday unveiled their bill to provide longer-term relief to the unemployed. Included as an amendment to an existing House bill (H.R.4213)...

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Bunning's Blockade Affects More People

March 2, 2010 - by Eric Naing

We've discussed how Sen. Jim Bunning's [R, KY] filibuster of unemployment benefits has affected millions of dollars in construction projects and thousands of workers, but there's another consequence of his obstruction: a 21 percent cut in Medicare dollars for doctors. I've discussed the “doc fix” before but to recap, a budget formula has repeatedly and automatically cut Medicaid payments to doctors since 2003. Congress routinely votes to delay those cuts, but by not paying to permanently fix t...

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Medicare "Doc Fix" Attached To Senate Jobs Bill

February 10, 2010 - by Eric Naing

As part of the Senate jobs bill, Democrats hope to delay an impending 21 percent cut in Medicare dollars for doctors for at least a few more months.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

January 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Still no path forward for health care reform. House Democrats have a light legislative schedule this week, and they will hear Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday. The Senate's going to be voting on a slate of controversial deficit amendments and on confirming Fed Chief Ben Bernanke to another term.

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This Week in Congress - Let's Make a Deal

October 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Negotiators in both the Senate and the House are looking to finalize health care legislation this week so they can get official budget scores and bring the bills to the floor for debate and votes. Click through for more on the state of the negotiations as well as complete lists of all the bills that will be coming up for votes this week.

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The Progressive Health Care Bloc

July 30, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The fact of the matter is that when you shift the legislation over to the right to satisfy conservatives, you lose liberal votes on the left. In this case, the deal Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman [D, CA-30] Democrat brokered with the Blue Dogs appears to be losing more votes for the bill than it has gained. The deal is designed to satisfy the 40 Blue Dogs who outlined their concerns with the bill in a letter three weeks ago. We know that only 4 of the 7 Blue Dogs on the E&C Committee agreed to the deal, so it's likely that outside of the committee, the deal would win the support of, say, 30 Blue Dogs.

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