There's pretty much one game in town this week: negotiating a plan to keep the government funded and operating beyond the March 18 deadline. That debate will continue to rage in the back halls of Congress this week, with Democrats and Republicans still about $30 billion off on their preferred top-line spending levels and with a myriad of differences on what to cut and what to save.Read Full Article Comments (3)
The Clean Air Act gives the Environmental Protection Agency power to regulate air pollutants that are hazardous to public health. In 2009, after conducing a scientific, peer-reviewed study as ordered by the Supreme Court, the EPA determined that six greenhouse gases "threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations" and they have begun drawing up regulations. But a group of lawmakers is trying to defeat the science with legislation, and they're gaining influential allies on both sides of the aisle.Read Full Article Comments (8)
The Nation's Chris Hayes offers a good explanation for why most members of Congress don't seem particularly concerned abut the high rates of unemployment we've been seeing and will probably continue to see for several years:
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This disconnect between the jobs crisis in the country and the blithe dismissal thereof in Washington is the most incomprehensible aspect of the political moment. But I think there are two numbers that go a long way toward explaining it.
I know this is old news now, but Irregular Times has brought my attention to an overlooked vote that I think is worth noting. During the House's recent continuing resolution vote-a-rama, one of the amendments that was brought up for debate and quickly shot down was one from Rep. Ron Kind [D, WI-3] that would have eliminated two weapons systems progams that the military has said, in no uncertain terms, that it does not want. They are the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (a.k.a. the EFV) and the Surface Launch Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile System (a.ka. the SLAMRAAM) and eliminating them would save the government $13 billion, with most of the savings coming from the EFV elimination.Read Full Article Comments (5)
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 Democrats, 5 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.Read Full Article Submit a Comment
The Republicans' No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act will no longer propose to redefine rape to block women on Medicaid from receiving abortions unless the rape was "forcible" or deny abortion access to incest victims who are 18 years or older. But it would still radically rewrite abortion laws in the U.S. by expanding the definition of "taxpayer funding for abortions" to include all tax deductions, credits and other benefits, even in cases where the abortion services portion of an insurance plan is paid for entirely with private funds. The bill is scheduled for a committee mark-up later this week.Read Full Article Comments (3)
The Senate has begun debating a bill that would fundamentally alter an important area of U.S. intellectual property laws, and it's pitting small businesses and independent inventors against a broad coalition of powerful interests like drug companies, big software companies and some unions. The bill, known as the Patent Reform Act of 2011, would amend several areas of patent law, the most significant of which would be a change from the current application system that awards patents to the fist person to invent something to a new system that would award a patent to the first person to file an application.Read Full Article Comments (7)
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:Read Full Article Comments (1)
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.Read Full Article Comments (2)
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.Read Full Article Comments (6)
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.Read Full Article Comments (10)
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.Read Full Article Comments (11)
With the self-avowed nonpartisan Tea Party fueling the surge of activism that helped Republicans win the House in the 2010 elections, most pundits assumed the freshmen class would be more independent of party leadership and steer the Republican caucus in a new, more traditionally conservative, direction. However, a month and a half into the 112th Congress, the data suggests that the freshmen class has in fact made the House Republicans a more loyal caucus than it would be without them.Read Full Article Comments (14)
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.Read Full Article Comments (68)
Job losses in the recession peaked almost exactly two years ago, and the situation has barely improved since. Current law allows unemployed workers to receive a maximum of two years of unemployment insurance benefits, so millions of people who lost their jobs in the recession are getting cut off from government support right now with little chance of finding work. These folks are often referred to as "99ers," 99 being the maximum number of benefit weeks. Despite the situation, House Republicans yesterday used an arcane rule to block an amendment that would have provided 14 more weeks of benefits for thRead Full Article Comments (16)