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The Week Ahead in Congress

October 31, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives this week actually has some bipartisan economics legislation on the calendar. The two bills that the House will end their week with with approved by the Financial Services Committee last week by voice votes. They're designed to make it easier for small businesses to raise funding, though it's not clear that they will be particularly effective. And there's no indication yet that the Senate will bring the bills up for follow-up votes.

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Supercommittee: Occupied

October 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We know that corporations and special interests that can afford $30,000 - $50,000 per month "access lobbyists" are getting their say in front of the supercommittee. According to Politico, lobbyists are receiving special readouts from closed-door supercommittee meetings and then scheduling one-on-ones with supercommittee members so their clients can protect their interests.

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Congressional Leaders Intro Massive E-PARASITE Act

October 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Powerful House Republicans and Democrats have taken two of the most unpopular bills in the Senate, combined them into one big bill, and amended them to make them even worse. Oh, and they gave the whole thing a new name -- the E-PARASITE Act.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

October 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Again, just one chamber in session this week. This time it's the House; the Senate has given themselves a week-long recess because, well, why not? It's not like there's a jobs crisis out there to deal with. The House starts off the week with its usual slate of minor suspension bills, but by midweek they'll debate and vote on a package of bills they say is about creating jobs. The first is actually a piece of the Obama jobs package. It would allow federal contractors to take all of their payments up front instead of having to let the government withhold 3% as a down payment on their tax liabilities. The Republicans say that letting the contractors keep that 3% will lead to more job creation.

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Next Dem Jobs Bill to Focus on Infrastructure

October 21, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has selected the next piece of Obama's jobs bill for Republicans and conservative Democrats to filibuster.

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Checking in on the Supercommittee

October 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress created the deficit supercommittee they attached a trigger to it that would automatically enact large cuts in defense spending if they failed to vote out a proposal. The idea was that nobody in Congress wants to make major cuts to defense so the threat would compel the supercommittee to accomplish the kind of deficit-reduction compromise that the full House and Senate were unable to achieve. More than halfway through the supercommittee's tenure, however, the only progress being made involves finding a way out of the trigger.

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S.978 Could Put Bieber in Jail

October 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

If there's one bill in Congress that pits people of all political stripes against big corporations and the politicians they fund, S.978 is it. The bill would make web streaming of copyrighted content a felony with a prison sentence of up to 5 years. That means you could go to jail for posting a video to YouTube with the wrong background music, all in the name of protecting big media companies that don't want to update their old business models for the age of peer-to-peer sharing.

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House Readies a Bipartisan "Jobs" Bill

October 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Republicans and Democrats in the House are throwing their support behind a bill to let federal contractors retain more of their payments up front. They're planning to pay for it by scaling back federal health care subsidies for the poor and middle class.

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Dems Plan Next Jobs Bill Vote

October 17, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Following up on last week's symbolic vote on Obama's jobs bill, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has decided on the next step. He's whittling the $447 billion down to a single, fully-offset $35 billion spending measure that would provide state and local aid to public employees facing layoffs. He's planning to bring it up for a vote in the Senate later this week. 

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Under current law, no country can receive more than 7% of the total employment-based immigration visas made available worldwide. The cap ensures diversity in the employment-based immigration community, but it also means that workers in big countries, like India and China, who American tech firms might want to hire, have very little chance of actually securing a visa.

The House Judiciary Committee this afternoon is holding a mark-up of the first major immigration reform bill of this session, and it's designed to address this issue. The"Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act," introduced recently by Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R, UT-3], would remove the per-country immigration caps to make it easier for U.S. companies to hire foreign workers.

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Enough About Jobs Already!

October 13, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House is taking a break from working on jobs, the economy, and other dull stuff like that so they can vote on an important issue that the people actually care about -- abortion. The Repubilcan leadership has scheduled a vote this afternoon on the "Protect Life Act," which would allow hospitals to deny abortion services even if it means the mother will die. Finally! HuffPo:

The House is scheduled to vote this week on a new bill that would allow federally-funded hospitals that oppose abortions to refuse to perform the procedure, even in cases where a woman would die without it.

Under current law, every hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid money is legally required to provide emergency care to any patient in need, regardless of his or her financial situation. If a hospital is unable to provide what the patient needs -- including a life-saving abortion -- it has to transfer the patient to a hospital that can.

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Prepping for Job Losses from the Free Trade Deals

October 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The AP has a helpful post up explaining the details of the bill to provide aid to workers who get their jobs shipped overseas that Congress thought would be wise to pass before approving these new free trade deals. They're comparing it to an expansion of the measures that were enacted in 2009 as part of the stimulus bill and expired in February.

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Senate Dems Hand Obama a Rhetorical Victory on Jobs

October 12, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

President Obama didn't send the American Jobs Act of 2011 to Congress because he thought it would pass and help boost the economy. He knew it would fail, but he wanted to use its failure to back up a talking point for his re-election. The Republicans are blocking the Democrats from passing their job-creation plan, the argument would go. Last night, by a vote of 50-49, Obama got his talking point.

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Prospects Dim for Unemployment Insurance Extension

October 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The American Jobs Act contains a provision that would be extremely stimulative in terms of GDP expansion and jobs growth while also providing direct relief to the workers who have been hardest hit by the recession. Yet in discussions over which parts of the bill to keep for inclusion in a smaller, bipartisan package after the American Jobs Act is officially killed, that provision doesn't seem to be popular.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

October 10, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Some big items on the agenda this week, including the first and only vote Obama's jobs bill, the American Jobs Act of 2011, is likely to get. The bill was tweaked last week to get more Democrats on board by switching the revenue section from a collection of tax-loophole closers to a 5.6% tax increase on income earned above $1 million. The change is expected to bring the Democrats in favor to about 47, short of both the 60 that would be needed to break a Republican filibuster and the 51 that would be needed to actually pass it.

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