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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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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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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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House returns from recess to pass state aid bill

August 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The House came back from their August recess today to vote on the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, which the Senate passed last Thursday, after the House had already adjourned. It gives states $26.1 billion to help pay for Medicaid and teachers' salaries. Since both chambers passed the exact same version of the bill, it was immediately enrolled by Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] and sent directly to Obama, who has already signed it into law.

The vote was a near-party-line 247-161. Two Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the bill with the Democrats -- Rep. Anh Cao [R, LA-2] and Rep. Michael Castle [R, DE-0]. Three Democrats, all members of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition, voted with Republicans against the bill -- Rep. Bobby Bright [D, AL-2], Rep. Jim Cooper [D, TN-5] and Rep. Gene Taylor [D, MS-4]. Twenty-five congressmen didn't take the time out of the recess to return to D.C. and vote on the bill, including 7 Democrats and 18 Republicans.

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The Week Ahead

August 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

It's August recess, but the House will be back in session for a few hours this week to vote on a bill that the Senate passed last week to help retain teaching jobs and across the country help states pay for Medicaid. The bill, known at the "Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act," is scheduled to be voted on Tuesday.

Here's the official House schedule for the week:

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Senate Moves State Aid Bill to the House

August 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Don't look now, but legislation is actually moving in the Senate. Congress Daily ($):

The Senate today sent the House a $26 billion state aid package after defeating two amendments from Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., seeking to permanently extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts.

The package, which passed 61-39, would provide $16.1 billion to extend for six months increased Medicaid funding for states, known as FMAP. The measure also provides $10 billion for a fund Democrats say will avert 138,000 teacher layoffs. It passed with the support of two Republicans, Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

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Despite shaving another $22 billion off the price tag of H.R. 4213, the unemployment insurance, jobs and tax extenders bill, the Democrats this afternoon failed for the third time in three weeks to defeat a Republican filibuster. As a result, Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is giving up and moving onto other legislative matters. "We can't pass it until we get some Republicans... It's up to them," Reid said.

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After consulting with lobbyists yesterday to see what it would take to win a few Republican votes, Senate Dems are back with their latest revision of the H.R. 4213, the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act. Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has already filed cloture on the revised bill, and according to the congressional record, "a vote on cloture will occur on Friday, June 25, 2010."

Cloture is a procedural motion to overcome a filibuster that requires 60 votes to pass. According to reports, the Democrats have been within two votes of passing the cloture motion for several days now. This latest revision is designed to shore up support among Democratic and Republican moderates to win those crucial two votes. At this point, all indications are that it hasn't worked.

So what has changed in the latest revision?

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As I've been writing about on this blog for weeks, Senate Democrats are trying to pass a bill (H.R. 4213) combining an unemployment insurance extension, stimulative tax credits, state aid for Medicaid, and tax hikes on hedge funds and oil companies. They need at least two Republican votes in order to break a filibuster, but, so far, no Republicans are going along with them. CongressDaily ($) reports this morning that the Dems are changing up their strategy. Rather than trying to strike a deal with the GOP, they are going to work directly with the infamous fourth branch of government -- corporate lobbyists:

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Since late May, the Senate has been stymied by a piece of must-pass legislation, H.R. 4213, that combines a 6-month unemployment insurance extension, billions in tax credits designed to protect jobs, billions in aid for states struggling to pay for Medicaid, and tax hikes on wealthy individuals and corporations. The bill, which has been pared down several times already, costs $55 billion, which failed roll call after failed roll call has shown to be just too much for Senate moderates and conservatives to swallow this close to the midterms.

But the Democrats are committed to passing the unemployment insurance extension, and they are once again paring down the bill to round up support among moderates and overcome a Republican-led filibuster. According to CQ Politics, here's what they are looking at now for savings:

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Latest on the Unemployment/Tax Extenders Bill

June 21, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This from subscription-only CongressDaily is at least not bad news for those of you hoping that the Senate will pass legislation extending the unemployment insurance filing deadline this week: "Senate Democrats are back at the drawing board, working again this week to pass a version of a bill extending tax breaks and unemployment benefits and other programs after they lost cloture votes on two versions last week. [...] Democrats still want to extend unemployment benefits, which have been expiring for tens of thousands of Americans since the start of the month. But aides said it is too soon to say what else will be included in the package offered this week."

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Senate Democrats tried once again last night to overcome a budget point of order against their unemployment insurance/tax extenders bill, this time on a pared-down version, and failed 56-40. Sixty votes were needed. Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] and Sen. Joe Lieberman [I, CT] joined all Republicans in voting down the bill.

The path forward from here is unclear to say the least. Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] tried after the failing vote to pass each piece of the bill -- the unemployment benefits, the doc-fix, the Medicaid money -- as stand-alone measures by unanimous consent. But, each time, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell [R, KY] objected, citing deficit concerns. McConnell then offered to pass by unanimous consent a version of the bill that would be paid for with stimulus funds, but Reid objected to that.

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