On jobs, Congress is probably not going to do anything. On deficits, however, expect Congress to act. It's an unfortunate situation. Without congressional action on jobs, the unemployment rate is expected to stay around 9% -- or even get worse -- until 2014 or so. But on deficits, if Congres doesn't act the problem will basically take care of itself. As the CBO explained recently, under current law, annual deficits are on track to shrink from where they are today (8% of GDP) to about 1% of GDP by 2015. That's because Congress' of the past created policies with expiration dates and controls that were designed to prevent them from being perpetual drains on the budget. For example, the 2003 Bush tax cuts were passed under special rules that make it easier for the majority party to overcome minority opposition for controversial legislation, but, in exchange, require the legislation to expire after 10 years. Other examples include the Alternative Minimum Tax and the formula the government uses to reimburse doctors under Medicare, both of which are "patched" by Congress year after year so that they don't end up raising taxes too much or reducing doctor pay.
The problem, however, is that doing nothing and letting these sunsets and budget controls do their job is that it would mean more of the burden would get shifted to people and interests groups with money and political influence. For that reason, Congress is not likely to keep their hands off.Read Full Article
After five hours of twisting arms and trying to persuade conservatives into voting "yes" with offerings of pizza, at 10 p.m. Thursday evening House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] pulled his debt ceiling bill from the House floor. The bill has been sent back to the Rules Committee for tweaks and will most likely be brought to the floor again on Friday for a second vote attempt. In its current form the bill does not have the 216 votes it needs to pass.Read Full Article
While Obama's Bush tax cuts deal stews in the Senate, Democrats in the House are kickstarting a last-ditch effort to pass a repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" before the lame duck session ends. House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer [D, MD-5] and Rep. Patrick Murphy [D, PA-8] are introducing a stand-alone repeal bill today that will be identical in wording to the Senate's stand-alone bill (S. 4023), and they plan on bringing it to a vote in the House Wednesday before they move on to the tax cuts.Read Full Article
In what were thought to be the waning days of the health care reform process, Rep. Bart Stupak [D, MI-1] came out of left field and introduced the issue of abortion to the debate - nearly sinking everything. Now that health care is again inching towards a finish line, Stupak has returned.Read Full Article