Having voted 89-10 to approve an extension of payroll tax cuts, unemployment benefits and dome other policies that are scheduled to expire on January 1st, the Senate has recessed for the year and gone home for the holiday recess. All that the House has to do to make the bill officially ready to be signed into law is hold a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate's bipartisan bill. But during a 3 a.m. meeting of the House Rules Committee last night, the Republican majority devised a different plan -- twist the voting procedure so that the Senate's bill can be rejected while allowing the Republicans to save face by technically voting "aye."Read Full Article
Senate Democrats have released details of their third attempt to get Republicans on board for two major pieces of the Obama jobs bill -- extending the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment insurance for another year, . According to a press release from Sen. Robert Casey [D, PA], the new proposal would reduce the overall cost of the plan by about $80 billion by letting payroll tax holiday expire for employers' contributions. Workers would still get a 50 percent reduction in the amount of payroll taxes they would have to pay normally.Read Full Article
Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] has selected the next piece of Obama's jobs bill for Republicans and conservative Democrats to filibuster.Read Full Article
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.Read Full Article
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.Read Full Article
Richard Cohen at Politico has a piece this morning on what is probably the most important trend in Congress right now. According to the article, Republicans, from the leadership down, are warming up to the idea of raising revenue through increasing corporate tax rates and closing loopholes. "The targeting of long-protected tax breaks — for ethanol, research and development, manufacturing and foreign company income — is a sign that key House Republicans are ready to break with the orthodoxy of past tax debates while ditching special interests that have long held sway in tax reform discussions," Cohen writes. So what does it mean for the hottest issue among users of OpenCongress -- extending unemployment insurance for the very-long-term unemployed who have exhausted all available benefits without finding new work?Read Full Article
Late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] unveiled the final version of the Obama tax cut deal and scheduled a vote for Monday morning to start the debate. The bill contains all of the big items I outlined earlier this week -- a two-year extension of all Bush tax cuts, one-year extension of unemployment insurance, a payroll tax holiday, etc. -- but it also contains dozens of smaller tax items designed to sweeten the deal and secure support of wavering Democrats. Many of the new tax additions are in the area of renewable energy, which David Dayen point outs is what the Bush Administration put in the TARP bill to get it through the Senate.Read Full Article
President Obama on Monday announced the "framework" of a deal with congressional Republicans for dealing with the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts. It's a two-year deal, and it includes a bunch of other stuff, all at a cost about $900 billion. None of it is offset, so this will be a direct increase in the deficit. Let's take a look at the specifics of what's included:Read Full Article
Did you notice that your federal tax bill was lower last year? If you're like most people, you didn't. But believe it or not, one of the first things Barack Obama and 111th Congress did when they took office in 2009 was pass an income tax cut for about 95% of U.S. tax payers. The New York Times reported yesterday on why this went so unnoticed:Read Full Article
This Wall Street Journal report illustrates why the Democrats are losing the support of the unemployed even though it's the Republicans who have continually stood in the way of extending unemployment benefits:
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The Senate will consider a bill this week aimed at discouraging U.S. businesses from outsourcing jobs overseas, a plan that Democrats describe as an effort to fight unemployment but which Republicans deride as a pre-election political maneuver.
Democrats admit they don't have enough votes to defeat a possible attempt by Republicans to block the bill. But they hope that bringing the issue to the Senate floor will underscore their concern about unemployment, now at 9.6%.
I know a lot of you out there are waiting on the Senate to take up legislation extending unemployment insurance to 99ers and other exhaustees, but it looks like this week will instead be used to hold a couple politically-charged votes on a bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV] doesn't even plan on finishing until after the November midterms. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the immigration-related DREAM Act are scheduled for debate and votes this week as amendments to the 2011 Defense AUthorization Act, which Reid said on Thursday most likely won't be completed until the lame-duck session.Read Full Article
Since June 29th, Senate Democrats have been stymied by Republicans on a bill (H.R. 5297) that would give small business $12 billion in tax breaks and a $30 billion lending fund in order to encourage new hiring. Today, a couple Republicans gave in, providing the Democrats the votes they need to overcome GOP opposition and move the bill towards final passage.Read Full Article
Time to start paying attention again. It's mid-September, the "August" recess is officially over, and Congress is coming back into session today to get back to taking care of the people's business.
Clearly, there are some enormous issues facing Congress as they return. The unemployment rate is creeping back up (it's at 9.6% and is expected to stay high for some time), long-term unemployment is off the charts, and the expiring 2001 Bush tax cuts need to be dealt with. That's not to mention the 372 bills that this session of Congress has started working on but never finished, which deal with such critical issues as climate change, post-Citizens campaign finance reform, and food safety.Read Full Article
A district court judge in California has preempted Congress and ruled "don't ask don't tell" unconstitutional, calling it a facial violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. Even though President Obama favors repealing the policy, which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the military, the ruling puts the administration in a bit of a bind.
Normally, the President would appeal any district court decision that strikes a federal statute, and, as Jason Mazzone at Balkinization explains, in this case, the administration has additional legal reasons to appeal -- shoring up the requirments of what constitutes a facial challenge, and showing deference to the military in a time of war. On the other hand, Obama and leaders in the military both want the policy repealed, and they are probably worried that Congress won't act on the repeal while the Democrats still hold enough of a majority to get it passed.Read Full Article
First and foremost, the payroll tax holiday, an idea favored by most Republicans and that probably would have been swallowed without too much bitterness by most Democrats, is now, reportedly, off the table. At this point, here's what the new Obama stimulus package is looking like:Read Full Article