September 16, 2011
A Note about Votes this Week
You may have noticed that I did not cast votes in the House this week. I stayed in Massachusetts due to a death in the family and I expect to be back in Washington on Tuesday.
The Super Committee tasked with reducing the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion held its first public hearing on Tuesday. It was a much anticipated gathering and there are several other key dates to keep in mind as the Committee’s work progresses:
- Friday October 14th is the deadline for House and Senate Committees to submit their recommendations for trimming the deficit;
- November 23rd is the deadline for the Super Committee to take a final vote on its recommendations. If a plan does not pass or the Committee does not take a vote then $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over the next ten years will go into effect;
- By Friday December 2nd the Super Committee must present its recommendations to Congress in legislative form if they have agreed upon a plan;
- Friday December 23rd is the deadline for Congress to act with a simple up or down vote on the Commission’s legislation. No amendments are allowed. If Congress fails to act, then the automatic spending cuts go into effect.
Various entities have proposed a wide range of options to get to $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. We have combined 200 of those options in a table that you can view here. You will see that the ideas come from several sources. We have included information from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO is a nonpartisan office whose neutrality cannot be questioned by either side of the aisle. In the interest of gathering a wide range of suggestions, we have also included proposals from the Republican Study Committee, the People’s Budget proposal from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Fiscal Year 2012 budget resolution that passed the House earlier this year. We’ve also provided figures from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, more commonly known as the Simpson-Bowles Commission. The Commission was established by President Obama in 2010 to identify ways to reduce the deficit. The source of each proposal is cited in the table.
I am presenting these suggestions to you not as an advocate for any of them, but simply as a way to highlight the types of programs that are on the table and the amounts of money under discussion. I think you will agree that the task before the Super Committee is a challenging one. I have long advocated for a balanced approach toward addressing our deficit and that is what I will be looking for with this proposal. I will continue updating you on the work of the Committee, and I am very interested in hearing from you. Where do you think the cuts and/or revenues should come from? E-mail my office or write on my Facebook wall.
FAA and Transportation
The House this week passed legislation by voice vote to extend the FAA and Transportation reauthorization. If you are a regular e-update reader, you know that the House rarely passes legislation anymore with such strong bipartisan support. Despite that outcome, this necessary bill was briefly held up in the Senate by Republican Tom Coburn.
First, some background. Both the FAA reauthorization bill and the Transportation reauthorization bill have expired and Congress has passed a series of extensions while trying to advance long term bills. You may recall that in August the FAA was partially shut down, thousands of people were temporarily unemployed and millions of dollars in revenue were lost because agreement could not be reached on an extension. During that time 4,000 federal jobs and 70,000 private sector jobs (i.e. construction workers building terminals or runways) were basically lost when the extension expired.
Senator Coburn tried to prevent this bill from moving forward because he was insisting that all money for “transportation enhancements” be eliminated from the transportation reauthorization bill. These funds help pay for initiatives such as community bike paths. I don’t agree with his position but I am willing to have that discussion at the appropriate time during debate over long term funding. It is simply not responsible to block money for hundreds of programs and thousands of jobs just because one Senator can’t get his way on one item.
Thankfully, last night, the Senate was able to pass this extension with a vote of 92–6. The legislation that passed will extend FAA funding through January 31, 2012, and transportation funding through March 31, 2012, while we work on long term, comprehensive reauthorization bills.
What’s Up Next Week
The House next week is scheduled to consider a Continuing Resolution to fund the government beginning on October 1st, the first day of the new fiscal year.