House of Representatives
The Blue Dog coalition is pushing for further spending cuts beyond what is in the President’s and Senate’s budget proposals. Specifically, the coalition would like to see non-defense domestic discretionary spending cut by 2 percent a year for three years, and then frozen for an additional two years. This goes further than the Senate budget bill, which embraces the President's three year non-security discretionary spending freeze, and includes even more cuts beyond that.
In an OMBlog today, OMB director Peter Orszag applauded the House's passage of the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act. Improper payments refer to any transactions between the federal government and any recipients of government money (individuals, organizations, or contractors) in which those recipients were either overpaid or were not entitled to receive money in the first place; basically, waste, fraud, and abuse.
Budget Resolution Drafted – The NFL isn’t the only entity that made key decisions for the future last week. On Thursday the Senate Budget Committee approved a FY 2011 budget resolution on a mostly party line 12-10 vote. It goes farther than the President’s budget request in aiming to reduce the deficit to 3 percent of GDP in 2015. The Bottom Line noted that this is a step in the right direction, though much more needs to be done.
Congress Extends Unemployment Benefits, Along With the Deficit – Last week Congress extended expanded unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies, the Medicare “Doc fix” and several other provisions through the end of May without any offsets to the $18 billion cost with passage of the Continuing Extensions Act, HR 4851.
Congress this week demonstrated once again that members aren’t yet willing to embrace the new era of fiscal responsibility that was supposed to start with enactment of the PAYGO law earlier this year. The House and Senate sent President Obama legislation that would extend for two months unemployment benefits and several other expired programs. Those programs include COBRA health insurance premium subsidies for workers who have lost their jobs, the federal flood insurance program, and a Medicare fix that would delay cuts in payments to physicians.
Up-Hill Battle for the Budget – Democratic leaders in Congress are floating the possibility that there will be no budget resolution this year, citing election year pressures. Congress will definitely miss tomorrow’s deadline for producing a budget blueprint. The Hill faces a full agenda, including financial regulatory reform and a Supreme Court nomination.
They’re Back – Congress returns from its spring recess this week. The Senate is back in session today and the first order of business is a cloture vote this afternoon on legislation to extend expanded unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies and the Medicare “Doc fix” until May 5. Republicans are withholding support unless the cost is offset through cuts elsewhere.
Health Care Makes it Through the Final Hoops – Congress completed work last week on the reconciliation package, which included fixes to the health care legislation that was previously enacted – ending a March of madness in Washington. The reconciliation bill bounced between the Senate and House to make a few minor changes.