Signaling bipartisan support for much-needed spending restraint, more than 100 members of the House and Senate are sponsoring legislation that would impose spending caps on discretionary spending. Nine bills imposing spending caps have been introduced in the House during the 111th Congress, while one bill has been introduced in the Senate.
For the United States Senate, which likes to be referred to as the "Upper Chamber," the term "vote-a-rama" does not sound too dignified. But the term, which could be some type of amusement park ride, will likely describe the Republican plan to slow down Democrats' plans to pass health reform through the budget reconciliation process. As bizarre as the budget process is, the "vote-a-rama" is a bit stranger.
Health Care Reform Moves Toward Showdown – The House Budget Committee today voted to push health care legislation forward. It now moves to the House Rules Committee, which later this week will make changes and approve of a rule for its consideration on the House floor. The bill approved by the Budget Committee today was merely a placeholder, the Rules Committee will make changes endorsed by the Democratic leadership designed to “correct” the health care overhaul approved by the Senate late last year in order to attract more votes in the House.
Legislation from Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to establish discretionary spending caps may get a third vote this week in the Senate after falling one vote short of the needed 60 votes last week. The bipartisan proposal seems to be gaining momentum after getting 56 votes in January during the debt ceiling increase debate.
The Senate has just approved, by a 62-36 vote, HR 4213, which extends unemployment compensation and COBRA benefits for the unemployed, along with many tax breaks, until the end of the year. Democratic leaders have promoted it as a jobs bill. Differences with the much-smaller House version must now be worked out.
UPDATE: The Coburn amendment was agreed to on a 100-0 vote.
The Senate today will consider a proposal from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to post information on spending approved by the chamber. Amendment # 3358 to the tax extenders bill (H.R. 4213) will require the Secretary of the Senate to post on the Senate website information on:
Temporary Tax Extensions Avoid “The Hurt Locker” – The Senate passed H.R. 4691, a 30-day extension of several expired tax breaks and unemployment and health-care benefits, last week after reaching a deal with Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). He had blocked the vote because the $10 billion measure was not paid for. Under the deal the Senate considered a Bunning amendment to offset the cost; the proposal was voted down.
In last week's backgrounder blog post on budget reconciliation, we said that the process has been used 22 times in the past, with the President having vetoed three of the bills. That leaves 19 bills that have become law through this special process since 1980. In the graph below, we show the net effect on the deficit of all these bills over the years defined by that year's budget resolution rules.