Over the past few weeks, passage of an "extenders" bill has become the top priority of Congress. The bill, HR 4213, finally seems to have a definitive shape to it after both Houses of Congress considered a laundry list of provisions for inclusion. The core of the bill includes many extensions on social spending, such as unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies, and temporarily increased Medicaid reimbursement rates to states.
Little Resolve for Budget Resolution – Leaders in the House have yet to make a final decision on moving forward with a FY2011 budget resolution. But every day that goes by makes it less likely Congress will adopt a budget blueprint this year. House Democrats are split between moderates who want cuts in discretionary non-security spending along with longer-term deficit reduction targets and others who fear social program cuts and think defense spending should also be subject to limits.
Next week, House Democrats intend to introduce a package of aid to states, extended unemployement benefits, and tax break extensions.
From Sophisticated to Sophocles – The untangling of the complex web of financial manipulation and deceit arising from the “hidden debts” controversy in Greece has exposed the mythology of its finances and is now playing out like something written by the ancient playwright, Sophocles. As the Greek economy becomes the latest tragic tale to emerge from that country, many are wondering if the woe will spread elsewhere and what lessons the U.S. can learn from the drama.
Policymakers will soon be focusing on passing a new package of extenders and tax breaks that – at a potential cost of around $200 billion over ten years – may get pushed through Congress before Memorial Day. Among other things, the bill would prevent a 21 percent cut in Medicare reimbursements to physicians, scheduled to take effect June 1st, from occurring for five years.
Super Saver Cashes In – Those who couldn’t resist the irony of betting it all on a horse named Super Saver were rewarded handsomely on Saturday as the colt crossed the finish line first at the Kentucky Derby. Maybe the folks on Capitol Hill will see the victory as a sign that fiscal responsibility can be a winning strategy.
The Center for American Progress recently discussed what it would take to meet the President's fiscal goal of a primary balance in 2015, or finding about $250 billion in savings. After illustrating what it would look like to meet this goal completely through either spending cuts or tax increases, CAP argues that we will ultimately need a mix of both spending cuts and tax increases if we are to avoid large, painful cuts or economically harmful tax changes. CRFB certainly agrees.
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.