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Legislative Update

NETWORK Legislative Update
January 11, 2011 

Happy New Year

While we are waiting for Congress to return to Washington, we want to thank you for all your support in 2011 – your donations, your activism, and your moral support! This update will not ask you to take any action (!) but will give you an update on the status of the issues we asked you to advocate for in 2011.

1. Summary of the first session of the 112th Congress (2011)

2. What will Congress do in 2012?


1. Summary of the first session of the 112th Congress (2011)

 

Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Payroll Tax Reduction

At the last moment, in December, Congress passed legislation continuing unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed and the reduction in payroll taxes paid by workers. However, this legislation continues UI and the Payroll Tax benefit only until February 29, 2012.   

Protection of Safety-net programs

In addition to the extension of UI benefits, TANF was also extended at the 2011 level until February 29, 2012. Most other safety-net programs (SNAP, Medicaid, etc.) were spared from cuts in the budget that was finally passed for the rest of fiscal year 2012. The Super Committee on deficit reduction failed to produce a plan for longer term budget cuts.

Job Creation

The only piece of President Obama’s proposed jobs bill that passed both the House and Senate was a bill to give tax credits to companies that hire unemployed veterans.

Healthcare

Despite Republican attempts early in the year to repeal and de-fund the Affordable Care Act, the final FY2012 appropriations bill actually increased the funding for implementation of the ACA.

Immigration

Congress took no action on the DREAM Act (disappointing), but also took no action on the flawed e-verify system (good).

Peacemaking

Several attempts to accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan were defeated. The Iraq war ended but more needs to be done to help Iraqi refugees.


2. What will Congress do in 2012?

The first matter that needs to be addressed is the extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits for the long term unemployed, and the extension of the Payroll Tax cuts for working people. The bill that passed in late December only extended these benefits until the end of February.  

Next up will be the budget for funding the federal government for Fiscal Year 2013. President Obama will present his budget plan to Congress in early February.

We expect that most of the activity in Congress will be around budget and tax issues. Since the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction failed in 2011, Congress will need to determine how to solve the deficit problem for the long term. This will not be easy. The “fall back” plan that was set by the Budget Control Act last August, which calls for large cuts to military spending and other discretionary spending, is already being resisted by members of Congress.

The November 2012 election will be the major political event that will affect what many members of Congress say and do this year, so we can probably expect much partisanship and little cooperation before then. Advocates will try to build support for legislation that may not get passed until the “lame duck” session of Congress after the election.

It may take a while to see results that we want this year, but that doesn’t mean that we can stand back and watch as Congress engages in political fights. As faithful citizens, we need to make sure that our elected officials know what we want them to do.

NETWORK will continue to lobby on economic justice issues that affect people in our country and our world who are poor, vulnerable, or marginalized. We hope you will be with us in this ongoing quest for justice.  


Messages sent to Congress via NETWORK’s Legislative Action Center in 2011:

  51,370 messages on federal budget/taxes/deficit issues

    4,306 messages on immigration (DREAM Act, E-verify, refugees)

    4,093 messages on peacemaking: Iraq, Afghanistan, School of the Americas

    3,894 messages on the healthcare reform law (oppose repeal & support funding)

    3,704 messages on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement

    2,398 messages on creating jobs

    2,085 messages on Gulf Coast restoration

    1,430 messages on the housing trust fund

  75,789 total messages sent via NETWORK's Legislative Action Center last year


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