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December 14 Legislative Update: House and Senate Still at Loggerheads – It’s ALL in the Politics

Note: See www.networklobby.org/hotnews for an update (as of Dec. 22) on the issues in this update.

 

Several pieces of legislation are whipping around, in very fluid form. Most of these are considered “must pass” legislation, meaning: if there is no resolution bad things will happen.

Balanced Budget Amendment – The August debt deal requires that both the House and the Senate vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. The House has taken their vote. The Senate is set to vote on two versions, as soon as today. NETWORK continues to strongly oppose ANY balanced budget amendment.

OMNIBUS – This “mega-bill” combines nine remaining bills for funding the government for the rest of FY 2012 (which began Oct. 1, 2011). At the moment, we have no detail of what is in this bill. Recently, we were told of the likely passage of a semi-omnibus (7 of the bills), with a year-long continuing resolution on Labor, Health & Human Services and Education, and Interior/Environment. Now, we hear that a full omnibus may come to a vote. If these bills are not voted on and signed by the president there is danger of a government shutdown – once again. The other alternative is yet another continuing resolution (which NETWORK opposes) for some period of time to allow more negotiation on parts of a bill.

The OMNIBUS is being held hostage by legislators of both parties. They refuse to bring it to the floor until action is taken on the following two bills. Each party has its own “pay-fors” (suggestions for raising money to finance these expenditures) which are preventing action on:

  • Payroll Tax Extension
  • Unemployment Insurance Extension.

See descriptions below for examples of “pay-fors” to be avoided.

A bill containing both of these was passed by the House last night, with policy riders that will NEVER be passed in the Senate. NETWORK continues to oppose these same policy riders.

Payroll Tax Extension – NETWORK supports an extension of the Payroll Tax reduction, as it is a workable support to families. However, there is no “clean” bill to do this. Policy riders that NETWORK opposes are being attached, such as a requirement that the earner submit a Social Security number or the children would not be eligible to receive the Child Tax Credit. This could have a serious impact on about four million children.

Unemployment Insurance Extension – The extension of existing unemployment benefits for those who are long-term unemployed will cease on December 31. With the unemployment rate near 9%, and there being over four unemployed persons for each available job, this support to struggling families is critical. Possible “pay-fors” include severe cuts in spending for federal workers – requiring elimination of positions and/or extensive pay cuts. NETWORK opposes this as there is a terrible ripple effect of this action:

  • The identified categories of workers are state and municipal workers who protect us, educate our children and provide the assistance to families applying for much needed benefits such as SNAP, Medicaid and LIHEAP.
  • Workers who supply materials and services for these agencies would be affected, as need is reduced.
  • Affected workers would become a part of the system of those requiring unemployment benefits and relying on other safety net programs.
  • All of this further increases the deficit as workers draw on services and have less money to spend meeting the needs of their families.

NETWORK is reluctant to ask you to contact your senators and representative because the pieces are changing by the minute. But we will alert you if the opening arises for your activism.