December 19, 2011

THE WEEK AHEAD

On Saturday, the Senate passed a $915 billion FY 2012 spending bill on a vote of 67-32, avoiding a government shutdown by funding the federal government through the end of the fiscal year. The vote occurred on the conference report of an omnibus appropriations package (H.R. 2055) which includes 9 of the unfinished regular appropriations bills, including $518 billion in defense spending. The omnibus, combined with the three previously passed appropriations bills, represents a $7 billion cut in spending since FY 2011. The Senate earlier passed a one-day continuing resolution to allow time for the measure to be sent to the President for signature.

The Senate also passed a bipartisan, two-month extension of the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the Medicare provision known as the “doc fix.” The Senate then adjourned until January 23, 2012. 

The House, however, favors its one-year extension of the payroll tax cut rather than the Senate’s two-month version. The major sticking points between the two houses include how to pay for the extensions and the inclusions of legislative riders. Spectrum legislation, including the reallocation of the D-block to public safety, is part of the House-passed bill but not the Senate two-month extension.

It is unclear at this point whether the House will either amend and pass the Senate bill and send it back or if the House will push the Senate to take its bill to conference with the House bill.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated that the Senate will not return this year.  

Of note, the payroll tax cut is not “must-pass” legislation unlike the just-passed omnibus appropriations bill and, while administratively burdensome, the House and Senate could resolve their differences in January with retroactive fixes for payroll taxes, unemployment insurance payments, and the “doc fix.”    



KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS

There are no hearings or markups this week.


RACE TO THE TOP EARLY LEARNING CHALLENGE WINNERS ANNOUNCED

The White House announced yesterday that nine states will receive grants from the $500 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund (RTT-ELC). The winning states include: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. 

36 states and territories submitted applications.  Nevada submitted an application but was not successful. 

Grant awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, depending on State population and proposed plans. State data relevant to the RTT-ELC along with peer reviewers’ scores and comments have been posted online. For more information, click here.


SENATE PASSES DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION CONFERENCE REPORT

The Senate approved the conference report to accompany H.R. 1540, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, last week by a vote of 83-13. Passage in the Senate came one day after the House approved the measure by a vote of 283-136.

The conference report includes the Council of Governors legislative proposal to codify the role of a Dual Status Commander during disaster response. It also includes several provisions from S. 1025, the National Guard Empowerment Act, including a provision to give the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the establishment of a Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau. The legislation will now go to the President for signature.