MONDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2010
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Senate convened at 2:00 p.m. today, but no roll call votes are expected. Tuesday, and for the remainder of the week, the Senate is expected to take up five measures.
The House is not in session Monday, and will convene Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. to take up 13 bills under suspension of the rules. Wednesday, and for the balance of the week, the House is set to take up five bills under suspension of the rules and two measures subject to a rule.
The Senate this week is set to continue work on expiring tax provisions, while the House will likely take up the Senate-passed food safety bill. Both chambers are also expected to focus on legislation to fund the federal government for FY 2011.
KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS
HOMELAND SECURITY: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Border Security: The Challenge of Protecting Federal Lands”.
Wednesday, December 8 at 10:00 a.m., 342 Dirksen Building.
JUDICIARY: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis”.
Wednesday, December 8 at 10:00 a.m., 2141 Rayburn Building.
BUSH TAX CUT EXTENSIONS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE CONGRESS
Republicans and Democrats are slowly maneuvering to set the stage for a vote extending the Bush tax cuts for all tax payers. Two votes last week on partial extensions (see article below) both failed. Members of each party are negotiating with the Obama administration over tax rates and federal spending. It is expected that by the end of the week, negotiators will have reached agreement on the issues of tax cuts and an unemployment benefits extension.
Until then, work in the Senate appears to be on hold as all 42 Senate Republicans have signed a letter pledging to filibuster all legislation until the extension of all Bush tax cuts and 2011 government funding have been taken care of. Thus, it appears that other legislative items on Congress' to do list such as the new START treaty and Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal will have to wait until after the resolution of the Bush tax cuts.
Despite this pledge, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) has said he intends to file cloture Monday night on four other bills representing Democratic priorities: the Dream Act, which would give some undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children a path to citizenship; a bill providing health care and compensation to people who worked at the World Trade Center ruin after the 9/11 attacks and since fell sick; a bill setting national collective bargaining standards for first responders, and a bill to give Social Security beneficiaries a $250 check for cost of living. The bills would be ready for a cloture vote on Wednesday. None of the four measures is expected to pass.
Leadership in both chambers will also continue work this week on legislation for FY 2011 funding for the federal government. The Senate passed a continuing resolution December 2 (H.J. Res. 101) to extend funding levels from the initial stop-gap bill passed in late September until December 18. The two-week extension gives lawmakers time to either work on a longer-term resolution to fund the government until Congress returns in January or negotiate an omnibus package that would fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.
The House also could consider any amendments to the tax extenders bill if the Senate passes the legislation during the December 6 week. The House passed its own version of the bill December 2 on a vote of 234-188. If the Senate passes the tax extenders legislation and approves a long-term funding bill for FY 2011 programs, leadership may turn to the new START treaty later in the week.
SENATE FAILS TO PASS MIDDLE CLASS ONLY TAX CUTS
The Senate met Saturday, December 4 but failed to pass two amendments to the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 (H.R. 4853), which would extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for most taxpayers. The first amendment would have only extended the Bush tax cuts for individuals making under $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000. The amendment would have also reset the estate tax at 2009 levels. It failed 53-36. The second amendment would have extended the Bush tax cuts for all those making less than $ 1,000,000. It also failed, 53-37. The current tax breaks are set to expire December 31.
SENATE FOOD SAFETY MEASURE FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE IN THE HOUSE
The House may consider the Senate amendment to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) this week, which includes a provision that would exempt smaller farms and food processors from tougher food safety regulations included in the bill. However, the FDA would be allowed to revoke a food producer's exemption if the public's health is at risk. The measure passed the Senate November 30 with a vote of 73-25.
DEBT COMMISSION RELEASES FINDINGS
The President’s Debt Commission released its final report last week. While the report garnered 11 supportive votes, it fell short of the 14 out of 18 needed to officially send the recommendations to Congress. Nevertheless, some (but not all) of the panel’s recommendations are expected to serve as the starting point in next year’s budget debate between Congress and President Obama. A copy of the report is at: http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/
OBAMA PROPOSES PAY FREEZE FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
This week, President Obama proposed a two-year pay freeze for all civilian federal workers. The freeze would not apply to military personnel. The pay freeze is anticipated to save $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year and $28 billion in cumulative savings over the next five years. The timing of the announcement was so that President Obama could meet a deadline for deciding how to address locality pay. Congress could include the pay freeze in one of the CRs or in the omnibus appropriations measure being drafted.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE RISES NATION-WIDE; HOLDS STEADY IN NEVADA
Jobless claims were up to 436,000 for the week ending on November 27. The four week average is at 431,000; the lowest level since August 2008. However, the Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent in November, bringing the total number of unemployed workers to 15.1 million.
The rate had remained steady at 9.6 percent for each of the prior three months. Over the month, there were 6.3 million workers considered long-term unemployed (jobless for 27 weeks or more) accounting for 41.9 percent of the unemployed. Another 11.5 million workers worked part-time because no full time jobs were available or stopped looking for work all together because no jobs were available. Private sector jobs added over the month totaled 39,000, with gains in healthcare and temporary services. Retail trade and manufacturing saw declines.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nevada's unemployment rate remains the highest in the nation at 14.2%.
Unemployment benefits expired on November 30. Proposals for renewing the benefits could be wrapped into the potential tax cut deal being worked out between President Obama and Congressional negotiators.
The Nevada Weekly is published when Congress is in session.
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