Capitol to Capitol
An Information Service of NCSL's Standing Committees

Volume 20   Issue 4 - January 29, 2013


PAY IT FORWARD

The nation’s debt dilemma took a twist last week when House Republicans returned from their retreat with legislation to suspend the debt limit by three months. (Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner recently stated he would exhaust all “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default between mid-February and early March.) H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act, would suspend the current $16.4 trillion limit on federal borrowing until May 18, and increase the debt ceiling by the amount of the government’s outstanding obligations at that time. It passed the House by a vote of 285-144; if enacted it would change the order of “mini-cliffs” this spring, with the debt limit moving to the back of the queue behind the sequestration deadline and funding for the reminder of FY 2013, both of which expire in March. The legislation also includes a unique mechanism to pressure Congress to abide by the traditional budget process:  Salaries would be withheld from members of either chamber if it has not passed a budget resolution by April 15. The salaries would be held in escrow until the chamber passes a budget resolution or until the end of the 113th Congress, whichever comes first. Although the House has adopted budget resolutions in recent years, the Senate hasn’t passed one since the 111th Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated he would introduce H.R. 325 without any changes, signaling it will likely pass the Senate this week. “I’m happy to extend the debt ceiling without entitlement cuts or dollar-for-dollar [cuts], so that’s a step in the right direction.” President Obama has also indicated he would sign on to the bill. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


SENATE TAKES LEAD ON IMMIGRATION REFORM

A bipartisan “gang of eight” U.S. senators unveiled a four-page “framework” for comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Jan. 28, to be introduced in late-March. The framework’s four pillars include: creating a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants, reforming legal immigration, developing an effective employment verification system, and improving the process for admitting future workers. The outline draws from legislation developed and passed in the Senate during George W. Bush’s second term. It does not include assistance to state and local governments to cover costs for immigrants for education, health, social and other services. Federal benefits are also denied to these same individuals in the framework. The “gang of eight” senators includes:  Michael Bennett (Colorado), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), John McCain (Arizona), Robert Menendez (New Jersey), Marco Rubio (Florida) and Charles Schumer (New York). Later today, President Obama will announce an immigration reform framework, and NCSL will release its most recent report on state immigration legislation. The four-page framework is available at: http://durbin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=c28d0c8f-01c1-4e3b-bbe7-86a4abb56674. NCSL staff contacts: Sheri Steisel, Susan Parnas Frederick (federal legislation); Ann Morse (state legislation)


DISASTER AID NEARS COMPLETION

By a vote of 62-36, the Senate Monday approved legislation providing funds for homeowners, businesses and transportation infrastructure harmed by Hurricane Sandy. Previously passed in the House, H.R. 152 provides $50 billion to fund short- and long-term relief and recovery projects. An effort by Utah Senator Mike Lee to offset the cost—with a 0.49 percent across-the-board discretionary spending cut for fiscal years 2014-2021—failed by a vote of 35-62. The president is expected to sign H.R. 152 into law within the week. For more details on the disaster relief bill, please view NCSL’s summary at: http://www.ncsl.org/state-federal-committees/sclaw/senate-passes-sandy-bill.aspx. NCSL staff contacts: Jennifer Arguinzoni (disaster aid generally); Ben Husch (transportation); Tamra Spielvogel (natural resources)


BALANCED BUDGET ON HORIZON?

One caveat for the House passing H.R. 325, the No Budget, No Pay Act mentioned above, is a renewed effort to balance the budget. Only this time, the House will try to accomplish this plan within 10 years. This marks a new approach, as the House’s previous two budget resolutions aimed at achieving a balanced budget by 2040. Initial reports indicated such a proposal would reduce discretionary spending by $73 billion in FY 2014 compared to FY 2013, and would be almost $100 billion less than the top-line statutory spending caps passed in 2011’s Budget Control Act. Such a plan would likely include significant cuts to entitlement programs along with discretionary spending reductions, and may be comparable to the Republican Study Committee proposals in recent years. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley