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

Volume 17   Issue 6 - February 19, 2010


When the Senate returns from the President’s Day recess, lawmakers will debate a jobs bill that will include a payroll tax exemption, extensions on Build America Bonds and a 10-month extension of highway and transit policy through December, 2010. The Senate Finance Committee proposed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act, which includes tax provisions such as deduction of state and local sales taxes and the additional standard deduction for state and local real property taxes, with the complete tax extenders portion costing $31 billion over 10 years. However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated that certain provisions would be removed from the HIRE Act and instead be moved as separate legislative packages. These provisions may include “safety net” measures to extend unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits through May 31 and to extend the enhanced federal match for Medicaid established in ARRA through June 30, 2011. The HIRE Act, which was introduced in the nature of a substitute for the House-passed H.R. 2847, is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a procedural vote on February 22. NCSL will continue to provide updated information at (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley)


With the pending health care summit on February 25, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated the White House plans to have a single health reform proposal before the meeting. The secretary noted that the proposal will be released at least 72 hours before the bipartisan summit and “will take some of the best ideas [from both bills] and put them into a framework for moving forward.” Meanwhile, Secretary Sebelius announced that HHS will apply the ARRA enhanced federal match (FMAP) to state “clawback payments.” This will provide $4.3 billion in financial relief to states by reducing the amount states will pay the federal government (“clawback payments”) to offset the cost of Medicare prescription drug coverage for state residents who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid (dual eligibles). The full press release can be viewed at (NCSL staff contacts: Joy Johnson Wilson, Rachel Morgan)


On February 18, President Obama signed an executive order to establish the National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission, headed by former chief of staff for the Clinton White House Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson (Wyo.), will issue its recommendations by December 1, 2010. Membership will comprise of 18 members, including 6 participants appointed each by Democratic and Republican leadership in Congress and an additional 6 members appointed by the president. According to the White House, the commission is to provide proposals to balance the primary budget by 2015 and improve the long-term fiscal outlook. The executive order was issued following proposals in the House (H.R. 1557) and Senate (S. 2853), with the Senate version having failed a vote. For more information about the deficit commission proposals, NCSL has compiled the bills and other reports available at (NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Jeff Hurley)