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

Volume 18   Issue 39 - November 7, 2011

 

BACK ON THE ‘BUS

Only one month after the start of the fiscal year, Congress is on the verge of passing the first appropriations bills through a packaged ‘minibus’ agreement. States are on the brink of getting concrete FY 2012 numbers for state-federal agriculture, nutrition, justice, highway and public transit programs, as the Senate this week approved a package including Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bills. The package, H.R. 2112, comes in at a cost of $128 billion, which reflects the discretionary spending targets in the recently passed Budget Control Act. Several more seats may be made available on the “bus,” as funding for Homeland Security and the Legislative Branch may be added in conference negotiations. Leaders in both the House and Senate have named conferees to the appropriations conference who will sort out the details on a deal that will likely be sent to the president the week of Nov. 14. Also expected in the package will be a third continuing resolution to fund the federal government for an additional month more than the current stopgap date of Nov. 18. This week the Senate plans to debate the next minibus package, which will include Energy-Water, Financial Services, and State and Foreign Operations appropriations. Stay tuned. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


BACK TO THE FUTURE

Last Tuesday the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction heard from co-chairs of two of the more prominent groups who released deficit reduction plans over the past year. Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, co-chairs of the president’s fiscal commission, along with former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici and former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin, co-chairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center, had all previously offered recommendations well beyond the scope and savings of the August Budget Control Act. Bowles warned that members of the joint committee would “fail the country” if they don’t come to an agreement and then offered his own plan. While not detailed, Bowles compromise plan with total savings of $3.9 billion is aimed at finding common ground between recent Democratic and Republican offers. The proposal includes an additional $300 billion in cuts to discretionary spending on top of the $788 billion saved in the Budget Control Act. Meanwhile, 100 bipartisan members of the House sent a letter to the co-chairs of the “supercommittee,” Washington Senator Patty Murray and Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, urging them to “go big” and target $4 trillion in savings. Led by North Carolina Rep. Heath Shuler and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, the letter advised that “all options for mandatory and discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table.” The letter is available here: http://simpson.house.gov/UploadedFiles/Final_Super_Committee_Letter.pdf. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


ROAD WORK AHEAD

The Senate on Thursday failed to advance the infrastructure portion of President Obama’s jobs package. The Rebuild America Jobs Act, S. 1769, would have provided $50 billion for highways, transit and aviation and $10 billion to establish a national infrastructure bank while being offset with a 0.7 percent surtax on individuals or joint filers whose annual income exceeds $1 million. This marks the third time some portion of the president’s jobs proposal has been voted down in the Senate, with the full plan and the education and first responder portions having been previously rejected. The House and Senate will now consider legislation to reauthorize federal surface transportation programs in the coming weeks. The House majority plans on introducing a bill that will use revenue from expanded oil and gas drilling to help pay for infrastructure spending, while the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will markup the bipartisan “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21)” legislation on Nov. 9. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (jobs bills); Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa (transportation)


ON THE HORIZON

Later today the U.S. Senate will move to consider H.R. 674, House-passed legislation that would repeal an unfunded tax mandate on states and localities that requires the withholding of three percent of most vendor contract amounts. H.R. may become the next target for floor amendments addressing one or more of the individual components of President Obama’s “Jobs” package…. The NCSL 2011 Fall Forum will be held Nov. 30 – Dec. 2 in Tampa, Florida. The deadline for early bird registration is today, Nov. 7, 2011. For more information visit http://www.ncsl.org/Default.aspx?TabID=714&tabs=2638,122,920#920.