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

Volume 18  Issue 20 - June 6, 2011


On June 2, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 2017, legislation making FY 2012 homeland security appropriations. It cleared on a 231-188 vote. The legislation calls for reducing state homeland security and other first responder grants by more than 50 percent from FY 2011 levels. Successful floor amendments would limit funding for airport screeners, prevent unionization of Transportation Security Administration screeners, bar funding for various community organizations, and prevent the Immigration and Naturalization Service from outsourcing various responsibilities. An amendment allowing the use of firefighter grants for retaining firefighters or rehiring laid-off employees passed 264-157. Floor amendments to bar Davis-Bacon wage requirements from homeland security construction projects and prevent any more funding for increasing the use of airport body imaging scanners both failed. H.R. 2017 is the first of nine appropriations measures the House has scheduled for floor action before the August congressional recess. The Senate continues to wait for completion of deficit reduction and debt ceiling negotiations led by Vice President Joe Biden before commencing its appropriations activities. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley (appropriations generally), Susan Parnas Frederick, Jennifer Arguinzoni (homeland security)


The first of an incremental series of bills aimed at reauthorizing pieces of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act moved out of a House committee last week on a 23-16 vote. H.R. 1891, “The Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act,” would repeal authorization for 42 Department of Education programs, three-quarters of which the administration proposed to eliminate or consolidate in recent budget proposals. State grant programs proposed for elimination include Even Start, State and Drug Free Schools and Communities, Enhancing Education Through Technology, and the Comprehensive School Reform Program. With the House in recess this week, floor consideration will likely be in mid-June. A second incremental bill being readied for committee consideration would allow states to use any federal education funds as they see fit or to move funds between and among programs without a federal waiver of approval. On the Senate side, a bipartisan effort continues to seek agreement on a comprehensive reauthorization package. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


In late May, California Senator Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe released “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21),” an outline of draft legislation reauthorizing state-federal surface transportation programs. Its $339 billion, six-year price tag puts it in line with current spending levels plus inflation. Where to find this kind of funding given the shaky status of transportation trust funds remains an unanswered question—and could compel the legislation’s bipartisan cosponsors to seek a much shorter-term reauthorization. Stay tuned, draft legislation may finally be revealed this month. NCSL staff contacts: Molly Ramsdell, Helen Narvasa


Last week began with a rejection by the House of a “clean” bill to increase the federal debt ceiling, H.R.1954, on a 318-97 vote. It ended with Moody’s Investor Services warning federal policymakers that they risk a downgrade of U.S. government debt in July, “if no meaningful progress is made toward substantial and credible long-term deficit reduction.” Standard and Poor’s revised its U.S. debt outlook from stable to negative last month. During the week, President Barack Obama met with House Republican and Democratic caucuses in further efforts to reach consensus. Those discussions fueled long-standing differences about whether Medicare, other entitlement programs and tax changes should be part of any short- or long-term agreement. Everyone continues to look for Vice President Biden to work out a substantial deficit reduction agreement with key congressional negotiators before early August. Definitely more to follow. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley