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

Volume 18   Issue 22 - June 17, 2011



After meeting three times this week, Vice President Joe Biden’s bipartisan debt reduction working group appears to have made progress in reaching an agreement. Biden alluded to the baseline the group is working toward, stating the plan would be “sufficiently realistic to get us to $4 trillion over a decade or so, in terms of reduction.” This is similar to what President Obama and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin have proposed, and more than the $2.5 trillion in savings negotiators initially seemed to be targeting to raise the debt ceiling. While the group hopes to reach an agreement by the beginning of July, primary divisions still remain on changes to entitlements and revenue. The seven-member working group has scheduled four more meetings next week in hopes of reaching a final consensus. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


State governments will report directly to the federal government on all received grants, contracts and loans if H.R. 2146, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 (DATA Act), passes. This legislation would expand and make permanent the reporting requirements established under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Introduced by California Representative Daniel Issa, the legislation received bipartisan applause at a June 14, 2011, hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Rep. Issa indicated a willingness to consider making federal funding available to states to carry out the legislation. The text of the legislation is available at Yesterday, Virginia Senator Mark Warner introduced companion legislation. These transparency bills appear on their way to the goal line. NCSL contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


The Agriculture appropriations bill (H.R. 2112) became the third spending bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 217-203. The bill weighs in at $125.5 billion, with only $17.3 billion for discretionary funding, a 13 percent decrease from FY 2011 levels. H.R. 2112 restored some funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which was originally slated to be cut by $833 million. As passed by the House, WIC was reduced by $686 million, a 10 percent decrease from current levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration was reduced by $285 million from FY 2011 levels, including cuts of $87 million for food safety programs. NCSL Staff Contacts: Tamra Spielvogel, Max Behlke (agriculture appropriations generally) Sheri Steisel, Emily Wengrovius (child nutrition programs)


After a 14-year hiatus, the balanced federal budget issue has been dusted off and readied for to upcoming debates on deficit reduction and the debt ceiling extension. This week, the House Judiciary Committee approved by a 20-12 vote H.J.Res. 1, legislation proposing a constitutional amendment supportive of a balanced federal budget with an annual spending cap of 18 percent of Gross Domestic Product. The legislation, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, requires supermajority votes to raise taxes, increase spending beyond the cap or raise the debt ceiling. It would become effective in seven years or two years after ratification, whichever occurs later. Don't expect floor action too soon as negotiations led by Vice President Biden (see story above) continue. However, some members are likely to seek its inclusion in any legislation carrying out a deficit reduction agreement or a stand-alone floor vote. S.J.Res. 1 resembles the House measure but remains in limbo for the time being. NCSL Contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


On June 13, President Barack Obama unveiled a new executive order (EO) that calls for better government accountability, transparency and efficiency. The EO establishes a new oversight board that mirrors the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that has overseen ARRA grants and funds. The EO identifies mechanisms for reducing “waste or ineffective programs” and for “enhancing the transparency of federal spending.” The EO charges the director of the Office of Management and Budget to prepare agencies for a government-wide effort to eliminate duplications and promote consolidations of programs as part of the FY 2013 budget process. Full text of the EO is available at NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley