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

Volume 18   Issue 37 -  October 21, 2011


DEFICIT REDUCTION ROUNDABOUT CONTINUES

 Standing committees in both the House and Senate met the Oct. 14 deadline to submit proposals to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. Although bipartisan recommendations were sparse, the Senate Budget Committee suggested moving to a biennial budget along with reforming the manner in which the Senate takes up budgetary matters. In addition, the Agriculture and Veterans’ Affairs Committees in both chambers offered bipartisan savings recommendations to help reduce the deficit. Meanwhile, the “Gang of Six” met with the joint committee in a closed-door session to discuss the proposal the group released in July. The “Gang of Six” recommendations would cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years through entitlement and tax code reforms. The third public hearing for the joint committee has been scheduled for Oct. 26, with testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


TWO JOBS BILLS WALK THE PLANK

The Senate last night debated two jobs bills, but failed to invoke cloture on both. The Teacher and First Responder Stabilization Act, S. 1723, failed by a vote of 50-50. The measure, originally a portion of President Obama’s jobs proposal, would have provided states $35 billion in additional funding for teachers and first responders paid for by a 0.5 percent surtax on individuals whose annual income exceeds $1 billion. 

The Senate also rejected, on a 57-43 vote, legislation that would have repealed the requirement on federal, state and local governments to withhold 3 percent of payments on goods and services. The bill, S. 1726, would have offset the estimated cost of $11 billion over 10 years with unobligated funds to be determined by the Office of Management and Budget. The House version, H.R. 674, is expected to be brought to the floor next week and could include Medicaid-related offsets. Originally enacted in 2005, the year of implementation was delayed to 2013, first by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and then by the Internal Revenue Service. NCSL previously submitted a letter to the House Ways and Means Committee seeking repeal of the withholding mandate  available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=23671. NCSL staff contacts: Michael Bird, Jeff Hurley


ONE STEP CLOSER TO NCLB RENEWAL

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) approved unnumbered legislation to reauthorize No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on Oct. 20. Passed by a 15-7 vote, the measure would remove the requirement that all students be proficient in math and reading by 2014. Additionally, an amendment was adopted to allow states to use their own intervention strategies to help the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools. To alleviate concerns, Senate Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa and Ranking Member Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming agreed to schedule another hearing on Nov. 8 on reauthorization before it goes to the full Senate. On Oct. 18, NCSL sent a letter to leaders of the HELP Committee urging Congress “to swiftly reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with attention to fostering cooperation between federal and state government and providing additional state flexibility.” The letter, signed by both co-chairs of NCSL’s Education Committee, Senator John Goedde of Idaho and Representative Roy Takumi of Hawaii, is available here: http://www.ncsl.org/default.aspx?TabId=23733. NCSL staff contacts: Lee Posey, Michael Reed


ON THE HORIZON

The Senate is expected to pass the first “minibus” once it reconvenes on Nov. 1. Included in the package is the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD spending bills, totaling $128 billion. The measure was expected to pass this week, but a slew of amendments derailed that option. This pace may cause Congress to adopt a third continuing resolution, likely to mid-December, since making the Nov. 18 deadline now appears unlikely.