Weekly ‘On the Hill’ Update

ON THE HILL … The House on Thursday adopted a GOP-authored budget plan for fiscal 2013 that calls for limiting discretionary spending to $1.028 trillion and proposes overhauling the tax code and entitlement programs. The budget resolution sponsored by House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) is $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion spending cap set in the August debt limit deal. The House adopted the plan on a vote of 228-191, after rejecting a half-dozen other proposals. No Democrats voted for the measure, and 10 Republicans voted against it. Democrats say the plan would give tax cuts to the wealthy at the expense of vital “safety net programs” for the poor and seniors, including Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.  Ryan countered that Medicare is unsustainable and that the Republican budget would preserve the Medicare guarantee. The resolution would direct six committees to find $261 billion in cuts to mandatory programs such as Medicare. Along with some discretionary savings, the reductions would replace $98 billion in automatic cuts scheduled to take effect in January. Those recommendations would be packaged into a reconciliation bill that the House could consider as early as May.

The Senate on Thursday sent a three-month extension of surface transportation programs to President Obama for his signature, averting a potential shutdown of highway, transit and infrastructure projects. The short-term bill would extend authorizations for surface transportation programs through June 30. It also would extend authority to deposit taxes into and spend money from the Highway Trust Fund, which pays for the bulk of federal highway spending.

Yesterday, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced the “Rebuild America Act,” a a far-reaching bill that Senator Harkin says will “create jobs, restore fairness to the tax code, and rebuild America’s middle class through investments in areas like education and workforce training, our nation’s infrastructure, manufacturing jobs, and retirement security.”  A summary of the bill may be found at http://www.help.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=a6a16c63-0b9a-485f-b1d7-ee55754a806a&groups=Chair.

House Republicans and Democrats on the Education and Workforce Committee have filed competing approaches to reauthorizing the nation’s workforce system. Yesterday, the majority introduced a proposal that would repeal WANTO and SCSEP.  Last week, Representative John Tierney (D-MA) introduced a bill (HR 4227) to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act.  Originally cosponsored by Reps. Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) and George Miller (D-CA), the bill now enjoys the support of 10 additional Democrats.  The Democrat-sponsored WIA reauthorization would make it possible for local governments to contract with community colleges to train workers on sought-after skills and help support state and local government in their workforce training efforts through grants and other incentives. Overall, the bill aims to strengthen the United States workforce investment system through innovation in, and alignment and improvement of, employment, training and education programs, and to promote national economic growth. The bill was referred to the House Education and the Workforce Committee for further action.

The week ahead… Both the Senate and House will be on recess the next two weeks.

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