ON THE HILL… A House appropriations panel on Wednesday backed a spending bill for labor, health and education programs that would rescind funding to implement the 2010 health care overhaul, despite objections from Democrats. The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved the draft fiscal 2013 measure mostly along party lines 8-6, with Jeff Flake of Arizona casting the sole Republican vote against it. The WANTO (Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations) program was not funded.
The bill would provide a total of $150 billion in discretionary funding, which is $6.3 billion below fiscal 2012 levels and $8.8 billion less than President Obama requested. The full Committee markup has not yet been scheduled but likely will take place next week, a committee aide said. On the Senate side, the Appropriations Committee advanced its version (S 3295) of the bill last month, calling for a discretionary spending level of $158.8 billion, which matches Obama’s request.
The House bill provides $12 billion for the US Department of Labor, which is $497 million below last year’s level and $72 million below the President’s request. The bill provides $10.6 billion for Employment Training Administration (ETA), a decrease of $269 million (-3%) below last year’s level and an increase of $174.8 million (2%) above the President’s request. This increase is largely the result of a denial of the President’s proposal to transfer $448 million for the Community Service Employment for Older Americans program to the Department of Health and Human Services. The bill provides $1.7 billion for the Office of Job Corps, which is $20 million below last year’s level and $33 million above the President’s request. This program helps unemployed young Americans receive education, job training, and employment assistance. This funding will provide for the operation of 126 Job Corp centers in 2013.
Although the full House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the Labor-HHS-Education 2013 spending bill next week, it is not expected to be considered on the House floor this year. Instead, it is expected that Congress will approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) sometime in September that will keep all federal agencies funded at current levels until after the election, or possibly into the new year.
Senate Democrats and some House Republicans are stepping up pressure on House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) to end a standoff between the chambers over the renewal of programs aimed at helping domestic violence victims. The House and Senate each have passed their own bill to reauthorize the 1994 Violence Against Women Act for five years, but the competing measures have not gone to conference because of what the House considers a problematic revenue provision included in the Senate’s version: a $30 fee for visas granted to some immigrants. Under the Constitution’s Origination Clause, all revenue language must originate in the House. Speaker Boehner, citing the visa fee, has said it is up to the Senate to either remove the provision and pass its bill (S 1925) again, or take up the House-passed version (HR 4970) of the reauthorization and move to conference.
Senate Democrats circulated among party members this week a draft bill that would spare most Americans from higher tax rates due to take effect Jan. 1, 2013 when the Bush-era tax cuts expire. The Senate bill would allow the tax cuts to expire only on those with annual household income greater than $250,000 and raise the rate on dividends and capital gains from the current 15 percent to 20 percent. Those with less than $250,000 in household income would continue to enjoy the current lower tax rate. The draft Senate bill largely carries out the agenda outlined by President Obama in a July 9 speech, although it softens his proposed tax increase on dividends. The House is expected to extend the lower tax rates for all households.
Senate Republicans on Thursday blocked consideration of tax legislation that supporters say would discourage outsourcing and prompt multinational businesses to move overseas operations back to the United States. Lawmakers rejected, 56-42, a procedural motion that would allow the Senate to take up the bill (S 3364), which would provide a 20 percent business tax credit to cover the cost of shifting overseas jobs to the United States. It also would eliminate tax credits for expenses related to moving operations abroad. Sixty votes were required to proceed to the measure.
House Speaker Boehner and some colleagues continue to show little interest in bringing up a farm and nutrition policy bill this month, despite a bipartisan push by 62 lawmakers to act soon on the legislation. South Dakota Republican Kristi Noem, a freshman member of Boehner’s leadership team, and Vermont Democrat Peter Welch wrote a letter to House leaders of both parties urging them to bring the bill (HR 6083) to the floor before the August recess. The letter was signed by 24 Democrats and 38 Republicans. But in a news conference Thursday, Boehner said no decision has been made on when to bring up the bill. The bill makes deep cuts in funding for the food stamp program.
Possible cuts to federal spending aimed at reducing the deficit will have a “profound impact” in states that already are struggling with rapidly rising Medicaid costs, underfunded retirement programs and declining revenue, a state budget task force said Tuesday. The task force, led by former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, said the cuts would come in reduced or eliminated federal grants and procurement and federal workforce reductions that would ripple across state budgets that were weakened during the 2008-09 recession. The report said that if grants were cut by 10 percent, for instance, “the loss to state and local government budgets would be more than $60 billion annually,” almost twice the size of combined tax increases that states enacted from 2008 through 2011. “Cuts this large would certainly cause considerable fiscal stress,” the report said.
The Week Ahead… Both the House and Senate will continue to work towards legislation related to the impending expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. The Senate is expected to consider the Democratic proposal to extend the middle class tax cuts.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power will take up a bill that would bar the Energy Department from issuing loan guarantees for renewable and nuclear energy projects that submitted applications after Dec. 31, 2011. They will consider 15 submitted amendments to the so-called “No More Solyndras Act.” The House Appropriations Committee will take up the Labor-HHS-Education bill approved this week by the relevant Subcommittee.