Senate appropriators on Thursday advanced a fiscal 2013 spending bill for labor, health and education programs, after turning back Republican efforts to restrict the National Labor Relations Board’s authority and to curb funding for a provision of the 2010 health care overhaul law. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the draft measure along party lines, 16-14. The legislation would provide nearly $753.4 billion in total budget authority, including $158.8 billion in discretionary funding — $2 billion more than fiscal 2012 levels and roughly equal to the president’s request. The Committee has not posted the full text of the legislation so funding levels for key programs is not yet available. We will make that information available when we get it. It is not expected that this bill will be considered by the full Senate before the election, but rather that funding for programs under its jurisdiction will continue to be funded at 2012 levels until sometime after election or even into the new year.
ON THE HILL … House Republicans are teeing up a bill that would overhaul the federal workforce training law and are planning to have it ready for floor debate as early as next month. At an Education and the Workforce Committee hearing on the issue Tuesday, Rep. John F. Tierney (D, MA) said the panel may mark up the Republican legislation as soon as next week. At Tuesday’s hearing, ranking Democrat George Miller (D, CA) said he had “serious concerns” about the GOP bill (HR 4297), specifically the proposal to consolidate 27 programs into one fund, which he said would shift money away from under-served populations that the programs were set up to protect. In addition to consolidating 27 programs into one fund, the Republican bill would allow governors to merge additional programs if they have a “responsible” plan to do so. States would be required to adopt a common set of performance measures to judge the success of all programs. The bill would also require that two-thirds of local workforce investment board members be employers, which Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, John Kline (R, MN) said would help ensure that the training offered to workers would meet the needs of businesses. Democrats argued, however, that a homogenous board composed mainly of employers would have a negative impact on certain populations that need specialized help to gain employment, such as English-language learners and those with disabilities.
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.
ON THE HILL … House Budget Republicans on Wednesday night advanced a fiscal 2013 budget plan by a vote of 19-18 that would overhaul entitlement programs, endorse a flatter tax code and set a lower cap for discretionary spending. House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan (R, WI), who introduced the plan, said it would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over the next decade compared with the president’s budget. The Republican blueprint would cut government spending while providing more money for defense than outlined in the debt deal. It also calls for a revenue-neutral tax overhaul that simplifies the tax code and lowers rates. The GOP budget would set the discretionary spending cap at $1.028 trillion, $19 billion below the $1.047 trillion spending cap negotiated in a bipartisan, bi-cameral agreement reached last August. While the $19 billion discrepancy in discretionary spending may seem minor in the context of a trillion dollar budget, the lion’s share of the cuts would be in programs that serve low income Americans, including Medicaid, food stamps, education, training, and so on. The full House will vote on the budget next week. However, the Senate intends to stick to the spending agreement reached last year and will not go along with the House-passed version. For more details, go to http://budget.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=286221 or to the center for Budget and Policy Priorities at www.cbpp.org
What would it take to change the landscape of decision-makers in America? This exact question was posed at a Capitol Hill briefing held on Wednesday, March 21, organized by Catalyst and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office. With staggering statistics disproportionately affecting women in the workplace including the daunting fact that women still only make 78 cents to every dollar a man makes, and women only represent 3.4% of all Fortune500 CEOs, both Catalyst and Sen. Gillibrand query, despite being nearly 50% of the labor force, why do women in the U.S. still exceedingly lag in leadership positions? This is the ultimate puzzlement, Catalyst finds, for these inequalities do not just hurt women; on a larger scale, they harm Americans families, employers and the U.S. economy.