Archive for the ‘Senate Schedule’ Category

Axelrod Cites Jobs Bill, Financial Regulatory Reform as Very Important Items on Democratic Agenda

January 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Looks like we may be getting a preview of what will likely be the next two items on the Senate Agenda.  White House senior adviser David Axelrod gave an interview to National Journal where he specifically cited the jobs bill and financial regulatory reform as signature achievements to take to the American people ahead of the 2010 elections.

To nudge that process along, he says, he expects Congress to quickly conclude legislation to promote job growth: “We have to take that up right away,” he said. Still, he has no illusions about the capacity of further legislation to significantly affect the employment trajectory — or the likely impact next fall if it doesn’t improve.

In the conversation, Axelrod mentioned several other legislative initiatives that the White House hopes Congress will complete this year, including an energy bill. But asked what else Congress could pass before November that might significantly improve Democratic prospects, he cited only one other area: reform of financial regulation. “I wouldn’t put this on that order of magnitude [as health care] at all, but I think if we pass a financial reform that includes strong consumer provisions, reins in some of the worst excesses of the industry, I think that would be useful, would be helpful,” he said.

For those worried about other parts of the Democratic agenda, he did say they plan to finish an energy bill this year.  Immigration was not mentioned specifically in the article  but all signs indicate they will tackle the issue this year – if you noticed the wording of “several other legislative initiatives.”  So from this interview, they want to finish the jobs bill very quickly and then perhaps moving quickly to financial regulatory reform.  I would guess these two initiatives, a jobs bill and financial regulatory reform, will take January, February, and perhaps early March but that’s just my guess right now.


Senate Dems Vow Health Care Reform by End of the Year

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Even with fierce Republican obstructionism, Senate Democrats are vowing that they will finish the health care reform bill by Christmas or New Year’s.  Sen. Judd Gregg had penned a How To manual for obstructing health care reform but Democrats also have procedural maneuvers in their arsenal including working on weekends and even canceling Christmas recess.  Republicans hope to delay the bill by filibustering every single motion and forcing Dems to file cloture motions, a process that eats up precious floor time.  Democrats, for their part, are opting not to play along and instead say they will table amendments – as in filing them away instead of voting on them – instead of having to file for cloture just to vote on an amendment as well as promising to work overtime on the health care debate.

Crisis has been averted however and for now, the two parties have agreed on the first of amendments to be debated on the health care reform bill.  That’s a welcome sign because the time for talk is over and the health care debate must near its endgame.

Transportation Reauthorization, Elements of Climate Bill May Become Part of New 2010 Jobs Bill

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Add another item on the Senate agenda.  With unemployment at 10%, the White House and the Congressional Democratic Leadership are looking to a jobs bill to help get Americans back to work.  The contents of the jobs bill is still a mystery, but we might be seeing  the inclusion of the transportation reauthorization bill and elements of the climate bill as well as a tax break for each new hire for employers.

The possible addition of the transportation reauthorization would certainly be a boon for jobs although its inclusion is still up in the air.  According to the New York Times, the House Transportation Reauthorization bill – named a reauthorization because every 6 years, Congress guides and funds the trajectory of the nation’s transportation future – contains $337 billion for highways, $100 billion for transit, $13 billion for miscellaneous transportation initiatives, and $50 billion for high speed rail.  Usually, the transportation reauthorization bill focuses on roads, roads, and more roads  Now, the multimodal outlook and bipartisan nature of this transportation reauthorization bill has transit advocates excited, but how to pay for this bill is up for debate.

The transportation reauthorization bill will also push for Complete Streets – a concept that streets should be for all modes of transportation such as walking, biking, and transit and not just a monopoly for the automobile:

The streets of our cities and towns are an important part of the livability of our communities. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets. States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.

Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

A balanced view of transportation is certainly change we can believe in, and I hope the transportation reauthorization can be part of the jobs bill.  This bill will also create many new jobs because of all the new infrastructure that has to be built, designed, and constructed.

Other possible elements of the jobs bill include a tax break for each new employer hire and elements of the climate bill such as a focus on green jobs.  But is a tax break for each new hire a good idea?  Some say it could help the economy by giving incentives for employers to hire while others think that the crummy state of the overall economy will dampen hiring regardless of any tax credit:

Advocates argue that such incentives would be more effective this time around not only because of design, but also because of timing. In 1977, hiring was already on the upswing, whereas economists expect today’s job market to decline a bit more and then stagnate for months.

“Now is a better time than ’77 was because we’re closer to the bottom of a recession,” said Daniel S. Hamermesh, an economics professor at the University of Texas, Austin, who helped create the 1970s plan. “This could help an uptick proceed more rapidly.”

But critics of the idea argue that businesses hire based on actual demand for their products, and a minor subsidy for adding an employee will not make up for the collapse in demand across the broader economy.

“Why would a business hire a new worker?” Bill Rys, tax counsel to the National Federation of Independent Business, a small-business industry group, said. “They’re hiring because they need to do work. Unless you have work to do, it’s still an expense.”

Both Democrats and Republicans seem to be warming to this idea, but we’ll see where this idea goes.

On green jobs, Sen. Cardin (D-MD) suggested adding elements of the climate bill into the jobs bill:

Cardin said that the climate change bill could serve as the jobs bill by providing incentives for Americans and businesses to invest in green technologies.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get better job growth in America,” Cardin said. “Too many people in my state and around the country can’t find jobs.”

A focus on building green energy sources and retrofitting buildings to become energy efficient will help create new, green jobs of the future.  Because of the unemployment rate, the jobs bill could catapult to become the next major debate after health care reform.

Health Care Reform Now Looks to be Week After Thanksgiving

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

The CBO gave the unfortunate news to expect the cost estimate of the health care reform bill early next week.

Sigh. Washington waited through a slow holiday week with bated breath for a CBO analysis of Senate health care legislation, which had been expected today. But now sources say the report won’t likely be ready until early next week.

With the promise of a 72 hour reading period before sending it to the floor, it doesn’t look like health care reform will be debated next week.

Senate May Assemble an Omnibus Appropriations Bill to Finish FY 2010

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Appropriations experts interviewed by The Hill are predicting the Senate will repackage the remaining appropriations bills into one omnibus appropriations to meet the Dec. 18th Continuing Resolution appropriations deadline.  Only 5 out of the 12 appropriations bills are completely finished and signed by the President although three other appropriations – Commerce/Justice/Science, Transportation/HUD, and Defense – have passed the Senate and are awaiting conference.  Four remaining Appropriations Bills need to be debated in the Senate with the Military/Veterans Appropriations currently enjoying Senate floor time right now.  This is only a prediction by Appropriations watchers, but given the time constraints as well as the time needed to debate health care reform and other pressing matters, I wholeheartedly endorse an FY 2010 omnibus appropriations bill.  Omnibus Assemble!

Reid Confirms Christmas Timetable, Intends to Start Debate Next Week

November 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Majority Leader Reid spoke to reporters yesterday and confirmed reports that the Senate wants to clear health care reform by Christmas according to the New York Times. He added that he plans to start the long awaited floor debate next week suggesting that the CBO will have released their cost estimate by then.

Asked at a news conference if he would get the bill on the floor next week and completed by the holiday recess, Mr. Reid offered a terse reply: “Yes and yes.”

But aides said there was still much uncertainty, and Senate Democrats have repeatedly missed self-imposed deadlines on the health bill. The aides said Mr. Reid was aiming to vote on bringing the bill to the floor before the Senate leaves for Thanksgiving.

Former President Clinton also visited the Senate yesterday to rally Democrats, especially centrist to conservative Democrats like Sen. Lincoln, Nelson, and Lieberman, to support health care reform.  Any vote to start debate on health care reform will need 60 votes to break an expected Republican filibuster although starting debate is usually easier than ending debate.  Sen. Snowe or Collins or both could join with the Democrats to vote to start debate but does not guarantee their vote later on.

Speaking of Sen. Snowe, she should really think about switching to the Democratic Party or to an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.  A new PPP poll found Sen. Snowe losing to a (literally) no name teabagger candidate in a Republican primary – Snowe loses to a Conservative 31-59 if the vote was held today the poll found.  She is not up for re-election until 2012, but if she does drop the Republican label to join the Democrats, she will have joined other Northeastern Republicans such as the the now retired Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont and Sen. Specter of Pennsylvania who found the Republican Party too uninviting for moderates.

Senate Wants to Pass Health Care Reform by Christmas, Could Begin Debate Next Week

November 10, 2009 Leave a comment

That looks to be the new timetable in the Senate according to The Hill.

Senators don’t expect any momentum from Saturday’s successful 220-215 House vote, however. They say the most realistic scenario is for a Senate vote by Christmas followed by final passage in mid-January.

That would allow sufficient time for House-Senate conference talks and final House-Senate votes during January’s first weeks. Such a scenario would also put final passage around the time of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.

“I’m optimistic about that,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said of such a timetable.

Final passage around President Obama’s State of the Union speech looks to be an important goal where Obama will want to tout health care reform as a sign of progress and accomplishment in the first year of his Presidency.  Still, there’s always a chance for delays in the Senate, but what’s important right now is forward momentum and every procedural hurdle cleared is one step closer to reform.

Debate, which in this case needs 60 votes to start, could begin as early as next week depending if the CBO releases their report in time.  When the CBO does release their report, The Hill says Sen. Majority Leadership Reid looks to “pivot quickly” and begin another historic debate on health care reform.