Monday, August 09, 2010

Congressional Update

Senate Approves Additional Medicaid Funding for States

The House will return next week to vote on the measure.

The Senate on Thursday passed a $26.1 billion state-aid package that the House is poised to consider next week, when it will return briefly from its August recess. The bill would provide $10 billion to save education jobs and six more months of increased federal Medicaid payments to states at a cost of $16.1 billion. The vote was 61-39 with Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins joining all 59 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the bill is budget-neutral over 10 years and will reduce future deficits by $1.37 billion. Offsets include the end to a tax loophole for multinational corporations and reductions starting in 2014 in extra food stamp benefits provided under the 2009 economic stimulus law.

On Thursday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced on Twitter that she would call House members back to Washington, D.C. next week to take up the measure. The House adjourned for the August recess last Friday and the chamber was not scheduled to return until September 14.

Senate Schedule in the Fall

The Senate now heads home for their August recess with Senate Democrats working on scheduling post-Labor Day votes that will make up the first portion of what appears a daunting fall agenda.

Even before the recess, the Senate's focus was shifting to Democratic plans to push what could be a massive tax policy package extending trillions of dollars in tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003. Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) wants to mark up the package after Labor Day and Democratic leadership aides said Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) hopes to bring it to the floor before October.

In the face of the November midterm elections, that effort could be politically explosive. The bill could pit traditional Republican backing for tax reduction against pressure for deficit reduction that many GOP members are pushing on the campaign trail. A small-business jobs bill is expected to be the first measure on the Senate floor after Labor Day.

With time running short for legislating this year, Sen. Reid on Thursday announced the Senate will convene for a lame-duck session after the election. The Senate will be in session the week of Nov. 15, then off the following week for Thanksgiving. The chamber will return Nov. 29 and remain for an undetermined period. The Senate is scheduled to be in session from Sept. 13 to Oct. 8, then out until Nov. 12 in preparation for the elections.

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