Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

‘Line’ Items: Oscars Edition

Temporary Tax Extensions Avoid “The Hurt Locker” – The Senate passed H.R. 4691, a 30-day extension of several expired tax breaks and unemployment and health-care benefits, last week after reaching a deal with Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY). He had blocked the vote because the $10 billion measure was not paid for. Under the deal the Senate considered a Bunning amendment to offset the cost; the proposal was voted down.

Jobs Bill Round One “Up” for Another Senate Vote – The House passed a $17.6 billion package Thursday that includes payroll tax relief for businesses that hire unemployed workers and an extension until the end of 2010 for federal highway and aviation programs. The first piece of Democrats’ jobs agenda was modified to expand the Build America Bonds program, which raised by over $2 billion the price tag from the Senate-passed $15 billion version. At the insistence of the Blue Dogs, changes were also made to comply with PAYGO rules requiring the costs to be fully offset. The Senate is expected to vote on the amended version this week.

Senate Continues “Inglorious” Work on Round Two – The Senate will continue consideration of H.R. 4213 this week, which extends unemployment and health care benefits, and tax breaks such as the research and development tax credit until the end of the year and delays the scheduled 21 percent reduction in Medicare physician payments for seven months. A vote on final passage may occur as early as Tuesday. Several amendments have been voted on, with more to go. Last week the Senate barely rejected by a 59-41 vote an amendment from Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) that would have instituted discretionary spending caps after a Budget Act point of order was raised against the amendment by Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HI). Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) raised a point of order against the $140 billion bill because the unemployment, health care, and Medicare provisions were deemed “emergency spending” and, therefore, not required to be offset. The Senate voted to waive the PAYGO rules requiring offsets for those provisions. CRFB issued a press release calling for the bill to be paid for and blogged on it here. The Senate also rejected an amendment from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have given Social Security beneficiaries a $250 check at a cost of $14 billion.

Obama Becomes the “Avatar” for Health Care Bill – President Obama is in Pennsylvania today discussing the need for health insurance reform. In a speech last Wednesday he expounded on his latest health care proposal that merges legislation passed by the House and Senate and includes some ideas offered by Republicans. That proposal is expected to be the basis for a bill that Congress will consider under budget reconciliation procedures later this month. Today’s Wall Street Journal observes that cost containment is the key issue for many undecided legislators; Politico dubbed these Members the “Cost Containment Caucus” and also notes the ongoing “CBO Shuffle” as House and Senate leaders send bills to the nonpartisan arbiter for analysis and then revise the proposals based on the CBO cost estimates. CRFB and many other organizations have called for strong cost containment measures in health care reform legislation.

House Leaders Considering Ban of “Precious” EarmarksRoll Call today reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is considering a party-wide one-year earmark ban and Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is asking House Republicans to support an earmark moratorium within their caucus. Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) wants the Senate to adopt a similar ban.

CBO Hits President’s Budget from “The Blind Side” – A preliminary analysis from the CBO of the President’s FY 2011 budget indicates that it will have a more adverse fiscal impact than the White House projects. The CBO says the budget will increase the debt held by the public to 90 percent of GDP by 2020.