Policy Priorities

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October 24, 2011

Supercommittee Continues Work as Senate Pushes Jobs Bill

CDF’s Budget Watch Team has been closely monitoring three big issues over the last few weeks – the work of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Supercommittee”), Congress’ work on the 12 appropriations bills, and action surrounding the President’s legislation to spur job creation. The Supercommittee’s 12 members have now been meeting for nearly two months, mostly in closed-door sessions, in order to reach a deal that would produce $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. Little more than speculation has emerged about the progress made thus far, though last week lawmakers, aides and others involved in the process reported the Supercommittee has yet to reach consensus on some of the most basic elements of a plan to achieve the targeted savings. To date more than 175,000 recommendations on where to cut, where to raise more money, and what not to touch have been submitted to the Supercommittee. On Wednesday, the Supercommittee will hold their fourth public event – a hearing on security and non-security discretionary spending. The hearing will feature more testimony from Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf.

Meanwhile, Congress continues debate the 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2012. The government is currently operating on a short-term continuing resolution that expires on November 18th. Last week the Senate rolled three of them (Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD) into one $128 billion discretionary spending package (HR 2112), a legislative move referred to as a “mini-bus.” The Senate is expected to vote on this package when it returns from recess next week.

The Senate defeated President Obama’s jobs bill by a vote of 50-49, and since then Senate Democrats are seeking to move parts of the package as stand-alone bills. A $35 billion proposal for states and local agencies to retain teachers and first responders, known as the Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act (S.1723), was the first stand-alone piece. Financed by a new 0.5 percent surtax on millionaires, estimates say it would have saved or created 400,000 jobs for teachers, police officers and firefighters. However, it failed to pass the Senate by a 50-50 vote. When the Senate returns from recess on October 31st it is expected to begin considering the second stand-alone piece of the president’s job bill. Dubbed the “Rebuild America Jobs Act,” the bill would aim to create jobs in the short-term by increasing infrastructure spending, immediately giving $50 billion in capital to road, bridge and airport projects. Aside from the millionaire surtax to fund its spending, the bill will draw from the White House’s comprehensive jobs proposal unveiled last month.

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