Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending April 8, 2011

House 2012 Budget is a Road to Ruin – Action Needed

House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) released his budget plan for fiscal year 2012 this week, and the House Budget Committee promptly approved it on a party-line vote of 22 to 16. The plan is expected to come to the House floor for a vote next week. No Senate action has been scheduled yet.

The plan would cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next 10 years compared to President Obama’s budget and $5.8 trillion relative to the current budget. It would reduce revenues by more than $4 trillion by slashing taxes for big corporations and the wealthy, and it makes drastic changes to Medicare and Medicaid. President McEntee said the budget “is a disaster for working people, retirees and those who rely on public services,” and that it is “out of touch with basic American values.”  

Rather than creating jobs, the budget would lead to greater job loss and a weaker economy. It severely weakens the safety net for vulnerable populations.  About two-thirds of its more than $4 trillion in domestic budget cuts over 10 years target programs that serve low-income people.  Shockingly, the outgrowth of these cuts would literally zero-out and end all federal programs aside from Social Security, health care and defense by 2050.  The budget also plays into the hands of those governors who are already launching efforts to slash public services and eliminate the public workforce and their benefits.

The Ryan budget decimates vital services and programs that working families and seniors rely upon, including Medicare and Medicaid, and lays the groundwork for slashing Social Security.  It shrinks federal spending as a share of the economy to its lowest level since 1949.  Medicare would be cut by more than $800 million, privatized into a voucher system, and made available only after age 67. Medicaid would be cut $1.4 trillion and block granted to states, with federal contributions capped regardless of need. 

Click here to view a more detailed analysis of the Ryan budget.

Please call your member of the U. S. House of Representatives at 202-224-3121 and ask them to oppose the Ryan Budget.  Tell them to oppose the extreme budget plan that hands more tax breaks to millionaires and corporations while putting all the sacrifices on the backs of seniors and working people.  Tell them you are especially concerned about the impact this budget will have on vital public programs and services, including Medicare, Medicaid, education and safety net programs.

Government Shutdown Looms; GOP Leaders Continue Demands for Drastic Cuts

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rushed through a one-week stopgap spending bill (H.R. 1363) which would keep the government running through April 15 and fund the Defense Department through September 30.  The FY 2011 funding bill cuts an additional $12 billion from vital services and programs and includes controversial policy riders on abortion and Guantanamo.  Senate Democrats say they will not take up the measure in its current form, and the President has issued a veto threat.  The current stopgap funding bill runs out Friday at midnight.  Budget discussions involving the White House, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker Boehner continue, but as of this writing it is unclear whether there will be a government shutdown.  AFSCME has been urging Congress to finalize FY 2011 funding fairly. 

Senate Votes to Limit Unemployment Benefits Based on Income

In an unexpected move, the Senate this week voted unanimously to prohibit the payment of federal unemployment benefits to wage earners making $1 million or more.  If the amendment to an unrelated small business bill is enacted into law, this would be the first time a means test would be applied to the unemployment insurance program. 

Unemployment compensation is a social insurance program in which employers pay an unemployment tax on the wage of each employee to finance unemployment benefits for any employee who is eligible, regardless of the employee’s earnings.  Opponents of the program often falsely call it a welfare program.  Means testing eligibility, even at such a high income level, would make the program more vulnerable to future cutbacks in the name of fiscal discipline. 

Congress Passes Bill Repealing Affordable Care Act’s Business Reporting Requirement

This week, the Senate voted 87 to 12 to pass legislation (H.R. 4) repealing an Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that expanded Tax Form 1099 information reporting requirements, sending the bill to President Obama’s desk.

It is unclear whether Obama will sign the bill, which would eliminate the requirement that businesses file an information report whenever they pay a vendor more than $600 for goods or services in a single year. The White House has said it strongly supports repealing the new Form 1099 requirements created under the ACA, but it objected to the bill’s $25 billion offset that would pay for the bill by imposing higher limits on amounts low-income people would be required to repay of advance health insurance premium assistance tax credits when their incomes change during the year.

The Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would have disallowed the offset if the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services determined that the repayment requirement would reduce the number of insured individuals or increase insurance premiums. The amendment failed on a 41 to 58 vote that required 60 votes for passage.

House Votes to Repeal Fair Union Election Rules

During consideration of reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (H.R. 658), the House rejected an amendment that would have preserved new election rules that were issued last year by the National Mediation Board (NMB).  The provision overturns an NMB ruling on fair union elections that allows a majority of workers who actually vote to decide the outcome of elections for aviation and rail workers.  The bill language counts those employees who do not vote as a NO vote in union elections.  Reps. Jerry Costello (D-IL) and Steven LaTourette (R-OH) offered the amendment to strike this provision, but it was rejected 220 to 206. H.R. 658 was ultimately approved by a vote of 223 to 196. 

The Senate approved its FAA reauthorization bill several weeks ago so now House and Senate negotiators will work on a compromise bill.  The Obama administration sent a very strong statement opposing the change in the NMB ruling and has threatened to veto the final bill if it contains the anti-labor language.

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