Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending October 7, 2011

Senate to Vote on Jobs Bill

The Senate will vote October 11 to end debate on the American Jobs Act (S. 1660), which would put hundreds of thousands of people back to work immediately rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure and keep 300,000 teachers, police officers and other first responders on the job. The bill would also extend unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed for an additional year.  The bill pays for these job creating measures by instituting a 5.6% surtax on annual household incomes above $1 million.  President Obama has noted that S. 1660 would be “fully paid for, asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”  The surtax would go into effect in 2013 and would raise more than enough to pay for all of the job creation measures in the bill.

In order to overcome a filibuster by GOP leaders, the American Jobs Act will need 60 votes in the Senate to move to a vote on the bill itself.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has announced that the Republican majority will not schedule a vote on the American Jobs Act in the House.

Action Alert: Call your U.S. senators “NOW” and urge them to pass the American Jobs Act!

Use AFSCME’s toll-free number to call your senator directly: 1/ 888‑665‑9823

Sample script: I urge you to support the American Jobs Act. We need to rebuild our nation’s schools, roads, bridges, transit, ports and energy systems, and we need to help state and local governments avoid layoffs that are dragging down the economy. The American Jobs Act will put people back to work rebuilding our country, while also protecting the jobs of 300,000 teachers, police officers, and other first responders. We need to address the jobs crisis now. Pass the American Jobs Act!

Super Committee Meets Behind Closed Doors

This week, the deficit reduction “super committee” meetings were all held behind closed doors. No details have been released and no additional hearings have been scheduled. In response to reports that Social Security may be part of the super committee’s discussions, AFSCME registered strong opposition to raising the retirement age or reducing benefits. We have been meeting with each member of the super committee and their staff, as well as with key congressional offices, to stress our priorities. These include that the super committee prioritize job creation, including investments in state and local government programs; create a fair and balanced deal; make wealthy Americans and corporations pay their fair share in taxes; and protect key safety net programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Time is winding down for the super committee to create their plan.  Official recommendations from congressional committees are due next week. Then, only a few weeks remain to complete a plan so that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) can determine its budgetary impact before the final November 23 deadline for a super committee vote on recommendations to Congress.

Government Funded Through November 18

On Tuesday, the House approved and President Obama signed a short-term spending bill that will keep the federal government funded through November 18. It includes an approximately 1.5% across-the-board cut on all yearly-approved federal spending. Fiscal year 2012 spending, which runs from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012, will likely be finalized through one or more bills that combine the 12 congressional individual spending bills. 

House Panel Holds Hearing on Balanced Budget Amendment

This week, the House Judiciary Committee held another hearing on the Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). The Budget Control Act that passed in August requires Congress vote on a BBA by the end of the year. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) strongly defended Social Security against any cuts as part of balancing the federal budget. He noted its critical importance to seniors, and he dispelled the misconception that the program contributes to the federal deficit.

A balanced budget amendment would have devastating consequences for the U.S. economy. It would put us in an economic straitjacket, making it impossible to address changing economic circumstances, crippling the ability of the federal government to operate, and hurting Americans struggling through hard economic times caused by the misdeeds of others. AFSCME is strongly opposing any version of a BBA.

Back Pay for Furloughed FAA Employees

The Department of Transportation announced on September 30 that the agency will issue back pay for the 4,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees who were furloughed for two weeks during the summer. The back pay will be included in employees’ October 18 paycheck.  FAA employees were furloughed when Congress failed to approve legislation extending the FAA reauthorization bill, resulting in a partial shutdown of the agency.  AFSCME represents 879 of the furloughed employees, who work at the FAA headquarters in Washington, D.C. and across the country. 

Bipartisan Rural Communities Agreement Reached in Senate

A bipartisan group of senators reached an agreement on a bill to reauthorize federal programs that fund schools and other local government services in rural areas.  Large tracts of federal land in some areas prevent the local areas from imposing taxes that would normally be used to sustain their local governments. Under the agreement, the Secure Rural Schools and Payments in Lieu of Taxes programs (PILT) would be extended for five years, providing more than $1.5 billion to approximately 700 counties.  These funds will be spent on public schools, county road improvements and maintenance projects, and wildfire prevention programs.  In addition, funding would be provided to the PILT programs in 49 states and Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Washington, D.C.

Agriculture Bill Would Cut $14 Billion from Nutrition Programs

This week, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) introduced an agriculture bill that includes close to $14 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) as part of deficit reduction. This bill achieves these program reductions in large part by tightening eligibility requirements and reducing payments to states for administration. Cuts of this magnitude would fray the economic safety-net and put millions of families at risk of hunger and poor nutrition. AFSCME opposes this approach to deficit reduction. Congress instead should pass the American Jobs Act.

Senate Committee Approves Obama’s Nominee to be Director of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

On October 6, the Senate Banking Committee voted 12 to 10 on party lines to approve President Obama’s nominee, former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). This nomination is important because the CFPB was recently created and cannot use all its legal authority until the Senate approves a CFPB Director. The CFPB is important to working families because it protects consumers’ financial transactions by ensuring a fair, transparent, and efficient marketplace for credit cards, student loans, and credit scores.

Cordray has long advocated for working families.  He is currently leading CFPB’s enforcement division.  As Ohio Attorney General, he helped recover $2 billion from businesses, including pension funds for retirees, and he was one of the earliest fighters against abusive home lending practices and mortgage foreclosures. Senate Republicans opposed Cordray because they oppose a strong CFPB. Earlier this summer, 44 Senate Republicans wrote a letter stating “we will not support the consideration of any nominee, regardless of party affiliation, to be the CFPB director until the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is reformed.”

AFSCME strongly supports Richard Cordray’s nomination.

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