Issues / Legislation » Legislative Weekly Reports

Week Ending September 16, 2011

Obama Presses on Jobs Plan

President Obama continued his push for Congress to pass his $447 billion American Jobs Act to Congress, as he made several stops around the country urging Congress to take swift action on the plan. He also formally transmitted the plan to Congress, which contains substantial new money for state and local governments in the form of assistance to rehire teachers and first responders; new infrastructure investments for roads, bridges, airports, public transit and schools; extension of unemployment insurance; new training programs for youth and long-term unemployed; a continuation of the cut in the payroll tax for individuals and extensions to employers; and home foreclosure assistance.

The Jobs bill is fully paid for through a series of tax changes primarily impacting the wealthy and corporations. The new revenue provisions include a limit on itemized deductions and certain exemptions on individuals who earn over $200,000 and families who earn over $250,000, which saves roughly $400 billion over 10 years; a proposal to treat so-called “carried interest” earned by investment fund managers as ordinary income rather than taxing it at lower capital gains rates, which saves $18 billion; eliminating certain oil and gas industry tax breaks that would raise $3 billion; and a change in the corporate jet depreciation rules that would raise $3 billion. Republican leaders wasted no time ruling out new revenue raising provisions to pay for jobs and calling for more budget cutting measures. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said “tax increases are not a viable option.”

The White House launched a new website with details of the Obama Jobs Plan, which can be found at: www.whitehouse.gov/jobsnow.

It’s Time to Get to Work!

What happens in the coming days and weeks will determine the future of America’s working middle class. The stakes are high as Congress takes up President Obama’s American Jobs Act – and it’s time for Washington to do what’s right and get our country back to work. No more political gamesmanship that leaves working families who are already struggling out in the cold.

Call your member of Congress today at: 202/224-3121

Tell them to put the working middle class and our country first and pass the American Jobs Act.

Agreement Prevents Shutdown of FAA and Highway Programs

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) came close to another partial shutdown on September 16 due to the actions of one Senator. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected to allowing a vote on legislation that would have extended the FAA’s authorization for four months. The legislation (H.R. 2887) extends the agency’s spending authority for four months and highway spending for six months. Sen. Coburn’s objection had nothing to do with the FAA. He wanted a change in the highway bill that requires states to spend a percentage of their federal highway money on enhancements like bicycle lanes and footpaths. Sen. Coburn backed down after intense negotiations and an agreement that his language will be included in the next long-term highway bill. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 92-6, one day after the House approved the measure by voice vote.

Without an agreement, federal aviation programs would have expired at midnight Friday, September 16, resulting in thousands of FAA employees being furloughed for the second time this summer and tens of thousands of highway construction workers being out of work. The FAA was partially shut down earlier this summer when FAA employees were furloughed, including AFSCME members who work at the FAA headquarters in Washington, DC and across the country. These workers have not received back pay for the two weeks they were out of work and efforts to get back- pay language on H.R. 2887 were unsuccessful, but ongoing.

House Passes Bill Limiting NLRB Powers

The House of Representatives passed the Protecting Jobs From Government Interference Act (H.R. 2587), mostly along party lines. The GOP sponsors say the bill is needed to prohibit the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from dictating where private businesses can and cannot locate jobs in the United States in response to the Boeing case, where the NLRB found Boeing guilty of relocating a plant in response to striking workers. Opponents said the bill guts the ability of the NLRB to remedy unlawful retaliatory conduct by companies against workers who exercise their legally protected rights to organize and bargain collectively. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), ranking Member of the Education and Workforce Committee, said that by removing the NLRB’s ability to hold corporations like Boeing accountable, the Republican bill would allow “a disastrous race to the bottom for American workers’ rights, wages, benefits and working conditions”. The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Deficit Super Committee Holds First Hearing

This week, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction or “Super Committee,” heard testimony from Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf. He reported that in order to put the federal budget on a sustainable path, Congress needs to cut spending, raise revenues or both. He noted that these changes would be challenging as the economy is weak and unemployment is very high. The committee met privately later in the week and will reconvene for a hearing on tax reform next week. Congressional leadership, committees, and individual members have begun to submit their recommendations to the Super Committee. The President is expected to release his recommendations on Monday. It was reported this week that he is not likely to recommend cuts to Social Security or raising the Medicare eligibility age which had been a part of a proposed plan with Speaker Boehner earlier this year. Members continued to debate the issue of jobs and whether that should be part of the work of the Super Committee.)

House Prepares Stopgap Measure for FY 2012

With no final appropriations bills approved for FY 2012, Congress is preparing a stopgap measure to continue federal funds beyond the end of the fiscal year which closes September 30. The House is expected to take up the measure early next week, followed by the Senate before both chambers leave for recess the week of September 26. The stopgap bill, called a “continuing resolution (CR),” is expected to fund the government through November 18. The CR is expected to be funded at the $1.043 billion total specified in the July approved Budget Control Act, a 1.4% cut below current levels.

Census Reveals Increase in Poverty Rates

Census results were released earlier this week with dismal news on the economic status of America’s most vulnerable populations – children, women and African Americans. As unemployment spiked, the poverty rate in 2010 reached its second highest point since 1965 with nearly one in six Americans living in poverty. An additional 2.6 million Americans are living in poverty and median incomes decreased by 2.3 percent. Americans in deep poverty, with incomes at half of the poverty line, reached the highest level on record. The poverty rate for children rose to 22% with more than 16 million children living in poverty. Further, the number and percentage of Americans with no health insurance is at a record high with nearly one in six Americans uninsured.

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