Week Ending January 7, 2011
New 112th Congress Convenes
The 112th Congress convened Wednesday with both the House and Senate engaged in the election of party leaders, the swearing in of new members, and other housekeeping items.
Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) was elected the new Speaker as Republicans took control of the House. Boehner was elected by his new Republican majority by a vote of 241 to 173 (Boehner did not vote), over former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Interestingly, 19 Democrats voted against Pelosi, choosing instead to vote for a handful of other Democrats, and one Democrat did not vote. Boehner wasted no time laying out an agenda that includes repeal of the new health care reform bill and drastic cuts in spending, also pushing through some rule changes that would make both easier to accomplish. The new 112th Congress consists of 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats — a net gain of 63 seats for Republicans. There are 87 freshmen Republicans, while just nine new Democrats were sworn in.
The Senate opened the new Congress with much less fanfare, as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) was re-elected Majority Leader and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was re-elected Minority Leader. Thirteen new Republican senators were sworn in compared with three new Democrats. Including the two Independents who organize with them, Democrats will control 53 seats, compared with 47 for Republicans. The Senate then began a characteristically protracted debate of the Senate rules. A group of Senate Democrats, led by Democratic Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), proposed changes in the filibuster rule that would prevent more than one filibuster of a bill or nomination and force senators who object to legislation to actually hold the floor during extended debate. McConnell called the changes "a bad idea." A final decision is not expected until January 24.
House To Debate Bill to Repeal Health Care Reform
House Republican leaders announced that, in one of their very first official acts, they will hold a vote next Wednesday, January 12, to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the landmark healthcare reform law enacted last year.
If the law were repealed, insurance companies would once again be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, terminate coverage for those who get sick and charge women twice as much for the same coverage as men. Seniors would lose new guarantees, including free preventive care and lower cost prescription drugs. Parents would lose the ability to keep their adult children on their health care plans. Small business owners would lose tax credits that help them provide coverage for their employees. In the future, workers would lose the freedom to change jobs without worrying about losing health care coverage. Moreover, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the Affordable Care Act would add $230 billion to the deficit over 10 years and result in 32 million fewer Americans having health insurance coverage.
Rather than working on a real plan to fix the economy and create jobs in 2011, Republican House leaders are focused on letting insurance companies off the hook.
Call Your Representative Toll-Free at 202-224-3121
Call your Representative today and urge him/her to vote NO on legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Tell your Representative to get to work on the economy instead of unraveling the law that will keep insurance companies in check.
Republican-led House of Representatives Adopts New Rules & Changes to Budget Process
On January 5, the GOP-led House of Representatives approved a new set of rules for the 112th Congress, including several significant changes to the budget process which make it easier to slash spending and taxes. First, these changes replaced the prior pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule with a new cut-as-you-go (CUTGO) rule. Whereas the old PAYGO rule required House legislation to offset the costs of either new additional mandatory spending or new tax cuts, the new CUTGO rule requires offsets only for additional spending. Furthermore, increases in mandatory spending must be offset solely by decreases in mandatory spending. Second, new budget rules allow the House to ignore the increase in the deficit that tax cuts would cause, including the permanent extension of the Bush-era 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, permanent extension of the current reduced estate tax, relief from the alternative minimum tax (AMT), reduced taxes for small businesses, and other tax cuts. Third, the changes permit the House Budget Committee Chair to unilaterally set enforceable limits for the fiscal year ending on September 30. This rule has far-reaching implications, allowing a budget blueprint to be set by the House Republican leadership without members of the House ever seeing it, much less debating and amending.
These new House budget rules now conflict with Senate budget rules, which is likely to create problems for approval of budget and tax legislation in the 112th Congress.
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