Line Items: Deadlines and Deadlock Edition

Playing Dead – Lawmakers face several deadlines in coming weeks as the number of days that Congress will be in session dwindles. Deadlines loom at the end of the month for highway funding and student loans. Deadlines also loom further down the line for a farm bill and appropriations for the coming fiscal year, not to mention the tax cut expiration, sequester and other parts of the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Meanwhile, Congress remains mostly deadlocked over how to deal with these matters as elections that will decide control of Washington near. The result is little movement in Washington and Congress appears to be a lifeless body. Even though this week is a rare instance where both the House and Senate are in session, not much is expected to happen outside of Senate consideration of the farm bill.

Signs of Life for Farm Bill – Legislation to renew agriculture programs had been stalled in the Senate over disagreements on what amendments would be considered. An agreement reached Monday means the chamber will be busy this week voting on over 70 amendments. The House is waiting for the Senate to act before it begins its own work on the legislation.

Breathing Life Into Tax Extenders?Politico reported that Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) is imploring lawmakers to agree on a series of tax extenders before the election. CRFB urges the extenders to be dead on arrival unless they are paid for.

The Health Care Cost Control Doctor Is In – The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) last week issued a report with recommendations for controlling Medicare costs. As Medicare, and health care in general, will be a major driver of the national debt going forward, the ideas put forth by the panel are well worth considering.

Debt Can Be an Economy Killer – A new paper indicates that significant debt can impair a country’s economy in the long run, by as much as 24 percent. Try your hand at reducing the debt with our popular “Stabilize the Debt” online budget simulator.

Public Conceptions and Contributions Fall Short – A new poll from the Pew Research Center illustrates that, while more voters see the debt as a major issue, there is still little agreement on how to address it. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that individual contributions to paying down the debt are up, but still a drop in the bucket. We need a comprehensive plan that includes tough choices. We also need a national discussion on the nature and depth of the problem and why there are no easy solutions. Our “Debate the Debt” campaign calling on the presidential candidates to devote a debate exclusively to the issue can help shed light on it and turn the election dialogue away from sound bites and towards solutions. Join the nearly 15,000 supporters who have signed the petition.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times ET)

June 19

  • Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Confronting the Looming Fiscal Crisis” with former Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and former OMB Director Alice Rivlin at 10 am.
  • House Ways and Means Committee Health Subcommittee hearing on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission’s June report to Congress at 10 am.
  • House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2013 Agriculture, Rural Development & FDA spending bill and the FY 2013 Transportation, Housing & Urban Development spending bill at 10:15 am.
  • House Budget Committee markup of the “Activities and Summary Report of the Committee on the Budget” at 11:30 am.

June 20

  • House Appropriations Committee markup of the FY 2013 Financial Services & General Government spending bill at 10 am.
  • House Appropriations subcommittee markup of the FY 2013 Interior & Environment spending bill at 1 pm.

June 21

  • House Ways and Means Committee Social Security Subcommittee hearing on the 2012 Social Security Trustees Annual report at 9 am.

June 26

  • Presidential primary in Utah

June 28

  • US Dept. of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis releases its third estimate of 2012 first quarter GDP growth.

July 6

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases June 2012 employment data.

July 17

  • Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics releases June 2012 Consumer Price Index (CPI) data.

July 27

  • US Dept. of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis releases its advance estimate of 2012 second quarter GDP growth and revised estimates of 2009 through 2012 first quarter GDP growth.