‘Line’ Items: Getting Out of Town Edition

Heavy Congressional Workload Before Break – Congress has a busy week ahead before it leaves town for next week’s Memorial Day recess. Lawmakers want to complete action on “extenders” legislation and a defense supplemental before leaving town.

Terminating the Extenders Debate

– The House is set to begin work Tuesday on legislation that will extend popular tax breaks like the research and development tax credit and safety net provisions such as expanded unemployment and COBRA benefits for the jobless until the end of the year. It will also extend the Medicare “doc fix” through 2013. So far Congress has only been able to enact short-term extensions of the unemployment benefits and doc fix, with the current one expiring at the end of the month. Republicans and many moderate Democrats are concerned about the cost of the bill, with only about $56 billion of its approximately $200 billion price tag paid for. CBO projects that it will add $133.7 billion to the deficit over ten years. CRFB has been outspoken in calling for the full costs to be offset over the longer term.

Supplementing the Deficit – The Senate will first turn to a $59 billion supplemental that includes funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as disaster aid. Because it is considered must-pass legislation, Senators will attempt to add favored proposals to the package on the floor. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will attempt to include $23 billion in funding to states and localities to help retain teachers. Because the bill is designated as “emergency” spending, it is not paid for. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has promised to introduce an amendment to offset the cost through spending cuts. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) plan to introduce an amendment that would institute a three-year discretionary spending cap, very similar to legislation that has come close to garnering 60 votes in the past. CRFB supports spending caps and paying for war costs.

Action Still Awaits on Financial Regulatory Reform – The passage of financial regulatory reform legislation in the Senate last week does not mark the end for the bill. The Senate version must still be reconciled with legislation passed earlier by the House. Conferees will be named this week.

CRFB Does Budgetball on the Mall – CRFB prides itself on keeping its eye on the budget ball. That spirit served us well on Friday as the CRFB Budget Hawks took to the field in the 2nd Annual Budgetball on the Mall. Fielding a team for the first time, CRFB put in a great effort, reaching the semifinals. There it fell to Philander Smith College, which employed a savings strategy on its way to winning the tournament. CRFB did win the website challenge by drawing the most visitors to the Budgetball website. The Budget Hawks are looking forward to soaring even higher next year.

Budget Simulator Stimulates Interest – CRFB’s new “Stabilize the Debt” online budget simulator has been a huge success since we officially launched it last week. Thousands have taken the challenge. If you haven’t done so already, check it out, tell your friends, and share your thoughts on our Facebook page.