‘Line’ Items: ‘Now What?’ Edition

After the Voting – In case you were sleeping, there was an election last week. As a result of the mid-terms, Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives when the 112th Congress convenes in January. With the heat of the campaign now subsiding, attention is turning to agenda setting. Many candidates who successfully ran on cutting the federal budget deficit while also creating more jobs will have to offer concrete proposals to accomplish these goals. CRFB continues to offer ideas through its Let’s Get Specific initiative. The White House and congressional leaders are talking about cooperation; one area for collaboration could be reforming the dysfunctional budget process. On Wednesday the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform will provide detailed recommendations for improving federal budgeting.

Congress Returns Next Week – Duck will be mixed in with the Thanksgiving turkey. Congress will return for a lame duck session starting November 15, then adjourn for the week of Thanksgiving and return if necessary for unfinished business. Fiscal 2011 appropriations are the top priority; legislators must either approve an omnibus spending package that includes all the spending bills or agree on another continuing resolution that will keep the government funded until the new Congress meets next year. Other items on the agenda include the expiring 2001/2003 tax cuts, extensions of tax breaks that expired this year, patching the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), the estate tax, the “doc fix”, and extended unemployment benefits that expire November 30 (for more, read our blog on Congress's to do list here). President Obama will meet with Congressional leaders on November 18 to discuss the agenda. On Friday, the Committee for Economic Development, a business-led public policy group, recommended a two-year extension of the tax cuts in exchange for an iron-clad commitment to reducing the deficit. CRFB has also suggested a temporary extension in exchange for a deficit reduction plan.

Fiscal Commission Deadline on the Horizon – The lame duck session may also consider recommendations from the White House's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which has a deadline of December 1 to report its recommendations. Congress has promised to consider its proposal if 14 of the 18 members of the bipartisan panel support the recommendations.

SAVE Awards Finalists Announced – The White House today announced the four finalists in its second annual SAVE Award, which allows federal employees to submit ideas for reducing wasteful federal spending. The general public will vote online on the four suggestions, and the winning idea will be included in the president’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal. Members of the public can also voice their ideas through the YouCut initiative created by House Republicans. Incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has promised a vote on the House floor every week on a YouCut proposal.

G-20 Meets This Week – The leaders of the G-20 economies will meet this week. Fiscal policy will be on the agenda, in addition to trade, financial regulation, and monetary policy.