Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Busy December for Congress

With the inability by the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Supercommittee”) to reach a deal before Thanksgiving, December will be a busy time for the U.S. House of Representative and Senate. Funding for the Federal Government expires on December 16th, meaning that Congress will have to pass either a Fiscal Year 2012 Budget or another continuing resolution (CR) before that deadline to prevent a government shutdown. Also looming are the thorny issues of a payroll tax extension, unemployment insurance, and the “doc fix” to cover the shortfall in Medicare payments to physicians, all of which are about to expire and the “Supercommittee” was supposed to address in its deliberations. Possible vehicles for these to be extended include the defense appropriations bill, an omnibus appropriations bill, or another CR.

On November 22nd, House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer, and Assistant Democratic Leader, James Clyburn, wrote to Speaker John Boehner asking him to pass these three pieces of legislation. They argued that, “Independent economists from across the political spectrum estimate that the failure to pass these essential pieces of legislation could reduce economic growth by 2 percentage points next year.” Adding to this argument for a stimulus push to prevent another recession, the Congressional Budget Office last week released a report indicating that the ARRA economic stimulus package created 0.9 million jobs in 2009, 3.3 million jobs in 2010, and 2.6 million jobs in 2011.

Since the Democrats and Republicans seem far apart on how to pass these measures, it seems likely that lawmakers will remain in Washington, DC well past the date of December 8th, when the House was schedule to adjourn for the year. We need to remind our elected officials of the importance of an extension for the payroll tax cut, unempolyment insurance, and the Medicare payment "doc fix" in the lives of working Americans.