Capitol Building

Morning Action: Democrats Renew Push for Unemployment Insurance Extension

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE.  Democrats are proposing a three-month extension of unemployment insurance (sub. req’d)

Senate Democrats’ latest gambit to renew unemployment insurance benefits is a proposed three-month extension with a new offset that would provide flexibility for companies to reduce deductible corporate pension fund contributions.

A cloture vote on the plan is expected Thursday after senators on Tuesday voted to withdraw amendments that had been blocking further action on a bill (S 1845) to extend jobless aid that expired in December. Reid then offered an amendment from Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) 10%, that would pay for the three-month extension and filed cloture on the amendment.

The new proposal would combine the short-term extension costing an estimated $6.4 billion with a pension-smoothing proposal that allows companies to reduce contributions to pension funds in the near term while raising future commitments.

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% is attempting to attract lawmakers to the deal by attaching military pension benefits:

The Senate this week will make another attempt to pass an extension of federal unemployment insurance by tying the effort to a plan to restore military pension benefits.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced a Thursday vote on a bill that would provide federal jobless pay for three months. Two prior votes to pass the extension have been blocked by Republicans because of the cost.

This time, consideration of the bill will be followed as early as next week by a separate vote on legislation to restore recent cuts to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in military pensions, a priority for many lawmakers in both parties but Republicans in particular.

FEWER INSURED.  There will be fewer Americans insured in 2014 due to the botched Obamacare rollout (sub. req’d):

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday that 1 million fewer people will receive health insurance through the law’s exchanges in 2014 than previously projected, mostly due to the troubled federal exchange website rollout.

In addition, CBO said in its annual budget outlook that the law (PL 111-148PL 111-152) will lead to fewer hours worked by those in the labor force, a conclusion quickly seized upon by Republicans as proof that the law is harming the economy.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated Tuesday that 1 million fewer people will receive health insurance through the law’s exchanges in 2014 than previously projected, mostly due to the troubled federal exchange website rollout.

In addition, CBO said in its annual budget outlook that the law (PL 111-148PL 111-152) will lead to fewer hours worked by those in the labor force, a conclusion quickly seized upon by Republicans as proof that the law is harming the economy.

DEBT LIMIT.  The GOP’s debt limit strategy is still not completely clear (sub. req’d):

House Speaker John A. Boehner is making clear that Republicans will not “pick a fight” in coming weeks over the nation’s debt ceiling, but he has not settled a plan for rounding up GOP support to extend the borrowing limit.

The Ohio Republican made the “fight” comment during a closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday, according to sources. “There’s a lot of opinions about how to deal with the debt limit. No decisions have been made,” Boehner told reporters afterward. “The goal here is to increase the debt ceiling. No one wants to default on our debt. But while we’re doing something on this we ought to do something about either jobs or the economy [or] about the drivers of our debt.”

Some Republicans have suggested their caucus push for a repeal of a measure in the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, 111-152) that mitigates risk to insurance companies, for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution or for approval of constructing the Keystone XL pipeline.

KEYSTONE.  Lawmakers supportive of the Keystone pipeline project are weighing their next legislative move (sub. req’d):

Leading House and Senate supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline are considering their next legislative moves, following the release of an environmental impact study widely seen as supporting the project’s ultimate approval.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said Tuesday that pipeline backers are considering new legislation to set a deadline for a decision by President Barack Obama — much the way an earlier law did in 2012.

While that path ultimately led the president to reject the plan as premature, Hoeven noted that the reason Obama stated at the time — fears about siting the project through an environmentally sensitive region through Nebraska — are resolved by a new route.

“CLIMATE HUBS.” The Obama Administration has created “climate hubs” to combat extreme weather.  The hubs are allegedly designed to help farmers during times of difficulty.  This comes in the wake of the passage of the $1 trillion food stamp and farm bill:

Administration officials Wednesday will announce another executive action to implement President Obama’s State of the Union agenda, unveiling the creation of regional “climate hubs” to help agricultureworkers respond to severe weather conditions.

“On the heels of passage of the farm bill, the administration will take executive action to help farmers, ranchers and rural communities combat climate change and adapt to extreme weather and other damage it causes,” a White House official said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack Wednesday will tout the centers as a way to “address increasing risks such as fires, invasive pests, devastating floods and crippling droughts on a regional basis.”

The initiative would help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners “adjust their resource method,” the White House official added.

EX-IM BANK.  The Senate Banking Committee will reauthorize the Export-Import Bank:

The Senate Banking Committee, chaired by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), held a hearing Jan. 28 titled “Oversight and Reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.” 

Unlike last year’s oversight hearing by the House Financial Services Committee, the only witness was Fred Hochberg, chairman and president of Eximbank. There was no inspector general and no Government Accountability Office (GAO) auditor to utter discouraging words about the rate the Eximbank had been growing and the risk it was taking. Perhaps some of their cautious advice has sunk in, because Hochberg touted the fact that lending had dropped off from $36 billion to $27 billion per year, which he called a “good trend,” because it represents some pickup in lending by banks.

In the opening remarks, Johnson proclaimed his intention to move forward with the reauthorization because the bank has made money for the government, which lends its full faith and credit, in order to promote exports that create jobs, all this while protecting taxpayers from loss. 

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Apparently the $1 trillion farm bill wasn't enough. Now we need "climate hubs" too.

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A #UIExtension will increase unemployment, but Dems are pushing for it.

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Obamacare means fewer insured in 2014.

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