Morning Action: Another Attempt at Extending Unemployment Insurance

UI.  Senators are looking at an unemployment insurance extension once again:

Senate negotiators are back at the drawing board in trying to renew emergency unemployment-insurance benefits for more than 2 million Americans who have been out of work for at least six months.

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada have resumed negotiations to create new legislation that would extend the benefits.

The Senate passed a bill in April that would have extended the benefits through May and provided retroactive checks to those who had stopped receiving payments since the program expired on Dec. 28. But that legislation expired on May 31 with no action in the House, putting the onus on senators who favor the program to try again.

BURWELL. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% is reportedly displeased with the way Republican senators are carrying out the confirmation process of Sylvia Matthews Burwell (sub. req’d):

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said yesterday that Republican leaders are insisting on using “every minute” of the 30 hours of debate time on the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell “to do nothing.” That would mean her confirmation vote won’t come until Thursday afternoon, just before a group of senators heads off to Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

Although Burwell moved easily through her confirmation hearings and onto a Senate Finance Committee vote last month with bipartisan support, a group of Republican senators has tried to slow up movement on the nomination, pressing her for several weeks on her perception of the 2010 health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

EX-IM BANK.  The Export-Import Bank does not really help small business, and by its very nature, does not help create jobs (sub. req’d):

Ex-Im’s subsidies remain dedicated to decidedly large businesses. The “small business” category rarely exceeds a fifth of the bank’s total authorizations, despite being a category that includes businesses few people would consider “small.” Does a breakfast cereal manufacturer with 1,000 employees sound like a small business to you? How about a printing press with 500 employees? They do to Ex-Im.

But the lion’s share of Ex-Im’s financing goes to businesses that are above even those elevated thresholds.

The second claim, that Ex-Im creates jobs, is even less plausible. By its nature, Ex-Im helps only existing businesses, and it does so by offering a select few financing at below-market interest rates. Thus, it bestows an uncompetitive advantage on the few relative to all potential new businesses. New businesses account for all net new jobs in the economy, in good times and bad. By helping the old at the expense of the new–and adding an unnecessary distortion to the market–it is more likely that Ex-Im lowers employment than raises it.

EPA.  The White House is trying to get Democrats not already on board to support their new EPA rule (sub. req’d):

The White House, for starters, is trying to shore up its alliances within the Democratic Party.

John Podesta, a senior adviser to the president and the White House’s point man on the carbon rule, stopped by the Capitol yesterday — with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in tow — to discuss the proposed regulation with Senate Democrats during their weekly caucus luncheon.

“I was just explaining the process that led to the development of the rule and the substance of the rule, why it’s necessary — to produce public health benefits for the American people as well as attacking the very real problem of climate change — and what we’re going to do to back up and support it and fend off the misrepresentations,” Podesta told reporters upon emerging from the meeting.

They’re courting Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-WV) 21%, who They may have a difficult time attracting vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) “who are looking for political cover from the “war on coal” rhetoric.”

DOC FIX.  A permanent ‘doc fix’ is not expected until the lame-duck session (sub. req’d):

The effort to find a permanent fix for Medicare’s physician payment formula resurfaced at a Senate confirmation hearing last month, but prospects for achieving Finance Chairman Ron Wyden’s goal of replacing the formula this year remain murky.

Wyden, D-Ore., said in an interview that more senators are warming to his proposal to tap money saved from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for a permanent repeal and replacement of the sustainable growth rate formula. Congress passed a one-year “doc fix” (PL 113-93) to prevent cuts to Medicare doctors in late March after reaching a compromise on the replacement policy but not on a way to pay for it.

Wyden said several conservatives have said they’re interested in permanently barring the use of Overseas Contingency Operations funds and removing the SGR while coming up with an additional offset to pay for extensions of several Medicare and Medicaid payment policies.

Read More

Morning Action: Highway Trust Fund Rescue Effort

TRANSPORTATION.  With seven weeks until the road projects account of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) gets low enough to merit a cessation of reimbursements owed by states to contractors, lawmakers are feeling a sense of urgency to rescue the trust fund — but their solutions are questionable (sub. req’q):

Since Congress needs time to organize any trust fund rescue effort, much less set floor time and hold votes, we’ve just moved into a key decision period. And it’s clear the sense of urgency is intensifying. The risk that road construction projects could go idle this summer prompted Speaker John A. Boehner , R-Ohio, and other House GOP leaders to notify Republican members Friday , as they were about to start a weeklong recess, of a plan to patch the trust fund through next May.

That would combine an extension of highway and transit programs with an end to most Saturday mail deliveries, along with another transfer back into highway and transit accounts of excise tax receipts that would otherwise go into a fund for leaking underground storage tanks, to offset about $12 billion in projected highway and transit account shortfalls.

Tying a Highway Trust Fund fix to changes in postal operations drew scorn from the communications director for conservative group Heritage Action, Dan Holler. “The idea Congress would use a supposedly self-funding agency that cannot pay its bills as a piggy bank to fund another bankrupt, self-funding fund is absurd,” he said.

Read More

This Week in Congress: June 2 — 6

The House is in recess this week.  

Senate

Analysis: This week the Senate will consider the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Major Committee Action

Read More

The Best of the Forge

AZ SHERIFF ASKS OBAMA ADMIN TO “SIMPLY ENFORCE THE LAWS” ON IMMIGRATION

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu was on on Fox News’ ‘Your World with Neil Cavuto’ Tuesday where he made a very simple request of the Obama Administration: “simply enforce the laws.”

Cavouto explained that the economy is getting worse in Mexico, which means that more illegal immigrants will be attempting to come to the United States.  Babeu who has first hand experience with illegal immigrants agreed, and explained the phenomenon further:

Most illegal immigrants are coming to the United States in order for jobs, for health care, for education. And when things get worse in Mexico, we will have more illegals coming here.  Last year, we had 123,000 illegals that were apprehended, just here in this part of Arizona alone.  So if things get worse in Mexico, you’re going to see a measurable uptick in illegal immigrants coming into the United States.  

Read More

Morning Action: House Republicans Urge Vote on Obamacare Alternative

OBAMACARE.  Conservatives in the House are urging a vote on an Obamacare alternative:

The House Republican leadership promised a vote this year on an alternative to the health law popularly known as Obamacare, and now some lawmakers have upped the pressure to see that vote happen.

Writing to colleagues ahead of a meeting today of  the conservative Republican Study Committee, the trio — Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) 58%, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) 69%, and Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) 75% — requested support and a push for a vote on the RSC’s health reform plan (H.R. 3121). Scalise is RSC’s current chairman.

The bill, with 130 co-sponsors, would repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as well as the current tax breaks for employer-sponsored health insurance plans. Instead, all individuals and families could get tax relief to buy health plans.

Read More