Following the August recess, Congress returned to Washington in September to take on a heavy legislative agenda consisting of several high profile initiatives. Highlighting the fall legislative calendar are the American Jobs Act, FY 2012 Appropriations Bills and the consideration and implementation of the recommendations made by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
On September 8th, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to introduce his $447 billion American Jobs Act, emphasizing four key components of his proposal:
- Cutting taxes to help America's small businesses hire and grow
- Putting workers back on the job to rebuild and modernize America
- Providing pathways back to work for Americans looking for jobs
- Putting more money in the pockets of every American worker & family Congress is currently reviewing the President's proposal but is expected to recommend significant changes and have several debates before the bill can advance. This legislation is likely to be considered by several committees including the committees on Budget, Way and Means, and Energy and Commerce.
Republican Leadership in the House has indicated that they will address unemployment by advancing a regulatory relief agenda that would repeal industry regulations that they believe are detrimental to job growth. Regulatory targets include the Environmental Protection Agency, National Labor Relations Board and the Affordable Care Act of 2010. House Republicans also intend to address a Medicare physician fix, a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, a defense authorization bill and a surface transportation bill.
On September 19th, President Obama presented Congress with a comprehensive deficit reduction plan. The legislation offers long-term solutions to the national debt crisis and proposes ways to fund the American Jobs Act. The plan was given to the newly appointed Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction for consideration while it identifies and recommends ways to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. In opening statements, Committee members, including Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), sent a clear message that everything is on the table when considering ways to reduce the nation's debt. Areas likely to see budget cuts are Medicare and defense spending. Deficit reduction recommendations could also include increases in or the elimination of certain tax breaks. The Committee must complete its task by the November 23rd, 2011 deadline set by Congress.
Along with the American Jobs Act and deficit reduction initiatives, Congress will need to focus on fiscal year 2012 Appropriations Bills, which, like last year, will not include earmarks. House and Senate leadership anticipate they will pass a continuing resolution to extend debate beyond the October 1st start of the fiscal year.