Amid a continued focus on appropriations and deficit debate and a Presidential announcement on the Iraq war, energy issues garnered hefty space in the public mind last week.
The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction continues its frequent closed-door meetings, and despite concern that the committee is still far from a consensus with just a month before its deadline, there is some indication that with increased involvement from Congressional leadership, the committee may meet its $1.2 trillion deal. The panel announced last week that it would publically meet about discretionary spending. Additionally, the Gang of Six – Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mark Warner (D-VA) – briefed the supercommittee members about their $3.7 trillion deficit-cutting proposal, which includes calls for increased tax revenues that many Republicans find unpalatable and entitlement cuts that are not appealing to may Democrats.
In the meantime, with the current Fiscal Year 2012 continuing resolution in place only to November 18 and appropriations measures still far from complete, it is becoming increasingly likely that another stopgap funding bill will be necessary. Though some progress has been made in the Senate on a minibus, with a series of staggered recesses planned, the House is likely to face increased pressure to move to a single omnibus measure for the entire government, should the two houses hope to avoid another CR. Should an agreement before the middle of November be impossible, another temporary spending measure will be necessary.
Senate Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to move forward a $35 billion jobs bill October 20 as the chamber remains locked in a stalemate with the economy struggling and tens of millions of Americans looking for work. The package funded states and localities to hire and prevent layoffs of teachers and first responders through a 0.5 percent surtax on people earning more than $1 million annually. The vote underscores the difficulty Congress will have in moving any economic package this year, even as the country continues to struggle with two ongoing crises: reigning in more than $14 trillion in national debt and creating domestic jobs. While the Senate will be in recess the week of October 24, they will return the week of October 31 to take up myriad issues. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the Senate will also take up S. 1660 when it returns, which will be the infrastructure component of President Obama's jobs package, and will offset the measure with a millionaire surtax. The legislation, to be unveiled in the coming days, will include $50 billion for road, transit, rail, and aviation investments, as well as $10 billion for the creation of a national infrastructure bank to provide major projects with credit assistance.