House Finishes Year in a Blaze of Controversial Legislation

Yesterday, in what most news organizations are calling a "flurry" of legislative action, the House passed a relatively large package of contentious bills, including the Defense appropriations bill, an increase to the debt limit, and a jobs bill. The Defense bill, originally thought to be the most difficult of the four bills, easily sailed through the House, 395 to 34, and the Senate immediately began its debate on the bill. The other two bills, however, proved to be much closer, and foreshadow legislative confrontations in the beginning of 2010.

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Deconstructing the Deficit

When discussing the federal budget deficit, I should be clear that reducing it right now is absolutely the wrong policy to pursue. It will likely strangle the meager recovery that's underway, and attention should primarily be focused on reducing the growing cost of health care. Having said all that, if deficit reduction must be addressed right now, it's important to first understand its composition.

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Final Defense Bill Includes Franken Anti-Rape Amendment

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN)

Back in October, I wrote about Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and his praise-worthy amendment to the FY 2010 Defense appropriations bill that would bar the government from contracting with companies who prevent their employees from bringing workplace sexual assault cases to court. The amendment passed easily 68 to 30 – with the thirty senators who voted against the measure receiving a good amount of backlash – but shortly after the vote there were rumors that conferees would strip the amendment from the final bill during reconciliation with the House. Not to fear, though, because according to Sam Stein over at the Huffington Post, the Franken amendment survived, and the final language is "remarkably strong."

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House to Finish up Appropriations, Push Other Fiscal Business to Next Year

U.S. Capitol

On Wednesday, the House is likely to finish appropriations for the fiscal year with a vote on the last spending measure, Defense. The lower chamber will also vote to extend the debt limit temporarily, a move that will put the thorny political issue off until 2010.

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Appropriations Update: 11 down, 1 to go

Last night, in a 57-35 vote, the Senate passed the appropriations omnibus bill, coming one step closer to finishing the FY 2010 appropriations process. The Senate's vote means that all but one of the appropriation bills are done, which is good, since FY 2010 started a couple months ago. The one slight problem is that the last bill to go is the Defense bill, and it's shaping up to be a doozy.

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Congress to Boost Consumer Product Safety Funding

In an omnibus appropriations bill quickly moving its way through Congress, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is set to receive a major funding increase for FY 2010 (which began Oct. 1). The bill sets the agency’s budget at $118 million, the highest level allowed under a separate bill that reauthorized the agency in 2008. CPSC’s FY 2009 budget was $105.4 million.

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Warp Speed: An Appropriations Update

Oink Oink

Last night, as expected, Congress took a giant step toward finishing appropriations this year, as a House and Senate conference committee agreed to a $446.8 billion discretionary omnibus, which includes six of the seven remaining appropriations bills. In addition, the House this afternoon passed, by a vote of 241 to 181, the tax extenders package as a standalone measure rather than attaching it to an appropriations bill; and it's completely paid for!

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Appropriations Moving Quickly

Dollars and Sense

Today, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) told reporters that appropriators from both sides of the Capitol would meet later today to hammer out the FY 2010 Transportation-HUD appropriations bill (HR 3288). He also blatantly hinted that the appropriations process would then begin to move fast.

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Omnibus Appropriations Bill More and More Likely

Omnibus, get it?

A story in The Hill this morning relays an increasingly likely scenario in Congress: legislators will use an omnibus appropriations bill to finish spending work this year. The article cites the molasses-like speed at which the Senate has worked to pass its remaining appropriations bills. With the second stopgap funding measure set to expire on Dec. 18, and the Thanksgiving holiday intervening, the window of opportunity just to pass and conference an omnibus bill – let alone the four Senate appropriations bills that remain – is quickly closing.

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Congress Passes Second Continuing Resolution

I had a feeling when Congress passed a continuing resolution (CR) last month that funded the federal government for only 30 days that they'd be back to pass another one. And so they did.

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