This Week in Washington

This Week in Washington - Courtesy of the Office of Republican Whip Eric Cantor
February 24, 2010
 Congress took a hiatus for the last couple of weeks. The first week off was unexpected due to Snowmageddon 2010 where the DC area was hit with back to back massive snowstorms. Looks like it took the weather to finally slow down the speed at which Congress spends money. Last week was a scheduled district work period. Congress returned Monday night for what appears to be a light legislative week, but a big week issue wise.

A so-called “Jobs” bill over in the Senate (which coincidentally doesn't produce jobs) and talk of Thursday’s Health Care Summit at the White House are dominating the conversation. More on the jobs bill below in Legislation to be Voted On. On health care, the President unveiled his “new” health carecompromise Monday morning. Who it is a compromise with remains to be seen. As described by White House Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle, it's the Senate bill with "targeted changes". See herefor a new document from Republican Whip Eric Cantor on the “new” proposal. The proposal is an 11 page outline with no legislative text so many details and outstanding issues don’t seem to be resolved, and theCongressional Budget Office cannot even provide the cost of it. The resounding media reports say that Mr. Obama’s “new” plan looks too much like the old one.

Speaker Pelosi was hesitant to support the plan but said “this discussion will continue a year-long historic level of transparency and open debate of this crucial reform effort.” Apparently when Speaker Pelosi says, “transparency and open debate,” she actually means “hidden from the American people and argued about by Democrats behind closed doors.” 

On Thursday, the President is hosting a 6-hour, Bipartisan Health Care Summit at the White House. House and Senate Republican and Democratic Leaders have been invited, although the format has not been released as of yet. When the summit was announced, Republican Leader John Boehner and Republican Whip Eric Cantor sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel urging them to take the partisan procedural maneuver known as Reconciliation off the table and start over in the interest of bipartisanship. To date, they have not received a response. The question in Washington is whether the summit is a real effort or simply a photo op. Time will tell and I’m sure I will have much more info for you next week. Republicans plan to participate and Leader Boehner announced the House Republican participants and the outside communications effort earlier today. You can see his release here. Republicans continue to stand with the American people in believing that reform is necessary, but the Democrats' plan increases health care costs, places onerous mandates on struggling businesses, raises taxes on working families, and will lead to many losing the coverage options they have now. More on health care below in Articles of Interest.

Last week was the one year anniversary of the Democrats “Stimulus” bill. And boy do I have a lot of information on it. See the special section titled Stimulus below. Finally, Republican Leader John Boehner gave a speech to CPAC (The annual Conservative Action Conference in DC) last week where he talked about what would be different if Republicans were in charge of the House next year. You can see articles on the speech here. Jeff

Stimulus: Last week was the one year anniversary of the Democrats “Stimulus” bill. Since then, Republicans have been focussed on creating jobs for the American people, while Democrats have…well…been focussed on other things. Republican Whip Eric Cantor summed it up best when he said, “In the year since the Democrats’ ‘stimulus’ program was enacted, over 3 million jobs have been lost, billions of dollars have been wasted, and an unprecedented debt has been passed on to our children – these are not the results that America hoped for. Struggling small business owners, families, and young workers see trillions in debt, on their tab, and still no job creation… It’s been a year, and the President and Speaker Pelosi are still trumpeting a stimulus program that most Americans intrinsically know has failed to achieve the goals that were set for it. I hope that in the year ahead, instead of simply praising their own failed programs, the President and Speaker Pelosi take a serious look at the impediments to jobs that their agenda threatens small businesses with every day. Until they do, then their proposals will not be taken seriously by small business owners, and the job market will continue to struggle.”

Whip Cantor was busy last week. He released a new web video titled “Rhetoric vs. Results” and held an online forum & briefing titled “1 year, $862 billion spent, 4 million jobs lost” with other Republican members at the Heritage Foundation. Whip Cantor and Leader Boehner also sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking for a open, televised debate focussed on job creation and economic growth. You can view the letter and corresponding article here. We have yet to hear a response. For more information on the stimulus spending lowlights see here and for a timeline of the stimulus see here

Legislation to be Voted On: 1. H.R. 2314 - Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act - will cost $1 million annually until 2012, and half a million dollars thereafter to create a race-based governing entity similar to the governing entities presiding over Native American tribes. The Governor of Hawaii opposes the legislation. It passed the House on Tuesday by a vote of 245-164

2. H.R. 2701 - Intelligence Authorization Act - Beyond providing money for our intelligence community this bill throws into question whether terrorists will be read Miranda rights and afforded the protection under those rights. Incredibly, this bill was drafted over 8 months ago and is only now coming to the floor for a vote. During that time, the bill has not been touched- meaning the legislation does not reflect any lessons learned from domestic attacks teh United States has faced, including the Christmas Day bomber. Transparency is also at issue: critics of the bill argue if the U.S. pays to send detainees to other countries the public has a right to know the truth. Currently such maneuvers in this bill will remain a secret.

3. *Possible* - Senate Jobs Bill  - The Senate passed a $15 billion “Jobs” bill on Wednesday.  the House has two options. They can create their own bill or they can simply accept the Senate version and try to pass it as is. It’s possible that either could come up later this week. The "Jobs" bill includes four major provisions. First, an extension of existing highway programs. Second, an extension of current tax rules allowing small businesses to expense equipment purchases. Third, a modification to the existing Build America Bond Program. And finally a new-temporary tax program that would exempt employers who hire new workers from the 6.2% payroll tax for the remainder of the year. The individual hired would have to be unemployed for at least 60 days and if the employer kept the employee on for a full year they would recieve an additional $1,000 tax credit in 2011. So in short, an employer who spends $50,000 to hire a new employee for the remainder of the year would save $3,100 this year and $1,000 next year. I imagine I will have much more on this next week.

Articles of Interest: 1. New Plan, same old problems – Politico – By Carrie Budoff Brown and Patrick O’Connor – 2/22/10 -The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obamawas staring down all the same old problems. Read the full article here.

2. Speaker Pelosi bets the House on success of $787 billion stimulus – The Hill – By Bob Cusack – 2/17/10 - Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has issued 260 statements on the stimulus package over the past year in an effort to win a debate that could be the key to retaining the Democrats’ majority in the House. With climate change legislation considered dead and healthcare reform on the ropes, Pelosi has not let up in making the case that the stimulus bill has averted an economic meltdown since it was signed into law one year ago on Wednesday. Read the full article here.

3. Family feud: Pelosi at odds with Obama – Politico – By Mike Allen & Patrick O’Connor – 2/12/10 -House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obamaare a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House. For months, the California lawmaker has been pushing Obama hard in private while praising him in public. But now she’s being more open in her criticism, in part because she feels the White House was wrong - in the wake of the Democrats’ loss in Massachusetts — to push the Senate health care bill on the House when she knew there was no way it would pass. Read the full article here.

4. The Rattled State of Democrats – NY Times – By Carl Hulse – 2/14/10 - It was a telling glimpse into the state of mind of rattled Senate Democrats. Worried that they were going to be skewered for pushing a jobs bill that was stuffed with business tax breaks and pork, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, pulled the plug Thursday on a rare bipartisan proposal, gambling both with the party’s best chance of posting a needed legislative win as well as with President Obama’s new push for cross-party cooperation. The surprise move by Mr. Reid, partly in response to fears from lawmakers that they were going to take a pummeling on cable news, has put the future of the jobs legislation in question and showed how the criticism heaped on their health care plan and the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat have put Democrats in a protective crouch. Read the full article here.

Jeff J. Burton Office of the Republican Whip Rep. Eric Cantor 202-225-0197