Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Congress and the President are busily legislating

By Carol Gee

With the Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress, rapid change is the reality that keeps news hounds busy keeping up with the pace.

President Obama is making noises like the nation's budget deficit may become a problem before too long. He has proposed a pay-as-you-go plan that resembles that used in Congress during the Clinton years. But they are not the same. The biggest difference is that the savings are not immediately due, according to Yahoo! News. Rather, such legislation can be paid for over the next ten years.

Stimulus spending may not be happening fast enough. The President has introduced a "Roadmap to Recovery," ten initiatives that would impact more favorably on the job situation, reports CQ Politics. In a related story, the source reports that the Department of Health and Human Services is ahead of all others in spending, and the Social Security Administration comes in second. And one of the stimulus proposals is to allow some transit stimulus money to be spent for operating costs instead of only capital improvement projects. A battle between the highway interests and public transportation supporters is shaping up, which might include a push to increase the gasoline tax to boost trust fund revenues.

Congress and the President are both getting serious about health care reform. But how is it to be financed? CQ Politics reveals that taxing health benefits won't pay for the full cost of insurance for everyone. It would cover less than half over the next ten years. And Democrats on the Ways and Means tax-writing committee are resistant to the idea. The disagreements with Republicans over including a "public plan" are forecasting a very rough period ahead in Congress, with little hope for bipartisanship, according to Politico.com.

Congress is moving along quickly with the "Cash for Clunkers" plan where trading in a less-efficient vehicle on a new, more fuel efficient vehicle could mean a $4,500 voucher on the purchase, CQ Politics writes. President Obama supports the idea.

The war supplemental bill is still under negotiation, with military personnel costs badly underestimated, in the opinion of Politico.com. But at least, President Obama but the ongoing military costs in the regular budget rather than the emergency spending bill.

With Democrats in control Republicans are left with little to do but obstruct and complain. The world moved past them. It may take them years to become relevant again.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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