Thursday, April 2: H.Con.Res. 85 – The Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for FY 2010 & Amendments

Congressional Progressive Caucus Substitute:

FAILED 84-348

  • REP. LYNN WOOLSEY, D-Calif., will offer a substitute on behalf of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that calls for at least $991 billion in domestic, non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2010, $469 billion more than the president’s request. The substitute calls for $479 billion for national defense spending, $83 billion less than the president’s request and the resolution. The substitute establishes spending and revenue figures for 10 fiscal years, covering the period of FY 2010 through FY 2019, rather than the five-year period through FY 2014 covered by the resolution. The substitute projects a 58% reduction in the deficit by FY 2012. The measure also assumes ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq no later than 2011.

  • The progressive substitute accommodates $300 billion in additional economic stimulus spending, including increased federal assistance for unemployment insurance, food stamps, Federal Medical Assistance Percentage payments to states, and housing assistance.

  • The substitute assumes the redeployment of U.S. military personnel and military contractors from Iraq by the end of FY 2010, which its sponsors say would produce savings of at least $130 billion in FY 2010. It assumes savings of at least $60 billion a year over the next ten years by not funding various weapons systems and programs, including the F/A-22 fighter plane, Virginia-class submarine, and other Cold War-era programs. It also assumes that the Defense Department will implement Government Accountability Office recommendations for combating waste, fraud, and abuse.

  • The substitute assumes the repeal of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the top 1% of taxpayers, which is expected to generate at least $244 billion in revenue. It also assumes the elimination of certain corporate-tax provisions that encourage corporations to move jobs overseas, the elimination of tax deferral for American-owned foreign corporations, and certain tax incentives for the oil and gas industry. It assumes the extension of energy-related tax credits that provide incentives for production and investment in renewable and alternative energy. The measure imposes a 0.25% tax on all stock and futures trading to help fund the bailout of the financial system; and reduces executive pay by eliminating tax deductibility of any executive compensation that is more than 25 times that of a company’s lowest paid employee.

  • The substitute assumes increased funding for efforts to cut poverty by 50% in ten years, including programs to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina, anti-hunger programs, affordable housing programs, and child care programs. It assumes increased spending on infrastructure, including transportation projects, as well as global warming efforts, elementary and secondary education programs, special education programs, and job training programs. It calls for increased spending on international diplomatic, education, and HIV/AIDS eradication initiatives. The substitute assumes funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) that would cover all eligible children. It also calls for increased spending on veterans health care, including mental health care, and it assumes increased funding for the Community Development Block Grant program and Social Services Block Grants.

  • Finally, the measure provides upwards of $120 billion a year to ensure that every single American will have affordable, high quality health care coverage; and includes funds to pay for comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

  • Unlike the resolution, the progressive substitute does not include reconciliation instructions.

Republican Study Committee (RSC) Substitute:

FAILED 111-322

REPS. JIM JORDAN, R-Ohio, TOM PRICE, R-Ga., and MIKE PENCE, R-Ind., will offer a substitute on behalf of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) that sets spending levels, revenue levels, and deficit levels at lower amounts than what is projected by the Congressional Budget Office baseline or what is proposed in the president’s budget request. The substitute provides for total spending (outlays) of $2.6 trillion in FY 2010, $692 billion for defense, and imposes a freeze on non-defense discretionary spending.

  • The substitute assumes a reduction of $31 billion in federal revenues for FY 2010 and an on-budget $952 billion deficit for FY 2010, compared with a $1.3 trillion on-budget deficit in the resolution.

Reconciliation

  • The substitute directs six House committees to report “reconciliation” legislation by July 13 that would reduce spending or deficits over five years. It requires a $10.2 billion spending reduction by the Agriculture Committee, an $8.3 billion reduction by the Education and Labor Committee, a $241.9 billion reduction by the Energy and Commerce Committee, a $1.7 billion reduction by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a $4.9 billion reduction by the Natural Resources Committee, and a $214.8 billion deficit reduction by the Ways and Means Committee.

  • The substitute includes a special rule that would allow the Budget Committee to take into account deficit-reducing legislation enacted after the adoption of the substitute, and make applicable adjustments to reconciliation instructions. It also directs the Ways and Means Committee to report a reconciliation bill no later than June 8 that would reduce revenues by $1.2 trillion for FY 2009 to FY 2014.

Mandatory Spending and Advance Appropriations

  • The substitute calls on all House committees to identify savings, no later than June 15, amounting to 1% of total mandatory spending under their jurisdictions from activities that are determined to be wasteful, unnecessary, or lower-priority. It limits advance appropriations for FY 2011 and FY 2012 to $23.6 billion, compared with $28.9 billion in the resolution.

  • The substitute directs the Joint Committee on Taxation, when calculating federal revenues, to take into account the impact of proposed revenue changes on gross domestic product, total domestic employment, gross private domestic investment, the general price index, interest rates, and other economic variables, as well as the impact the economic variables have on federal revenue.

Direct Spending and Earmark Restrictions

  • The substitute assumes that the House would not take up any direct spending legislation that would increase the deficit or reduce the surplus for either the first five fiscal years covered by the substitute, or the following five years. The requirement would not apply to legislation preserving Social Security or to legislation that would cause a net increase in aggregate direct spending of less than $100 million, and it could be waived under a three-fifths vote in the House.

  • The substitute calls for the establishment of a Joint Select Committee on Earmark Reform to conduct a full study of practices regarding earmarks in authorization, appropriation, tax, and tariff measures, as well as the efficacy of earmark restrictions or transparency requirements. It requires a moratorium on earmarks until the committee submits its report.

Congressional Black Caucus Substitute:

FAILED 113-318-1

REPS. BARBARA LEE, D-Calif., and Robert C. Scott, D-Va., will offer a substitute on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that calls for $3.02 trillion in outlays and $1.72 trillion in revenues in FY 2010, resulting in a deficit of $1.3 trillion in FY 2010.

  • According to a summary that the CBC provided to the Rules Committee, the substitute immediately eliminates tax cuts for the “wealthiest Americans” contained in major Bush administration tax laws enacted in 2001 and 2003. It also provides a 0.565% surtax on adjustable gross income exceeding $500,000 for individuals ($1 million for joint filers). It directs the increased revenues from “rolling back” the tax cuts and the surtax toward education, health care, job training, international aid, justice, transportation, and veterans programs.

  • The CBC substitute finds that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made 2,864 recommendations to the Defense Department between 2001 and 2007 that GAO estimated could cut department costs. It finds that the department has implemented 1,389 of the recommendations, saving $63.7 billion.

  • The CBC substitute assumes that the Defense Department will use $300 million to implement the remaining 1,260 GAO recommendations (not counting 215 that have been closed), and states that the department should submit a report to Congress within 90 days describing how each recommendation will be implemented, or why any recommendation cannot be implemented.

Republican Substitute:

FAILED 137-293

REP. PAUL D. RYAN, R-Wis., will offer a substitute on behalf of the Republican Conference that calls for $3.28 trillion in outlays in FY 2010, and $2.29 trillion in revenue, for a deficit of $993 billion. It projects a deficit of $529 billion by FY 2014, and $593 billion by FY 2019. The substitute calls for $539 billion in non-defense discretionary funds. Its total for defense spending in FY 2010 is $690 billion (including funds for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan), $5 billion more than requested by the president and contained in the resolution.

Taxes

  • The Republican substitute assumes that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts will be extended beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of 2010 — including the estate-tax provisions, the child-tax credit, the “marriage penalty” provisions, and the current marginal income tax rates.

  • The substitute also assumes that the alternative minimum tax (AMT) will be “patched” indefinitely, and therefore would not affect additional taxpayers. It also assumes a change in the tax code in which only two tax rates would be applicable to different incomes — a 10% tax on adjusted gross income up to $100,000 for joint filers and $50,000 for single filers, and a 25% tax on income above these amounts. These tax brackets would be adjusted annually by a cost-of-living adjustment as measured by the consumer price index. It also assumes the reduction of the corporate tax rate to 25% from 35%.

Reconciliation

  • The Republican substitute directs 10 House committees to report “reconciliation” legislation by July 29 that would reduce mandatory spending by a total of $1.38 trillion over 10 years. It instructs the Energy and Commerce Committee to reduce direct spending by $666.1 billion, requires the Ways and Means Committee to reduce mandatory spending by $605 billion, and requires the Agriculture Committee to reduce direct spending by $38.5 billion. In addition, the measure requires a $22.7 billion reduction by the Education and Labor Committee, a $28.4 billion reduction by the Financial Services Committee, a $1.8 billion reduction by the Foreign Affairs Committee, a $4.3 billion reduction by the Judiciary Committee, a $2 billion reduction by the Natural Resources Committee, and a $1.7 billion reduction by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The substitute makes no assumptions about how such savings would occur.

Earmark Moratorium

  • The substitute places a moratorium on earmarks, barring House consideration of any bill, joint resolution, or conference report that includes a congressional earmark, limited tax benefit, or limited trade benefit, as defined in House rules. The moratorium would be in place until a commission reports proposed changes. Savings from this plan would be used to reduce taxes.

Discretionary Spending

  • The Republican substitute freezes non-defense discretionary spending in FY 2010 through FY 2014 (excluding funds for veterans’ programs), but would provide for increases in FY 2015 through FY 2019. Like the resolution reported by the Budget Committee, the substitute provides the level of funding for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq requested by the administration, assuming $130 billion for such operations in FY 2010, and $50 billion each year thereafter. According to a release by Budget Committee Republicans, the measure also assumes the repeal of provisions in the economic stimulus package, excluding unemployment insurance.

Other Provisions

  • According to a release by the Budget Committee Republicans, the substitute applies the House pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) rule only to mandatory spending measures, and prohibits the use of tax increases to offset the cost of mandatory spending increases.

  • The Republican substitute requires the House to take a separate vote on legislation to increase the public debt limit. (Under the so-called Gephardt rule, a joint resolution to increase the public debt limit is automatically passed by the House upon House and Senate adoption of a conference report on a budget resolution, but the substitute instead requires a vote on a separate measure in order to increase the debt limit.)

  • The substitute requires roll call votes for any measure that authorizes or provides budget authority of at least $50 million, and it bars the Speaker from entertaining an unanimous consent request or motion to suspend the requirement. It creates a point of order against House consideration of a conference report or unreported measure unless a cost estimate has been printed in the Congressional Record at least one day prior to its consideration.

  • The Republican substitute also establishes a point of order against consideration of conference reports or bills that have not been reported by the appropriate committees of jurisdiction, unless those measure are accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate.

H.Con.Res. 85—FY 2010 Budget Resolution (Democrat Budget):

PASSED 233-196

The budget resolution would allow reconciliation (as long as a deficit target of $1 billion is met) for legislation under the jurisdiction of the Education and Labor Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Ways and Means Committee. The Majority will say that this is intended for health care reform and education reform. However, any legislation that meets this deficit target that falls under one of these committees (such as “cap and tax”) would be eligible for reconciliation protection.

Unprecedented Borrowing:

The budget resolution would increase the national debt to $17.1 trillion in five years, an increase of $5.3 trillion or 49% since January 20, 2009. But this increase is actually understated in two respects. First, the Democrat budget resolution hides what its policies would lead to over the full ten-year budget window. Second, the Democrat budget resolution does not “budget” for several items that are likely to either reduce revenue or increase spending (such as the “AMT patch”). The budget resolution proposes what would be the six largest deficits in U.S. history.

Historic Spending Levels:

The Democrat budget resolution proposes federal spending equal to 27.6% of GDP in 2009 and 24.8% of GDP in 2010. These are the highest spending levels in U.S. history, except for World War II.

Higher Taxes:

The Democrat budget resolution increases taxes by $574 billion over five years.

Published in: on April 2, 2009 at 7:18 pm  Comments (1)  

Wednesday, March 25: Amendments to H.R. 146 – Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009

On March 11, 2009, House Republicans defeated identical legislation (S. 22) under suspension of the rules. After defeat, the Senate considered the legislation again by bringing up the House-passed Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act (H.R. 146) and replacing its text with the text of the House-passed Omnibus Lands Package (S. 22). Procedurally, this means the House can only “concur” with the Senate amendment and prevents House Republicans from offering a motion to recommit.

This legislation would authorize the Secretary of Interior to study, establish, and redesignate numerous National Parks, National Wildernesses, National Heritage Areas, National Trails, National Scenic River designations, and codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS). Also authorizes land conveyances and exchanges, federal boundary adjustments, memorials, museums, reclamation projects, and commissions. Additionally, the bill authorizes programs for ocean exploration, local water infrastructure, underwater research, and paralysis research.

Comprised of over 165 separate bills introduced in the 110th Congress. Senate leaders created an omnibus bill to circumvent “holds” Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed on a number of these individual bills because he believed they would authorize wasteful spending, block energy development, and infringe on property rights.

  • COST – authorizes over $5.5 billion over 5 years.

KEY CONCERNS:

— Blocks millions of acres from new oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and all other business activity in these areas.

— Eliminates 1.2 million acres from mineral leasing and energy exploration in Wyoming alone – withdrawing 331 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from domestic energy supply.

— Designates more than 2 million acres of land as wilderness areas; permanently eliminating human access for energy exploration or recreational opportunities.

— Eliminates a proposed terminal site for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Massachusetts by designating a river that runs through a city as “wild and scenic”.

— Authorizes $5.5 billion of new discretionary spending over five years and $900 million of direct spending.

— Makes collecting fossils an illegal activity, subjecting thousands of hobbyists to 5 years in federal jail.

— Pork Projects: $3.5 million to the city of St. Augustine, FL for a birthday party, $200,000 for a tropical botanical garden in Hawaii, $250,000 to study the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and $37 million for a park in New Jersey that is not even supported by the National Park Service.

PASSED – 285-140 – SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 19: H.R. 1586 – 90% Tax on Certain Corporate Bonuses

The legislation imposes a 90% tax for bonuses received by an employee of a company that has received Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds in excess of $5 billion, as well as employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  The tax would be retroactive to December 31, 2008 and apply to income in excess of $250,000 (or $125,000 in the case of a married individual filing separately).

KEY CONCERNS

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right. Without the bailouts, the taxpayers would never have been put in the position of their dollars being doled out for executive bonuses.  But since the bonuses have been distributed, the solution is not to compound the problem with more inappropriate actions by the federal government.


Bill of Attainder. The bill, while not mentioning AIG by name, is clearly meant to punish AIG executives who received large bonuses—a specific group of individuals in response to public outrage over the bonuses.  Given this motivation, many believe that the legislation is a bill of attainder, and thus prohibited by Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the Constitution.


Confiscatory Tax Rate. The legislation creates a tax rate of 90%.  The income tax has not had a top marginal tax rate of that level since the Kennedy Administration.  This legislation will set a precedent to apply confiscatory tax rates to other individuals in the future.


PASSED 328-93SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on March 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm  Comments (13)  

Wednesday, March 18: H.R. 1388 – Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act

This bill reauthorizes Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including AmeriCorps, through FY 2014. The bill is intended to increase the number of volunteers nationwide to 250,000, from 75,000. The measure also increases the education reward that full-time service volunteers receive to $5,350 in FY 2010, the same award as the maximum Pell grant. After FY 2010, volunteers would receive an award equal to the annual maximum Pell grant.

KEY CONCERNS:

*H.R. 1388 funds AmeriCorps at a level of “such sums may be necessary.” AmeriCorps has funded programs in the past such as Planned Parenthood of Western Washington and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center (LAGLC).  In addition, they ran a program that gave $5 to children for each toy gun they brought in.

*The CBO Report for H.R. 1388 states that the bill authorizes $9.3 billion over the FY2010-FY2014 period.  This is over $3 billion more than last year’s bill.

*H.R. 1388 stretches the definition of a volunteer by paying them for their service, frequently providing volunteers with health benefits, housing, and other items that undermine the definition of a volunteer.

*H.R. 1388 funds Learn and Serve, which has been described as “Not Performing: Results Not Demonstrated” by the Office of Management and Budget’s website, ExpectMore.gov.  It also funds AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps which OMB describes as “Not Performing: Ineffective.”  Some conservatives may believe that during a time of economic crisis, we should not be funding programs that have shown little or no results.

Amendments to H.R. 1388

Washington, Mar 18 Miller (CA): Manager’s Amendment. This amendment would make various technical changes; allow interagency agreements between federal agencies to support national service programs by approving the use of service positions in projects carried out by other agencies; clarify that the goal of reaching 250,000 volunteers is throughout all national service positions, not just AmeriCorps; and clarify that the Corporation should promote efficiency and eliminate duplicative application requirements and report back to the authorizing committees on its progress in doing so. The amendment adds language to promote community based efforts to reduce crime and recruit public safety officers into service opportunities; adds “severely economically distressed community” as a new definition; includes a new activity under the Opportunity Corps focused on a musician and artists corps program that helps meet educational needs in low income communities; and incorporates language that would increase access to and participation in federally supported nutrition programs.

ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE

Pingree (ME): Adds “providing clean energy related services designed to meet the needs of rural communities” to the list of approved activities for the Clean Energy Corps.

VOTE REQUESTED – PASSED 388-36

Hunter (CA): Removes veteran’s educational benefits from being taken into account when calculating the maximum award an individual could receive for participating in one of the national service programs.

ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE

Loebsack (IA): The amendment creates a new program entitled the “Volunteer Generation Fund,” to assist nonprofit, faith based, and other civic organizations; and to increase volunteer recruitment; an to enable the people of the U.S. to effect change by participating in active volunteer and citizen service.  It authorizes $360 million over five years.

VOTE REQUESTED – PASSED 261-168

Roe (TN): To set the authorization for AmeriCorps, the Trust, Innovative programs, audits and evaluations at the FY 2008 level for FY 2010, and as such sums as may be necessary for fiscal years 2011 through 2014.

VOTE REQUESTED – FAILED 175-256

Kilroy (OH): To provide volunteers to supervise physical education classes at elementary and secondary schools, provide nutrition education to students, and supervise, organize, and manage after school physical activity/education programs. The amendment would also provide services to these elderly people through food deliveries, legal and medical services provided in the home, and transportation.

VOTE REQUESTED – PASSED 372-57

Roskam (IL): To require all authorized programs to be reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget’s Program Assessment Rating Tool, as well as require GAO to do a study on the National Civilian Community Corps program. Finally, the amendment would amend the underlying legislation to continue the annual evaluation requirement for the National Civilian Community Corps, rather than authorizing only one study by 2014.

ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE

Markey (CO): To increase the operational support given to organizations for full-time individuals enrolled in an approved national service position. The amendment proposes increasing the support from $600 to $800 and from $800 to $1000 if the program supports at least 50 percent disadvantaged youth.

VOTE REQUESTED – PASSED 281-146

Hill (IN): Adds an eligible service program (under the National Service Corps) that would send care packages to Armed Forces members serving in combat overseas.

ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE

Teague (NM)/Klein (FL): To encourage opportunities for veterans that utilize their experience in the Armed Forces, and would encourage programs to assist veterans in finding employment in the public and private sector. The amendment would aid veterans in their pursuit of education and professional opportunities, help veterans with the claims process, and assist rural, disabled, and unemployed veterans with transportation needs.

ADOPTED BY VOICE VOTE

Perriello (VA)/Titus (NV): To create a National Service Reserve Corps, requiring an annual service requirement of at least ten hours and/or annual training. The amendment requires that a member of the National Service Reserve Corps must complete a term of national service, fulfill training, and respond to national disasters and other emergencies. In addition, the amendment would require that these individuals be listed in a national database for the ease of immediate deployment in case of emergency.

VOTE REQUESTED: PASSED 339-93

REPUBLICAN MOTION TO RECOMMIT H.R. 1388, the GIVE Act – PASSED 318-105 – ROLL CALL VOTE

The motion would recommit H.R. 1388 back to the House Education and Labor Committee with instructions that the committee report the bill back to the House floor forthwith (i.e. instantaneously) with the following amendment.

The Republican MTR would prohibit a participant from:

    • Attempting to influence legislation;
    • Organizing or engaging in protests, petitions, boycotts, or strikes;
    • Assisting, promoting, or deterring union organizing;
    • Impairing existing contracts for services or collective bargaining agreements;
    • Engaging in partisan political activities;
    • Participating in events that are likely to include advocacy for or against political parties/platforms/candidates;
    • Engaging in religious instruction, conducting worship services, providing instruction as part of a program that includes mandatory religious instruction or worship;
    • Providing a direct benefit to a business organized for profit, a labor organization, a partisan political organization, a nonprofit organization; or an organization engaged in the religious activities described above unless the Corporation assistance is not used to support those religious activities;
    • Conducting a voter registration drive.

The MTR would make the following organizations ineligible for assistance in this bill:

    • Organizations that provide or promote abortion services, including referral;
    • For-profit organization, or organizations engaged in political or legislative advocacy;
    • Organizations that have been indicted for voter fraud.

The MTR would prohibit the following activities:

    • Activities that would otherwise be performed by an employed worker as part of his or her assigned duties as an employee or by another volunteer who is not a participant in an approved national service position;
    • Activities that will supplant the hiring of employed workers or work of such other volunteers.

ON FINAL PASSAGE: PASSED 321-105 – ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on March 18, 2009 at 6:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Wednesday, March 11: S. 22 – Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009

S. 22 authorizes the Secretary of Interior to study, establish, and redesignate numerous National Parks, National Wildernesses, National Heritage Areas, National Trails, National Scenic River designations, and codify the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS).

It also authorizes land conveyances and exchanges, federal boundary adjustments, memorials, museums, reclamation projects, and commissions. Additionally, the bill authorizes programs for ocean exploration, local water infrastructure, underwater research, and paralysis research.

It’s comprised of over 165 separate bills introduced in the 110th Congress. Senate leaders created an omnibus bill to circumvent “holds” Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) placed on a number of these individual bills because he believed they would authorize wasteful spending, block energy development, and infringe on property rights.

The cost of the bill authorizes over $5.5 billion over 5 years.

S. 22 is being considered under a special suspension process that suspends all House rules.  This process is reserved for noncontroversial bills, limits debate to only 40 minutes and does not allow any amendments. So essentially, members were forced to vote yay or nay without the bill undergoing the scrutiny of the normal legislative process.

KEY CONCERNS:

  • Blocks millions of acres from new oil and gas leasing, logging, mining, and all other business activity in these areas.
  • Eliminates 1.2 million acres from mineral leasing and energy exploration in Wyoming alone – withdrawing 331 million barrels of recoverable oil and 8.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from domestic energy supply.
  • Designates more than 2 million acres of land as wilderness areas; permanently eliminating human access for energy exploration or recreational opportunities.
  • Eliminates a proposed terminal site for importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Massachusetts by designating a river that runs through a city as “wild and scenic”.
  • Authorizes $5.5 billion of new discretionary spending over five years and $900 million of direct spending.
  • Makes collecting fossils an illegal activity, subjecting thousands of hobbyists to 5 years in federal jail.

PORK PROJECTS:

  • $3.5 million to the city of St. Augustine, FL for a birthday party
  • $200,000 for a tropical botanical garden in Hawaii
  • $250,000 to study the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton in the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • $37 million for a park in New Jersey that is not even supported by the National Park Service.

ON PASSAGE OF S.22: FAILED 282-144 (2/3rds required for passage)

See Roll Call Vote

Published in: on March 11, 2009 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, March 5: H.R. 1106-Helping Families Save Their Homes Act of 2009

This bill is the vehicle to pass bankruptcy “cramdown” which will allow bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of residential mortgages. In turn, this will increase interest rates for all homebuyers as lenders increase rates to price for this risk.

This provides bankruptcy courts with the same options for the treatment of primary residences that are already available to the courts for second homes, vacation homes, and investment property — permitting bankruptcy courts to reduce the principal owed on mortgages for principal residences, as well as interest rates or fees on the mortgage.

The measure allows courts to reduce the principal on such mortgages to the current market value of the home, from the higher amount specified in the original mortgage. Such changes would apply only to those mortgages issued before the enactment of this bill, not future mortgages.

The government would reimburse lenders for the difference between principal and interest as modified by bankruptcy courts and the amount originally owed by the homeowner if the mortgage was insured by a federal agency, such as the FHA or VA.

This bill will also include a combination of several bills that have been marked up in the Financial Services Committee including:

  • HOPE for Homeowners bill – strips away all the taxpayer protections from the H4H program so that more people will possibly participate. This includes eliminating upfront and annual premiums people must pay to participate in the program and refinance their mortgages. I offered an amendment to the TARP Oversight and Accountability Act a few weeks ago that would have kept the taxpayer protection provisions intact. Only 25 loans have been renegotiated nationwide so far under this program.

  • FDIC Protection – permanently raises the limit on government-insured bank accounts to $250,000; the limit is currently scheduled to revert back to $100,000 on December 31.

  • Servicers Safe Harbor – ensures loan servicers who refinance residential home mortgages prior to Jan. 1, 2012.are not sued by investors.

  • FHA “Disbarment” – allows the FHA to impose a civil penalty on lenders that are not FHA-approved but attempt to participate in the agency’s mortgage originations. The bill clarifies that lenders are not eligible for FHA-approval if any officer, partner, director, principal, or employee is suspended or debarred by any federal agency, is under indictment for, or has been convicted of an offense that reflects adversely upon the applicant’s integrity to meet the responsibilities of an approved borrower. Lenders would also be ineligible if they engaged in business practices that do not conform to generally accepted practices of prudent mortgagees, or are convicted of a felony related to participation in the real estate or mortgage-loan industry.

AMENDMENTS TO H.R. 1106:

Lofgren/Conyers (MI): #27, Manager’s Amendment:

Requires that debtors demonstrate that they have made good faith attempts to modify the mortgages through voluntary agreements with lenders unless there is a foreclosure sale scheduled within 30 days of the bankruptcy filing.

Requires bankruptcy courts to, before considering a mortgage reduction, to first consider lowering the debtor’s mortgage interest rate in order to lower monthly mortgage payments to no more than 31 per cent of the debtor’s income.

Requires courts to use Federal Housing Administration appraisal guidelines to determine the fair market value of the home.  Extends to 30 days, from 15, the period during which the debtor must contact the lender regarding loan modification.

Stipulates that the debtor must not have committed fraud within 10 years to be eligible to participate in the HOPE for Homeowners Program.

Establishes a Nationwide Mortgage Fraud Task Force.

Allows bankruptcy courts to grant no interest, 30 year mortgages as an alternative to cramdowns. (PASSED 263-164)

Price (GA) #9 Allows a mortgage holder to recapture the amount lost as a result of a Chapter 13 bankruptcy cram down if the debtor sells the residence at a profit. (FAILED 211-218)

Peters (MI) #5 Allows a debtor whose home is in foreclosure to meet pre-filing credit counseling requirements by receiving counseling either before bankruptcy filing or 30 days thereafter. The underlying legislation eliminates pre-filing credit counseling requirements for debtors who are being foreclosed upon. (PASSED 423-2)

Titus (NV) #35 Requires every mortgage servicer that receives payments of up to $1,000 to  modify an insured loan under the H4H program to notify “at-risk homeowners” they may be eligible for H4H mortgage modifications. (WITHDRAWN)

REPUBLICAN MOTION TO RECOMMIT:

(COURTESY OF FINANCIAL SERVICE REPUBLICANS)

Republicans have offered a Motion to Recommit to ensure that irresponsible borrowers will not be bailed out by the overwhelming majority of working families that have lived responsibly within their means. The MTR would remove mortgage default incentives. This is key to protecting taxpayers from greater exposure, and ensuring fairness to responsible homeowners.

More specifically, the MTR:

Prohibits taxpayer assistance to any borrower that misrepresented or lied about their income on their mortgage application;

  • Prohibits taxpayer assistance to any lender that failed to follow proper underwriting standards;
  • Prohibits taxpayer funds from being used as incentives to lenders to rework loans for irresponsible borrowers; and
  • Prohibits taxpayer funds from being used unless the President submits a plan that provides equitable treatment of all mortgages.

ON PASSAGE OF THE REPUBLICAN MTR: (FAILED 182-242)

ON FINAL PASSAGE OF H.R. 1106: (PASSED 234-191)

For more background on possible concerns with this bill, check out this press release from Rep. Tom Price (GA), and this one from Rep. Mike Pence (IN).


Published in: on March 5, 2009 at 7:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, February 25: H.R. 1105—Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009

Today, H.R. 1105, the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, will be considered on the floor, likely under a closed rule.

The Fiscal Year 2009 omnibus totals $410 billion spending bill and includes nine appropriation bills that were not passed by Congress last year (Agriculture, Commerce/State/Justice, Energy and Water, Financial Services, Department of Interior, Labor/HHS, Legislative Branch, Department of State/Foreign Ops, Transportation/HUD).

Funding for these government agencies and programs would increase by $32 billion, or 8.3%, over Fiscal Year 2008 (not including the funds appropriated by the recent “stimulus”). These agencies are currently funded at Fiscal Year 2008 levels through March 6, 2009, by a continuing resolution. In addition to funding for these nine remaining appropriations bills, the bill also includes $100 million for salaries and expenses at the Department of Homeland Security, designated as an “emergency” to avoid budget restraints. Three appropriations bills-Defense, Homeland Security, and Military Construction-VA-were passed and signed into law last year.

Take a look at the table provided by the House Republican Conference that lays out all the numbers and shows the spending increases for these government agencies and programs.

The $32 billion increase represents the largest one-year hike in annual appropriated spending percentage since the Carter administration, with the exception of funding immediately after September 11th. And since many of these programs and agencies received funding in the recent “stimulus,” the combined increase is $301 billion or 80% over Fiscal Year 2008.

This bill contains numerous policy items, spending provisions, and earmarks that appropriates $410 billion to fund nine appropriations bills from March 6, 2009, through September 30, 2009.

(Source: House GOP Conference)

PASSED 245 – 178 SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on February 25, 2009 at 6:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Friday, February 13: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Conference Report)

Prior to the vote on final passage of this spending bill, Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) brought forth a motion to recommit the conference report back to the conference committee with instructions to:

(1)     accept section 1008 of subtitle A of division B of the Senate amendment (relating to above-the-line deduction for interest on indebtedness with respect to the purchases of certain motor vehicles), and

(2)     accept section 1009 of subtitle A of division B of the Senate amendment (relating to above-the-line deduction for State sales tax and excise tax on the purchase of certain motor vehicles).

Following this vote, the House will vote on final passage of the $787 billion economic “stimulus” package

PASSED 246-183

On final passage of H.R. 1: PASSED – 246-183 – SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

For a more detailed look into what this spending package will cost the American people, check out the summary put together by THE COMMITTEE ON THE BUDGET, REPUBLICAN CAUCUS

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 7:04 pm  Comments (4)  

Tuesday, February 10: Republican Motion to Instruct H.R. 1 (Economic Stimulus Package)

I want to keep you up to speed on what’s happening with the Economic “Stimulus” Package that’s in the spotlight this week here in Congress. A couple of weeks ago, the U.S House passed H.R. 1 by a vote of 244-188.

Today, the U.S. Senate passed their version of the bill 61-37.  Next, a Conference Committee will meet to negotiate the two versions and hammer out a final bill (conference report) that will again have to be put up to a vote.

As part of the process, the Republicans have put forth a Motion to Instruct Conferees on H.R. 1 that instructs House conferees to withhold final approval of the conference report until the text has been made available to the public for 48 hours in an electronic, searchable, and downloadable form.

In other words, before the Committee approves the negotiated report and it’s sent to Congress for final passage, the Republicans would like it to be put to the public for their viewing. The American people deserve to know what’s going on with their hard-earned money and express their opinion on the final report. This shouldn’t be rushed through in the cover of night, and it’s the view of the Republicans that any and all House and Senate negotiations should be held in an open and public forum. President Obama and Speaker Pelosi have promised to run the most open and transparent government in history. The Republicans are trying to do just that.

PASSED 403-0

Published in: on February 10, 2009 at 8:33 pm  Comments (8)  

Wednesday, February 4: S. 352 – The DTV Delay Act

Last week, the House voted down S. 328, which would delay the Digital Television Transition until June 13, 2009.

This bill failed to secure a 2/3 majority vote which was required since it was being considered under suspension of the rules. It failed 258-168.

As a result, the Senate passed a second bill which pretty much does the same thing as the first. But this time around, the House will be able to pass it by a simple majority instead of the 2/3rds required last time.

Here’s what this bill does:

  • It postpones by about four months the date by which television stations must stop analog broadcasting and switch to digital broadcasting only. Under current law, TV stations must cease broadcasting in analog signals on February 17; the bill changes that date to June 12. It permits TV stations to halt analog broadcasting before June 12.

  • The main difference in this bill as opposed to last week’s bill is that it permits fire and police first responders to immediately take over the analog broadcast spectrum abandoned by TV stations that make the transition to digital broadcasting.

  • The bill also extends the period during which households can obtain coupons from the federal government to defray the cost of buying converter boxes that allow older analog television sets to receive digital signals, and permits households holding coupons that have expired to apply for new coupons.

  • President Obama has called for an extension of the deadline for ending analog TV broadcasts because nearly 3 million people are currently on a waiting list for the converter box coupons, but Republicans contend that an extension would cause confusion and impose additional costs on TV stations and first responders who have been planning for the February 17 transition to digital TV.

REPUBLICAN MOTION TO COMMIT S. 352:

The motion would commit S. 352, the DTV Delay Act, to the House Committee on Energy & Commerce with instructions that the committee report the bill back to the House floor forthwith (i.e. instantaneously) with an amendment to require broadcasters occupying spectrum dedicated for first responder use (764-806 MHz) to continue with the current February 17, 2009 transition deadline.

Here’s some background on this motion:

First responders were promised a dedicated line of spectrum for their use even before the problems experienced on September 11, 2001.  The 9/11 Commission endorsed legislation that would have cleared the spectrum for first responders by Dec. 31, 2006.  Congress finally set a “hard date” of February 17, 2009 over three years ago.  The Fraternal Order of Police opposes a delay.

FAILED 180-242

SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

ON FINAL PASSAGE OF S. 352 – THE DTV DELAY ACT:

PASSED 264-158

SEE ROLL CALL VOTE

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 6:03 pm  Leave a Comment