Legislative Update

I hate to sound like a broken record having to again report to you that federal government is stuck in place until final decisions are made on raising the debt limit. The rhetoric on all sides of the issue has been thick, harsh and disconcerting. At times it has been confusing trying to distinguish what the key points of contention are and where the battle lines are being drawn.

President Obama appears to be sparring with Speaker John Boehner one day, Minority Senate Leader Mitch McConnell another day, and then House Majority Leader Eric Cantor the next. Even more bizarre are the battles between the Republicans themselves. Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor are not on the same page and appear to disagree with what can and cannot pass the House. Senate Minority Leader McConnell appears to realize the horrible results to the faith and credit of the United States if the debt limit isn’t raised, but he is attempting to broker a deal that he says will make it more difficult for President Obama to get reelected if passed.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and President Obama abruptly ended one of the White House negotiating sessions. They conflicted over providing a short-term increase in the debt limit, which President Obama ruled out. Majority Leader Cantor argued that a short-term increase is needed because Democrats are split on the levels of cuts needed for raising the debt ceiling – with the White House supporting $1.7 billion and Senate Democrats backing $1.4 billion. Republicans say any cuts should match the size of the borrowing, which is at least $2.4 billion. President Obama after being asked repeatedly about the short-term increase as the session ended, left the meeting. Democratic aides suggested talk of a walkout is “completely overblown” and alleged Cantor  interrupted President Obama.

Meanwhile a group of House Conservatives is increasingly proving to be a sticking point in reaching a deal. Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the 175-member Republican Study Committee is leading a group of 36 Republicans adamantly opposed to raising the debt limit unless Congress caps federal spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product, and requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber to increase taxes. While the group’s plan has little chance of passing, some concessions may have to be made to House conservatives if their votes are needed to pass the debt ceiling deal.

I’ve spoken in my earlier article about the Energy and Water Appropriations vote and the defeat of the Tonko/Bass amendment. We will be actively working the Senate to correct some of the damage done by that vote. The House will be marking up legislation affecting CSBG in one to two weeks and we are bracing for some difficulties with that vote as well. We will be sending out alerts and calls to action as the legislation proceeds. Please assist as much as you can as we attempt to support the viability and mission of CSBG.

by Arley Johnson