Legislative efforts on two separate fronts – addressing deficit reduction and
the annual appropriations process – are facing deadlines that are intended to
force congressional action in the very near future.
Deficit Reduction TalksNovember 23 is the deadline by
which the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is charged with voting on
recommendations to achieve at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, although
an agreement is needed much sooner to allow time for the Congressional Budget
Office (CBO) to score the legislation. The Joint Select Committee has held two
recent hearings and has held numerous negotiating sessions over the past seven
weeks, but members have not yet reached an agreement – largely because of
disputes over whether new revenues should be included in the recommendations.
In recent days, Senate and House leaders have been meeting with committee
members in an effort to move the negotiations forward. The next ten days are
likely to be a critical period in determining the outcome of the Joint Select
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of 100 House members – 60 Democrats and
40 Republicans – addressed a letter to the leaders of the Joint Select Committee,
suggesting that $4 trillion in deficit reduction is needed to stabilize the
nation’s debt. Their letter stated: “To succeed, all options for mandatory and
discretionary spending and revenues must be on the table. In addition, we know
from other bipartisan frameworks that a target of some $4 trillion in deficit
reduction is necessary to stabilize our debt as a share of the economy and
assure America’s fiscal well-being.”
Another recent letter, signed by 33 Senate Republicans, calls for
“comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates and promotes economic growth, with
no net tax increase” and also emphasizes the need to “place entitlements on a
path to fiscal solvency.”
Appropriations ProcessNovember 18 is the deadline by
which Congress must either finalize appropriations for fiscal year 2012 (which
began on October 1) or pass another “continuing resolution” to provide temporary
funding for federal agencies and programs.
As a first step toward finalizing appropriations for FY 2012, a conference
committee currently is working to negotiate a final version of legislation, H.R.
2112, which contains the text of three separate spending bills: the
Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act;
the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act; and the
Commerce, Justice, and State Department Appropriations Act. This bill, which
has been labeled a “minibus” spending bill, was approved by the Senate earlier
this week by a vote of 69 to 30.
The nine remaining appropriations bills – including the Labor-HHS-Education
Appropriations Act – will see congressional action in the coming weeks, possibly
in the form of additional “minibus” spending bills. The pace of congressional
action on these bills will be a significant factor in determining when Congress
concludes its 2011 session.
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