|Economic Stimulus Package||Key Differences in the House and Senate stimulus bills||President Signs Children's Health Insurance Expansion|
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Budget Process: Step-by-Step
Track 1- Economic Stimulus (Jan/Feb):
- Wed, Jan 28: House passed its version of economic stimulus bill by a vote of 244-188
- Mon, Feb 9, 5:30pm: Senate votes on revised stimulus bill, reflecting a compromise with three moderate Senate Republicans
- Mon, 8pm: President Obama's first press conference, likely to focus on stimulus bill
- Tues, Feb 10 at Noon: Assuming Monday's cloture motion gets 60 votes, the Senate will vote on passage of the bill itself at Noon, Tuesday.
- Tuesday, and remainder of week: House-Senate conference committee to negotiate final stimulus bill
- Friday: Target date for final vote on compromise measure
Track 2 - Completion of '09 Appropriations (Jan/Feb):
- This week: House may consider FY '09 omnibus appropriations bill
- March 6: Funding for much of the Federal Government expires under the terms of the current continuing resolution (see article below)
Track 3 - FY 2010 Budget:
- President is normally required to transmit the FY 2010 budget to Congress by the first Monday in February, however, this being a presidential transition year, President Obama will likely transmit a budget outline in March
- Late March/April: Markup of FY 2010 Congressional Budget Resolution
- April/May: Floor action and House-Senate conference on Budget Resolution
- May-Sept: Action on FY 2010 appropriations bills, and a Budget Reconciliation Bill (if called for by the Budget Resolution)
Track 4 - Stabilizing the Financial, Housing, and Auto Sectors (Ongoing)
- Later this week: Treasury likely to release a new plan for expenditure of the remaining TARP funds
- The House on Jan. 21 passed a bill introduced by Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank to require that a portion of the remaining $350 billion tranche of the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief Program) be used for foreclosure mitigation
Economic Stimulus Package
Reason: Passage of the stimulus bill in the Senate effectively requires a supermajority of 60 votes due to a threatened filibuster by Republicans. (Bill opponents can prevent a vote on the measure by engaging in prolonged debate--known as a filibuster. 60 votes are required in the Senate to shut down a filibuster.)
60 votes are also required in the Senate to overcome objections that the bill violates last year's congressional budget resolution by breaching spending and revenue levels.
Democrats currently have 56 seats in the Senate, plus the presumed support of Independents Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). A 59th vote from Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is not yet available due to the ongoing court litigation regarding last November's vote count.
Democrats therefore need two votes to reach the needed 60, and possibly three votes depending on the health of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
Late last Friday, Senate moderates announced an amendment that would cut $108 billion from the original Senate bill to secure the support of Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) of Maine, and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
In general, the modification cuts $83 billion in spending including funds for school construction, $7 billion in health care provisions (including COBRA subsidies and Health Technology), and $18 billion from the tax cut package.
After Senate moderates announced their agreement last Friday, House and Senate Republican leadership remained skeptical. According to Congress Daily, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said "most of us are deeply skeptical this will work...."
Key Differences in the House and Senate stimulus bills
Assuming the Senate gets 60 votes to pass the compromise bill (discussed above), big issues that will remain for the House-Senate conference committee this week:
President Signs Children's Health Insurance Expansion
President Obama signed into law last week HR 2, a bill to reauthorize and expand SCHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program). SCHIP was first enacted in 1997 for a 10-year period and has been operating under temporary extensions.
The primary objective of SCHIP is to expand health coverage for children in families who incomes are low but somewhat higher than Medicaid's tight income eligibility limits. (Medicaid covers about 28 million children and SCHIP covers about 7 million children during the course of a year.)
SCHIP is not an entitlement program. Rather, it is a Federal grant program that allots available funds among the States, based on their number of low-income uninsured children. The program was funded during its first 10 years at roughly $5 billion per year. States administer the program within Federal guidelines.
The enacted legislation will increase SCHIP spending by about $32 billion over 5 years, which is paid for by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes from 39 cents/pack to $1/pack.
Unlike the economic stimulus bill which will not paid for (because of an "emergency" designation), the SCHIP expansion is paid for as required by congressional PAYGO rules.
The new law, which reauthorizes the SCHIP program through 2013:
- provides additional funds to allow States to maintain current caseloads despite rising health care costs;
- provides funds to cover an additional 4 million children by 2013;
- provides performance bonus payments to states for enrollment and retention efforts;
- provides funding for outreach grants;
- improves access to mental health and dental benefits; and
- allows states to cover children of legal immigrants.