Lame-duck Congress's first task: avoid a government shutdown
Funding for fiscal year 2011 is set to run out Dec. 3. Will emboldened Republicans be willing to shut down government rather than pass a trillion-dollar budget that expands the deficit?
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Republicans say they are also prepared to go toe to toe with the White House over Bush-era tax cuts, now set to expire at midnight Dec. 31. The president has called on extending all the tax cuts except those to individuals earning more than $200,000 a year or couples earning more than $250,000.Skip to next paragraph
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House and Senate Democratic leaders said last week that they would bring this plan to the floor after Thanksgiving. But it has little chance of passing the Senate.
Senate Republicans, to a member, say it’s wrong to raise taxes on anybody in a recession. Several moderate Democrats have publicly joined them. McConnell is proposing legislation to permanently extend these tax cut, at an expected cost of $4 trillion over a decade. That, too, has little chance of passing the Senate.
Will 'don't ask, don't tell' be repealed?
They also hope to pass a defense authorization bill that includes repeal of a controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits the military service of openly gay men and women. In response to pressure from the White House, the Pentagon is releasing early its report on reaction to proposed changes in the policy by military men and women.
Democrats expect strong opposition from Republicans on both issues. “I’m afraid Republicans are not going to make anything easy for us in the last days of the session,” says Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
Even with control of both the House and Senate, Democrats failed to produce a budget document for fiscal year 2011 that could win support in both bodies. Budget analysts say that could be even more challenging in the new fiscal year.
“There’s going to be at least as much trouble to get a budget resolution through this year,” says Stan Collender, a budget expert at Qorvis Communications. “You’re asking members to vote for a very, very high deficit for the new year, and many of them just won’t do it.”
“You can cut spending, but are you actually going to reduce the size of government?” he adds. “Interest on the debt goes up depending on interest rates, Medicare spending is dependent on the number of people eligible for the programs,” he adds. “Reducing what you spend doesn’t mean that government will stop doing things.”