Congress and the Administration continued heated debate on the parameters of a deficit reduction agreement during the week of June 27, causing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to cancel the Senate’s July 4 recess.
After June 23, when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) dropped out of the bipartisan negotiations on deficit reduction led by Vice President Joseph Biden, the negotiations were taken up by President Barack Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (see Memo, 6/24). The Administration originally hoped to conclude the negotiations by July 4. However, with Republicans backing out of the Vice President’s negotiations, talks will continue as the August 2 debt ceiling deadline nears.
In a speech on June 29, the President criticized Republicans for refusing to discuss revenue as part of a deficit reduction plan. President Obama said that it is not appropriate for Republicans to refuse to close corporate loopholes and tax provisions that benefit the wealthiest Americans, while at the same time proposing to cut programs that assist moderate and low income households.
Senator McConnell held a press conference simultaneously with the President’s speech in which he promoted a balanced budget amendment as a solution to deficit reduction. His resolution, S.J. Res. 23, was introduced on June 29. Earlier this year, Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT) introduced S.J. Res. 10, another resolution supporting a balanced budget through an amendment to the constitution. The House Committee on the Judiciary has already passed a balanced budget amendment which is expected to be debated on the House floor in late July (see Memo, 6/17). The Senate also voted in March in favor of an amendment expressing the Senate’s support for a balanced budget amendment.
Meanwhile, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed the FY12 Military, Construction and Veterans Affairs (MilCon-VA) bill, despite not yet having a subcommittee spending allocation from the Senate Committee on the Budget. Committee on the Budget Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) said in a statement that Democratic Committee members have come to agreement on the framework for a budget resolution and that the Committee may mark up a resolution in the coming weeks. Committee on Appropriations Chair Daniel Inouye (D-HI) decided to proceed with the first of the Senate’s 12 appropriations bills instead of waiting for a Senate budget resolution.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations included funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) portion of the HUD Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (VASH) program. HUD requested $75 million for new HUD VASH vouchers for FY11 and received only $50 million in the final continuing resolution that provided FY11 funding. HUD has again requested $75 million for new HUD VASH vouchers in FY12.
The first HUD appropriations votes of the year are scheduled to start in July. The House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) is scheduled to mark up its FY12 T-HUD bill on July 14. The full Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to mark up the bill on July 26.
The mark up will come just prior to Congress’s August 2 deadline for
taking action on the debt ceiling in order to avoid the nation
defaulting on its loans. While the House Committee on Appropriations may
pass a T-HUD bill in July, deficit reduction and debt ceiling
negotiations may further impact Congress’s resources to fund HUD
programs in FY12.