Senate Legislative Progress Stymied by Political Gamesmanship

Washington, DC, 6 June 2011 – Legislative activity on budget and appropriations issues slows to a crawl this week as the House and Senate alternatively leave for recess and return from recess.

While the Senate is the body back in Washington this week, the body has no budget or appropriations work scheduled, although symbolic floor votes on budget issues may be possible.

Of interest to the WIC community, as it relates to the overall jobs picture and how legislative progress is stymied by political gamesmanship, the Senate has plans this week to take up S-782, legislation to reauthorize the Economic Development Administration, an agency within the U.S. Commerce Department providing aid to economically distressed communities in an effort to stimulate business activity, economic growth, and as a result helping to create new jobs.

The bill will likely become a vehicle for debate over how to bolster the overall national economy and create jobs. Last week news offered a disappointing jobs report indicating the creation of only 54,000 jobs in May, much lower than economists had predicted. At the same time, the nation’s unemployment rate increased to 9.1 percent. Part of that debate will likely involve consideration of the budget, spending and tax issues, which both parties consider directly related to economic growth and job creation.

The outcome of this legislation could reflect the challenges of a small-business bill taken up earlier this year by the Senate that similarly became a vehicle for consideration of unrelated issues, including budget issues, and a resulting dispute over allowable amendments that ultimately sunk the measure.

The bill, S-493, to reauthorize small-business research programs, broadly supported by both parties, languished on the Senate floor for nearly a month and a half. During that time, Senators took up votes on a wide range of other issues as diverse as amendments to block or delay the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act; bar millionaires from receiving unemployment benefits; and require Office of Management and Budget to identify and consolidate duplicative federal programs. Senate Democratic leaders pulled the bill in early May after being unable to reach an agreement on what additional unrelated amendments would be considered and after a vote to invoke cloture and thereby limit amendments fell short.

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