Congress Finishes Work for 2011

Congress Finishes Work for 2011

The House and Senate passed the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits quickly today, completing Congress’s work for 2011.  The bill also keeps Medicare reimbursements to doctors at the current rate instead of declining as they would have otherwise.  No offsetting cuts to NASA or NOAA were included.

The final week was chock full of political drama as House Republicans tried to force the Senate to negotiate a one-year extension before December 31, a route the Senate rejected for the short-term knowing that such negotiations will be complicated and time consuming.  Offsetting cuts will need to be found.  House Republicans did succeed in forcing Senate Democrats and the President to accept a requirement that the President agree to grant a permit for construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast within 60 days of the law’s enactment (today) unless he determines that such a permit is not in the national interest.

The agreement that passed Congress today and was immediately signed into law by President Obama does not affect funding for NASA or NOAA.   Last weekend the Senate rejected a House-passed resolution that would have imposed a 1.83 percent across-the-board rescission of FY2012 funding for those and many other government agencies, although the Department of Defense would have been exempted.

House and Senate negotiators are expected to begin work shortly after the New Year to find a way to extend the payroll tax cut and other provisions for the rest of 2012.   Where the offsetting cuts will come from is anyone’s guess at this point, so no federal agency can rest easy yet.

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