Posts Tagged: Congress

FAA Cleared for Takeoff

The U.S. Senate is expected to approve a bill this morning written by the House that will resume operations at the Federal Aviation Administration — at least until Sep. 16, reports the New York Times’ Edward Wyatt. At issue in the FAA’s shutdown is a Congressional dispute over whether the agency should give subsidies so rural airports get commercial airline service. The broader issue is Congress’s astonishing indifference about a functioning federal agency. (more…)

No extra help now for unemployed

The U.S. House of Representatives has rejected an extension of unemployment benefits beyond their Nov. 30 expiration date — stopping benefits for 800,000 workers, report the Wall Street Journal’s Janet Hook and Martin Vaughan. The Journal suggests that Congress may yet compromise on unemployment benefits — GOP leaders want the $12 billion cost offset with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. However, if no agreement is reached, 2 million additional people will lose benefits in December. The lack of an extension hits Illinois especially hard: the state continues to have an unemployment rate above the national average.

So the irrationality of lawmaking has once again prevented the federal government from being a positive force. (more…)

Will fiscal hawks devour unemployment benefits?

The U.S. Dept. of Labor estimates that 124,000 people in Illinois, 2 million nationally, would be impacted by Congress not passing an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The benefits expire Nov. 30. Yet as Sean F. Driscoll of the Rockford Register Star reports, there is a very good chance that the lame duck Congress will not get around to this.

Driscoll contextualizes how remarkable it would be if benefits were not extended. (more…)

Medicaid relief for states like Illinois may come soon

Pat Quinn

In a major breakthrough yesterday, the Senate overcame a filibuster on a bill to provide $26.1 billion in Medicaid and education assistance to state governments.  The House is now expected to return from its August recess to pass the legislation, and President Obama should sign the bill before the 2010-11 school year begins — averting some teacher layoffs. The money will help Illinois, (more…)

Congress kills TARP…long live TARP

In order to pay for financial regulatory reform, Congress transferred what funds remain from the Troubled Asset Relief Program a/k/a TARP (a/k/a the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street marked by its unpopularity — and success in stabilizing the financial market). Paul Merrion of Crain’s Chicago Business reports that this is unlikely to affect banks that have applied for TARP money, such as Chicago’s ShoreBank. (more…)


Andrew von Eschenbach, the last Bush administration Food and Drug Agency Commissioner, and four New Jersey members of Congress inappropriately pressured FDA scientists to approve a patch for injured knees back in December, reports the New York Times’ Gardiner Harris and David M. Halfbinger. Here’s the good news: the FDA internally blew the whistle on this and is pulling the knee patch off the market. The Times reports that FDA has “never before publicly questioned the process behind one of its approvals, never admitted that a regulatory decision was influenced by politics, and never accused a former commissioner of questionable conduct.” FDA has also let the Institute of Medicine review the entire process by which it approve medical devices.

In other words, the Obama FDA is correcting problems that took place in the Bush FDA. The Times piece focuses most on the quid pro-quo of the N.J. lawmakers who got money from ReGen Biologics and then pushed FDA to approve ReGen’s knee-patch. But the most unsettling and mysterious part is why Andrew von Eschenbach — in the twilight of his beleaguered tenure — pushed for approval. Ten months after the Bush administration, here is another example of a Bush federal agency head acting against the very mission of his agency.


The House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that re-establishes pay-go rules, reports the Associated Press. For those uninitiated with lawmaker’s periodic zest for pay-go legislation, it means that every tax cut or spending increase must be counter-balanced by an equal spending cut or tax increase. In other words, the idea is to promote a balanced federal budget. But the federal deficit is now $1.8 trillion and even if this pay-go bill becomes law the debt should only get larger in the next few years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Plus entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare) and a re-authorization of the George W. Bush tax cuts for the rich are exempt from pay-go.

Pay-go isn’t necessarily ineffectual legislation but it underscores how much easier the federal government has it than state governments. Members of Congress have the luxury of mulling over whether they want to do something about the gap between how much revenue they get and how much they spend. State governments meanwhile must pass a balanced budget each year even during a great recession and extreme revenue shortfalls. California is ripped (and justifiably) for a $27 billion budget deficit. But that’s 1.5 percent of how much the federal debt is.-MB