Congress Faces Crowded Legislative Schedule in Few Remaining Weeks
With just three to four legislative weeks left in Congress
before the November 2 election, a number of outstanding issues remain. It is
unlikely that both chambers will pass a bill that has created one of the
biggest and most partisan debates leading up to this election: a package
addressing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which expire in December. The debate has
centered on extending the tax cuts for all but the wealthiest 2 percent of
households, or for everybody.
Congress will likely fail to pass the FY11 appropriations bills
before October 1, resulting in a must-pass continuing resolution extending
federal spending at current levels. Other major legislative items on the
Democratic leadership’s list include a defense authorization bill (on which the Senate will vote on Tuesday); a
reauthorization of the FAA programs that expire at the end of September; and a food safety bill. If the Senate invokes cloture on the defense authorization on Tuesday, it will open the bill up to two items Democrats want to deliver before the elections: the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and the DREAM Act, which would allow a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought into this country as minors by their parents if these illegal immigrants are paying taxes, attending college or serving in the U.S. military. Items with little chance of
passage or debate include card check, climate change, comprehensive immigration reform and telecommunications.
AGC has been urging Congress and the White House to finish
work on long-term transportation and water infrastructure spending bills, and
keep income tax rates (especially the death tax) from soaring to help construction industry employment
recover from millions of lost jobs. AGC believes the stopgap funding for
transportation isn’t providing the certainty companies need for hiring and
growing. In addition, the prospect of a leap in taxes is deterring private
In early October, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and
Pension Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the AGC-opposed Miner Safety
and Health Act. This bill would make significant changes to both MSHA and
OSHA. AGC is a strong advocate of worker safety but is concerned about the
direction of the bill. The legislation turns the clock back on well over 10
years of progress in improved workplace safety, which has lead to a nearly 50
percent reduction in the construction fatality rate, by creating a more
adversarial relationship between employers and OSHA.
The bill does nothing to help facilitate worker safety on
a site or help businesses, especially small businesses, improve worksite safety.
Instead, it focuses solely on introducing vague new standards for criminal
liability and imposes complicated and costly procedures for adjudicating
whistleblower cases. This legislation is ultimately a punitive measure, and
does not promote injury prevention. This approach fails to take into account
the construction industry's successful accident prevention strategies that have
resulted in reducing workplace injury, illness and fatality rates through the
successful efforts of business and government working together. Instead it will
hamper continued construction industry safety improvements through increased
litigation and discouragement of cooperative relationships.
In July the House Education and Labor Committee passed
the AGC opposed Miner Safety and Health Act. Thanks to efforts here in
Washington, D.C., and more importantly from grassroots efforts nationwide, this
bill has not yet been considered by the full House. Please use AGC’s Legislative Action Center
to write your Senators and relay your concerns with this legislation.
Obama’s Infrastructure Proposal Unlikely to Move Before Mid-term Elections
The status of President Obama’s $50
billion infrastructure plan that was announced on Labor Day still remains unclear.
While Congress has returned from their August recess, no decisions have been made
on if or when they would consider moving additional funding for infrastructure
as proposed by the president.
AGC met with several Members of Congress and their staff,
and it appears unlikely that they will make any decisions before the mid-term
elections on November 2.
AGC will continue to monitor and report on any new
developments from Congress or the Administration.
Vote to Repeal New 1099 Reporting Requirements Fails
On September 14, the Senate rejected the Johanns Amendment to the Small Business
Credit and Jobs Act that would have repealed the new Form 1099 reporting
requirement enacted in the healthcare bill earlier this year. The vote on the
procedural motion was 46 to 52.
AGC urged Senators to support the Johanns Amendment and may include how
Senators voted in AGC’s Legislative Scorecard. To see a copy of AGC’s Key Vote
here. To see how your Senator voted, click
The Senate also rejected the Bill Nelson Amendment that offered an
alternative to the Johanns Amendment by a vote of 56 to 42. The Nelson Amendment
would have exempted small businesses under 25 employees from the 1099 reporting
requirement and would have increased the reporting threshold from $600 to $5,000
a year. AGC and the business community urged Senators to oppose the Nelson
Amendment as it would not have provided full relief from the reporting
requirement and was overly complex.
Although there are few legislative days left before the end of the year,
Congress may try and pass repeal again. AGC will continue to monitor the debate
and will post calls to action here.
Finally, thank you to all the AGC members who heeded the call and contacted
their Members of Congress.
Tuesday’s primaries delivered more surprises,
particularly in Delaware, where so-called “Tea Party” candidate Christine
O’Donnell defeated Rep. Mike Castle in the Republican Senatorial primary.
Castle was expected to be the winner of the nomination and, ultimately, the
seat; however the polls quickly turned to a toss-up between O’Donnell and
Democrat Chris Coons after O’Donnell won the nomination. Her unexpected
Tea Party victory is shared with Rand Paul in Kentucky, Joe Miller in
Alaska, and Sharon Angle in Nevada (among others).
NUMBER OF COMPETITIVE RACES*
Defending Seats: 79
Defending Seats: 12
Defending Seats: 6
*Competitive races are those the Cook Political
Report has defined as “Lean” or “Toss Up”
In New Hampshire, former state Attorney General Kelly
Ayotte (R) barely beat out Tea Party candidate Ovide Lamontagne. Ayotte
declared victory by only 1,600 votes. Reid Ribble, a roofer by trade, was
pronounced the winner of Wisconsin’s 8th district Republican
Primary. Ribble won his four way primary and will face Rep. Steve Kagen
(D) in November.
Construction business owner Richard Hanna (R) in New York
won his primary and will challenge Rep. Michael Arcuri (D). Hanna lost to
Arcuri in 2006 by a very narrow margin and could possibly win the seat this
time. Tom Reed and Chris Gibson, both Republicans and financially backed by AGC
PAC, won their primaries. Andy Harris (R) in Maryland will once again run
for Representative in the 1st district.
Thank you to everyone who helped AGC PAC deliver all
primary checks before Tuesday. Hawaii’s primary – the last official primary of
the season – takes place Saturday, and Louisiana will hold its run off race on
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