Congress Adjourns Surprisingly Productive Lame Duck Session
The House and Senate adjourned today after a surprisingly
productive lame duck legislative session.
With expectations low and a history of playing below even low
expectations, President Obama and Democrats in the Senate ignored the fringe of
their party and actually sought common ground with Republicans on critical
The tax deal was derided by a loud but small portion of
House Democrats and the current (but not future) Speaker. The bill was a compromise by both parties and
passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 81-19 vote in the Senate and an equally
impressive vote in the House of 277-148, with 139 Democrats joining 138 Republicans
to pass the bill.
The Federal funding for the rest of the year was a step
back from status quo and probably not exactly where we would have liked, but
again it was passed by an overwhelmingly bipartisan margin of 79-16 in the
Senate. The holiday spirit was not carried forward in the House where only 19
Republican members voted for the bill. The end of year cheer produced many
other smaller pieces of legislation that had been waiting for Congressional
approval like the 9/11 bill, the reauthorization of the Diesel Emissions
Reduction Act mentioned below and approval of the START treaty. We are still
not sure what this means for next year, but now the president has a taste for
winning through compromise.
Return to Top
House Will Schedule Early January Vote on Health Care Repeal
In an effort to move quickly on what Republicans felt helped
fuel their rise to the majority in the 112th Congress, the House
will have a vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
(PPACA also known by some as Obamacare) before the President delivers his State
of the Union address on January 25. The vote could come as early as
the first or second week of January. AGC of America opposed the Patient
Protection and Affordable Care Act because it did not do enough to expand
availability and control costs, so AGC will be supporting the repeal efforts in
AGC will be working to develop broad based support for the
repeal effort. This may include online petitions, advertising and communication
with all members of the House. AGC will launch a grassroots push the first
week of January. We will also begin
assembling personal stories on how the PPACA (or Obamacare) are impacting businesses.
For instance, in some cases companies have reported facing double digit cost
increases for 2012 based partly on new mandates, but also based on the
uncertainty over the regulatory process that will fill in some of the gaps left
in the bill Congress enacted this year.
If you have any personal stories about how the health care bill is
changing the marketplace, please forward them to Jeff Shoaf at email@example.com.Return to Top
Senate Reaches Agreement on AGC-Supported Measure to Limit Liability of Contractors Working at Ground Zero
The Senate, in one of the last items they deal with this
year, approved the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. This
bill would provide health benefits for 9/11 workers and also includes language
that would limit the liability of the contractors that worked at the site of
the terrorist attack in New York City.
These contractors responded in the immediate aftermath of
the collapse of the Twin Towers and continued their work for over a month
without contracts while at the direction of federal, state and city
officials. These contractors continue to face an enormous amount of
liability from lawsuits from those who developed health problems in the
aftermath of the attacks.
The Senate attempted to move the bill forward earlier this
month and failed. The final deal included reducing the costs of the bill
to $4.2 billion ($1.5 billion will go
to health benefits, while $2.7 billion will go to compensation), down by $7.5
billion from the House-passed bill.The compromise does not allow new claims after five years, limits the
amount of money that can go to attorneys’ fees, prevents future lawsuits and
requires thorough federal oversight of fund management.
Congress this week passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) to
fund the government until March 4 and President Obama promptly signed the bill.
The CR was necessary because Congress failed to pass any of the 12
appropriation bills this year, and the government has been running on a series
of short-term funding resolutions since Oct. 1.
Senate Democrats tried to pass an omnibus appropriations
measure that included all 12 spending bills for 2011 but failed to persuade
Republicans to go along after conservatives complained about $8 billion in
earmarks contained in the bill, the increases in personnel to implement health
care and financial regulation reform measures passed this year, as well as overall
funding levels. Republicans want an opportunity to cut 2011 discretionary
program funding by as much as 20 percent -- bringing spending down to 2008
levels. The short term CR creates the opportunity for the new Congress to
address spending levels when it convenes in January.
Included in the CR is funding for federal construction
programs and an extension of highway and transit program authorization to March
4. The highway and transit programs have been operating under a series of short
term authorizations since SAFETEA-LU expired on September 30, 2009. These
programs are also funded in the CR at FY 2010 levels.
AGC and our transportation and construction industry allies
have been pressing Congress to approve the highway and transit authorization
through September 30, 2011, to provide states with certainty in funding through
the end of the fiscal year and to allow the new Congress time to address a
multiyear transportation authorization measure.
In separate legislation, the programs and funding for the
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was approved through March 31. FAA also has
been operating under a series of short term authorizations since its
authorization legislation expired at the end of FY 2007.
In other lame duck action, Congress gave final approval to
legislation reauthorizing the Diesel Emission Reduction Act of 2010 (DERA),
which established a voluntary national and state-level grant and loan program
for retrofitting diesel equipment.
AGC has been working through a broad coalition effort in
support of the bill. The five-year authorization provides $100 million in grant
funding for diesel retrofits, which is a 50 percent reduction from the funding
provided over the past five years. The bill makes two significant changes
advocated by AGC that will make the grants more available to construction
contractors. First the bill eliminates a requirement that 50 percent of the
funds be made eligible only for public sector vehicles. The second change
allows individual companies to apply directly for the grants rather than
through a third party non-profit organization. Other changes in the program
will streamline the application process and provide more transparency.
President Obama is expected to sign the measure.
To ensure delivery of AGC’s Construction Legislative Week in Review, please add 'firstname.lastname@example.org' to your email address book or Safe Sender List. If you are still having problems receiving our communications, visit our white-listing page for more details.