|Economic Stimulus Package||Key Differences in the House and Senate stimulus bills||President Signs Children's Health Insurance Expansion|
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Track 1- Economic Stimulus (Jan/Feb):
Track 2 - Completion of '09 Appropriations (Jan/Feb):
Track 3 - FY 2010 Budget:
Track 4 - Stabilizing the Financial, Housing, and Auto Sectors (Ongoing)
Reason: Passage of the stimulus bill in the Senate effectively requires a supermajority of 60 votes due to a threatened filibuster by Republicans. (Bill opponents can prevent a vote on the measure by engaging in prolonged debate--known as a filibuster. 60 votes are required in the Senate to shut down a filibuster.)
60 votes are also required in the Senate to overcome objections that the bill violates last year's congressional budget resolution by breaching spending and revenue levels.
Democrats currently have 56 seats in the Senate, plus the presumed support of Independents Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). A 59th vote from Minnesota Democrat Al Franken is not yet available due to the ongoing court litigation regarding last November's vote count.
Democrats therefore need two votes to reach the needed 60, and possibly three votes depending on the health of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA).
Late last Friday, Senate moderates announced an amendment that would cut $108 billion from the original Senate bill to secure the support of Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) of Maine, and Arlen Specter (R-PA).
In general, the modification cuts $83 billion in spending including funds for school construction, $7 billion in health care provisions (including COBRA subsidies and Health Technology), and $18 billion from the tax cut package.
After Senate moderates announced their agreement last Friday, House and Senate Republican leadership remained skeptical. According to Congress Daily, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said "most of us are deeply skeptical this will work...."
President Obama signed into law last week HR 2, a bill to reauthorize and expand SCHIP (the State Children's Health Insurance Program). SCHIP was first enacted in 1997 for a 10-year period and has been operating under temporary extensions.
The primary objective of SCHIP is to expand health coverage for children in families who incomes are low but somewhat higher than Medicaid's tight income eligibility limits. (Medicaid covers about 28 million children and SCHIP covers about 7 million children during the course of a year.)
SCHIP is not an entitlement program. Rather, it is a Federal grant program that allots available funds among the States, based on their number of low-income uninsured children. The program was funded during its first 10 years at roughly $5 billion per year. States administer the program within Federal guidelines.
The enacted legislation will increase SCHIP spending by about $32 billion over 5 years, which is paid for by increasing the federal excise tax on cigarettes from 39 cents/pack to $1/pack.
Unlike the economic stimulus bill which will not paid for (because of an "emergency" designation), the SCHIP expansion is paid for as required by congressional PAYGO rules.
The new law, which reauthorizes the SCHIP program through 2013: