Monday, January 08, 2007

Legislative Update - January 8, 2007

Source: The ASCA Legislative Update
A weekly report of public policy issues in American Education from the
American School Counselor Association
January 8, 2007
Executive Summary:

Budget and Appropriations Update
110th Congress Pursues Ambitious Agenda and Announces Changes
Obey Set to Restructure House Appropriations Committee
In Brief
New Publications
In the News

1.    Budget and Appropriations Update

Capitol Hill eased back into action this week following the holiday recess. Tuesday was a quiet
one in Washington, an official day of mourning for former President Gerald R. Ford.
Wednesday was a day of preparation for the festivities that surround the swearing in of a new
Congress. Thursday, January 4th, marked the convening of the 110th Congress—a day of parties,
pageantry, celebration and the introduction of the bills that will be the first focus of activity.
Before the day was done, the House of Representatives, under the leadership of new Speaker
Pelosi (D-CA), had approved a lobby reform bill, fulfilling a campaign promise that had helped
put Democrats in the congressional driver’s seat. It also marked the possible end of bi-partisan
comity in the chamber as Republicans complained about their lack of involvement in crafting the
legislation and inability to offer amendments; Democrats complained about all the whining.
Sound familiar?

Speaker Pelosi has announced a schedule for consideration of several other bills, including a
proposal to significantly reduce student loan interest rates that she hopes will be adopted before
the President’s State of the Union Address in late January. It is an ambitious plan and one that
the Senate does not seem very interested in replicating. Though the issues on the table—among
them a minimum wage increase, immigration reform, energy independence and college
affordability—are similar, the Senate intends to move at its usual pace, holding hearings and
negotiating between parties. It is safe to assume that several months will pass before this bicameral
Democratic agenda will move through the 110th Congress.

A legislative priority that will be acted upon more quickly is completion of the Fiscal Year 2007
budget for the government. Before the recess, incoming Appropriations Committee Chairmen
Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Congressman David Obey (D-WI) announced their intention
to extend the continuing resolution set to expire on February 15th throughout the year. That still
appears to be the plan but it is a far more complicated solution than meets the eye. At a rally
held this week with a broad coalition of interested organizations and new Subcommittee on
Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Senator
announced optimism about filling the “$5 billion gap in funding” that he and Ranking Member
Arlen Specter (R-PA) have been working hard to find to avoid any cuts in spending. He urged
attendees to continue to push the Senate, and particularly, House Members for that plus the
additional $2 billion that would provide important funding for critical programs. The target date
for consideration of the long term CR is January 20th, but many believe mid-February is a more
realistic timetable.

Senator Harkin, much to the excitement of the advocates attending the rally, also spoke of his
plan to ask Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) for a substantial increase in the
allocation for the LHHS and ED Subcommittee for FY 2008. He acknowledged the challenges
he faces but groups were encouraged by the boldness of his vision for increasing the federal
investment in domestic priorities including education, healthcare and the workforce.

2.     110th Congress Pursues Ambitious Agenda and Announces Changes

As has been covered far and wide by the media, this week the Democratically-controlled 110th
Congress was sworn in and immediately turned to its priorities. In both the House and Senate,
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), respectively, unveiled a
number of measures that address the Democratic priorities for the 110th Congress. Lobbying and
ethics reform, the minimum wage, student loan interest rates, and recommendations of the 9-11
Commission are high on the priority list. While House Democrats intend to act on each of these
measures during the first 100 legislative hours of the 110th Congress, the Senate’s intended
schedule is much more fluid.

Already, the House has approved a “fiscal responsibility” measure by a vote of 280-152 that
aims to hinder the proliferation of earmarks and will reinstate “pay as you go” budgeting rules.
Republicans were generally supportive of the portion of the measure that requires members to
make public their support for a “project” (aka “earmark”), as well as to submit written
justifications and declare that neither they nor any member of their families would personally
benefit. The “pay as you go” provision—also referred to as “pay-go”—requires any additions to
entitlement programs or new tax cuts to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases. There have
been concessions from democrats that this stipulation could block some of their more costly
proposals, in particular a proposed change to Medicare prescription drug coverage that is
estimated to cost $400 billion over the next ten years. In addition, the repealing of the alternative
minimum tax, a move supported on both sides of the aisle, could cost up to $600 billion over that
same period. It should be noted, however that since pay-go is a House rule—and does not carry
the weight of enacted law—it can be waived with a supermajority vote.

The rush to action has already ruffled Republican feathers. House leadership has revealed that
these initial efforts will bypass the hearing and committee consideration process—a move that
has senior Republicans already lodging complaints against their Democratic colleagues. In fact,
Representative Buck McKeon (R-CA), who is now the Ranking Member of the panel that has
been renamed that House Committee on Education and Labor, wrote to Committee Chairman
George Miller (D-CA) expressing his dismay at this decision and requesting that these efforts be
considered by the committee, in particular those affecting minimum wage and student loan
interest rates.

While it seems that Representative McKeon’s request will not be honored, a number of other
machinations have taken place on the panel that oversees education policy. Not only has the full
committee returned to its moniker of the days when it was chaired by a Democrat, but
Representative Dale Kildee (D-MI) has been asked to chair the subcommittee responsible for the
reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. Representative Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) will
oversee the subcommittee responsible for postsecondary education policy. Each of these
subcommittees is expected to revert to names of years past as well.

3.     Obey Set to Restructure House Appropriations Committee

This week, incoming Senate and House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Robert Byrd (D-WV)
and David Obey (D-WI), announced the new structure of the Committee for the 110th
Congress, including subcommittee chairmen.

On the House side, Representative Obey plans to expand the number of subcommittees from 10
to 12, creating a new Financial Services subcommittee with a broad legislative jurisdiction and
restoring the old Legislative Branch as a separate subcommittee. The new Financial Services
subcommittee will gain jurisdiction mostly from the Transportation-Treasury and Science-State-
Justice subcommittees. The remaining subcommittee structures would be realigned to match up
with those of the Senate. For example, the former Transportation-Treasury Housing
subcommittee, will become simply the Transportation-Housing Subcommittee and the House
State-Science-Justice-Commerce Subcommittee will be renamed the Commerce- Justice -
Science Subcommittee to correspond with the Senate. The Commerce-Justice-Science
Subcommittee will have jurisdiction over National Aeronautics and Space Administration,
National Science Foundation and the Office of Science and Technology.

Obey has also decided to move the Treasury Department, Postal Service, General Services
Administration, Executive Office of the President, Office of Personnel Management and other
more general government-related agencies into the new Financial Services subcommittee, which
formerly existed in the Transportation-Treasury subcommittee.

Funding for the federal judiciary and for the nation's capital which filled out last year’s
Transportation-Treasury subcommittee, as well as jurisdiction over the Small Business
Administration and regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Committee, the
Federal Communications Committee and the Federal Trade Commission, which formerly resided
in the Science-State-Justice subcommittee, will also be moved to the Financial Services

The remaining subcommittee jurisdictions, including Agriculture, Labor-HHS, Energy and
Water, Interior, and Homeland Security, are unchanged.

In addition to revamping the House Appropriations Committee, Senator Byrd and Representative
Obey announced the lineup of members who will chair the Appropriations subcommittees.
The House Democratic subcommittee chairmen include: Rosa DeLauro (CT) at Agriculture;
Alan Mollohan (WV) at Commerce, Justice, Science; John Murtha (PA) at Defense; Peter
Visclosky (IN) at Energy and Water; Jose Serrano (NY) at Financial Services; David Price (NC)
at Homeland Security; Norm Dicks (WA) at Interior; David Obey (WI) at Labor, HHS; Debbie
Wasserman-Schultz (FL) at Legislative; Chet Edwards (TX) at Military Construction, VA; Nita
Lowey (NY) at State, Foreign Operations; and John Olver (MA) at Transportation, HUD.

The new subcommittee chairmen were the ranking Democrats of their respective panels during
the 109th Congress with the exception of Rep. Serrano (NY), Rep. Wasserman-Schultz (FL), and
Rep. Price (NC),

In the Senate, subcommittee chairmen include: Herb Kohl (WI) at Agriculture; Barbara
Mikulski (MD) at Commerce, Justice, Science; Daniel Inouye (HI) at Defense; Byron Dorgan
(ND) at Energy and Water; Richard Durbin (IL) at Financial Services; Robert Byrd (WV) at
Homeland Security; Dianne Feinstein (CA) at Interior; Tom Harkin (IA) at Labor, HHS; Mary
Landrieu (LA) at Legislative; Tom Johnson (SD) at Military Construction, VA; Patrick Leahy
(VT) at State, Foreign Operations; and Patty Murray (WA) at Transportation, HUD.

Ranking Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA),
and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), currently have not chosen the Ranking Members for
the subcommittees, but plan to do so next week.

4.     In Brief

New Report Connects Education from Birth to Adulthood
This week, Education Week released a new report developed by the Editorial Projects in
Education Research Center entitled “Quality Counts 2007: >From Cradle to Career, Connecting
American Education From Birth to Adulthood.” The report discusses the “Chance- for-Success
Index,” which tracks state efforts to connect education from preschool through postsecondary
education and training. The Chance- for-Success Index provides a standpoint on the importance
of education throughout a person’s life and is based on 13 indicators that highlight whether
young children get off to a good start, succeed in elementary and secondary school, and hit key
educational and income benchmarks as adults. The Index captures cumulative effects of
education experience and pinpoints the chances for success. States ranking at the top of the
index include Virginia, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and New
Hampshire, while Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona, Louisiana, and New
Mexico lag significantly behind the national average.
The report is available online at   

5.     New Publications

Education Week (1/4/07). “Quality Counts 2007: From Cradle to Career, Connecting American
Education From Birth to Adulthood.”   

6.     In the News

Inside Higher Ed (1/5/07). “Democrats Plan Evolves (and Narrows).”   

Washington Post (1/4/07). “’No Child’ Law on Track, Spellings Says.”   

USA Today (1/4/07). “Online Database Opens A Window for Parents to Compare Schools.”   

CNN Online (1/307). “Bush Seeks Consensus on No Child Left Behind.”   

New York Times (1/3/07). “Trying to Find Solutions in Chaotic Middle School.”   

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