Government Relations

Government Relations Legislative Update

Government Relations Legislative Update

Updates on state and federal issues relating to the UW System.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Federal Update for Thursday, July 21, 2011

With the August 2 deadline for raising the national debt limit fast approaching, the most likely short-term solution remains the proposal put forward last week by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), on which he is working with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).  The plan would allow the President to raise the debt ceiling in three stages over the next several months, if each request is accompanied by a package of proposed spending cuts.  The two Senators plan to incorporate into the proposal about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.  

In addition, the bipartisan group of six Senators who had been trying to work out a larger deficit reduction deal—dubbed the "Gang of Six"—re-entered the deficit discussion arena on July 19 with a new package that, as described by Politico, would cut the deficit by $3.7 billion over 10 years "with elaborate procedures aimed at prodding congressional committees to find cuts in entitlement programs, discretionary spending, and an overhaul of the tax code."  The group had abandoned its formal deliberations in May after Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) pulled out of the talks.

National Journal Daily reports that Senator Reid said earlier this week that even if the Gang of Six plan were final, there would not enough time for the Senate to consider it before the August 2 deadline.  He said that he would consider adding individual provisions from the gang's proposal to a final debt deal.  The publication cites other Senators as saying they "hope the gang plan will factor into renewed deficit-reduction efforts later this year."  

Meanwhile, the House on July 19 approved conservative Republicans' "Cut, Cap, and Balance Act," (H.R. 2560), which would provide $5.8 trillion in spending cuts and bars an increase in the debt limit unless Congress has approved a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.  The bill, which is viewed as largely symbolic because it stands no chance of passing the Senate, was approved on a largely party-line vote of 234 to 190.  

(AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)