Entries in Extension (3)


Congress Passes Transportation Extension with Student Loan Fix

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- After months of wrangling, arm-twisting, bitter debate and closed-door negotiations, Congress finally has a bipartisan deal for the American people. Just in time.

The agreement, which couples a student loan interest rate extension with a long-awaited boost for infrastructure, passed the House first, 373-52. A short time later, the Senate approved the deal 74-19, with one senator voting ‘present.’

For months, progress stalled as Republicans debated internally over a long-term highway bill and Congress searched for an agreeable method to prevent new subsidized Stafford loan rates from doubling from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1. The deal extends current rates for another year for approximately 7.6 million students signing up for new loan agreements.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., blamed Republicans for taking Congress “to the brink,” but he said the bipartisan deal gives “certainty to millions of students and that will pave the way for jobs and economic growth.”

“Keeping these rates low recognizes the challenges our graduates face in today’s tough job market,” he stated. “Let us continue in the spirit of bipartisanship that enabled us to pass this bill and work together to meet the challenges we face as a nation.”

After months of disagreeing over how to pay for the $6 billion bill, legislators finally came together late this week over how the bill would be financed. About $5 billion of the cost will be offset by “smoothing,” a tactic that creates a “stabilization range” for employers to compute their pension liabilities and around $500 million collected by increasing Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation fees.

Currently there are no limits in place for how many years a student could receive a Stafford loan subsidy, but $1.2 billion of the cost of the extension would be recovered by limiting access to the loan to six years for a 4-year degree.

“Republicans and Democrats worked hard to find common ground,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Friday morning. “The agreement we’ve reached will ensure that college students who are already facing enormous challenges in the Obama economy won’t be paying higher interest rates next month.”

Tucked into the deal are two other critical pieces of legislation set to run out of money soon: the highway bill that has plagued both chambers and an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which was due to expire at the end of July.

As the hurricane season looms, the agreement extends funding for flood insurance until September of 2017.

For months, the House was unable to pass its version of the highway bill, instead opting eventually for a short-term extension to give negotiators another 90 days to work out a deal. But that temporary patch was set to expire Saturday, threatening federal highway and transit aid programs and the government’s authority to levy federal fuel taxes expire, and putting about 4,000 jobs at the Department of Transportation at risk.

The agreement funds federal highway, transit and highway safety programs at current levels through the end of FY 2014. It does not include earmarks or increase spending and is fully offset with many reforms included in the Senate-passed highway bill.

“We speed up project delivery, cut red tape, and do it without jeopardizing environmental laws,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, who led the negotiations from the Senate-side, said. “For the first time, we send half of the funds for bike paths and pedestrian walkways directly to local entities, and we protect those funds while giving states more flexibility on their share.”

The Keystone XL Pipeline was left out of the final deal, breaking off 52 hard-line House Republicans from supporting the deal. As a result House Democrats helped carry the vote, with none opposing.

Republicans are already promising another run at Democrats for opposing the pipeline, which they contend would create tens of thousands of jobs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Fact Check: Who Gets Hurt, Who Gets Helped If Bush Tax Cuts Expire?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, with the clock running down on the Bush tax cuts, Democrats in the House voted to make them permanent, but not for the wealthiest Americans.

Democratic senators, like Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have said that continuing the Bush-era tax cuts for America's richest will give the millionaires a tax break, while Republicans in Congress, like the next Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, have said tax hikes will kill jobs.

So who's right? Will letting the top Bush tax cuts expire hit small business or the super-rich? The answer is both.

If the top tax cuts expire, someone making $1 million a year would see their taxes go up by about $43 thousand, and for someone making $10 million, it's a tax hike of more than $450 thousand.

But small business owners, like Drew Greenblatt, would be hit, too. When ABC News visited his 30-employee wire basket company in Baltimore earlier this year, he said an increase in the top tax rate would cost him about $40 thousand -- and likely at least one employee.

Small businesses aren't the only concern. What about the deficit? Extending tax cuts on the top brackets would add to the deficit, as would extending any of the cuts.

Extending the tax cuts for those with incomes under $200 thousand a year, as the president and Democrats are fighting for, will add an estimated $3.1 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. Extending any tax cuts for those over $200 thousand a year adds another $800 thousand to the deficit.

These figures are just estimates, though. According to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial, a tax increase could bring in less than expected.

"Many of the wealthier individuals in particular will find ways to hide their money or they'll give more to charity," she said.

Despite what the politicians say, the truth is there is not much certainty with any of these numbers. The IRS doesn't keep records of how many truly small businesses pay taxes at the top income tax level, so no one knows for sure just how many businesses -- and jobs -- would be affected.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


House Votes Against Jobless Benefits Extension

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- The House of Representatives voted Thursday afternoon against extending federal unemployment benefits another 90 days, leaving the jobless benefits of about four million Americans in jeopardy with the current relief set to expire just after Thanksgiving.

The legislation would have cost about $12.5 billion to extend the deadline to file for federal unemployment benefits from Dec. 1 until Feb. 28.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi blamed Republicans in the House for blocking the extension and pledged to continue working towards a short-term extension before the current benefits expire Nov. 30.

“The American people, struggling with high unemployment, continue to look to their leaders for a lifeline until they can get back to work.  Today, Democrats voted to extend unemployment insurance to Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Unfortunately, Republicans did not,” Pelosi, D-California, stated. “Our first priority is to create jobs; the American people want to get back to work. Unemployment Insurance is a proven economic booster, returning $2 into the economy for every $1 invested.  We will continue to work for an emergency short-term extension to get families through the holidays and to work for longer term solutions as well.”

The bill was brought to the floor under the rules of suspension, requiring a two-thirds majority to pass, but fell 17 votes short with a final tally of 258-154.

The current benefits are scheduled to expire Nov. 30, so the House will still have two legislative days to try to prevent the benefits from expiring when Congress returns to finish the lame-duck session after Thanksgiving.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio