Legislative Action Team Advisory

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Full House Budget Action - Support Needed

Congressman Mike Castle (R-DE) will offer an amendment the week of April 3rd in the House, when budget debate takes place. The Castle amendment will mirror the Specter – Harkin Amendment. The Senate passed the Specter-Harkin amendment restores those cuts by providing an additional $7 billion over the President’s budget request – allowing Congress to fund the FY07 Labor-HHS bill at the level enacted two years ago, in FY05.

Castle told Education and Health advocates Tuesday morning (March 28th) on Capital Hill:

“I will attempt to amend the budget resolution on the House Floor to include $7 billion the Senate added to domestic discretionary and to have 302 2 (b) allocations included in future budgets. My message is clear: I will not vote for a House Budget Resolution that would result in real cuts to critical federal investments in education, health care, housing, veterans’ services, social and community block grants AND encourage my colleagues who share these priorities to do the same.

Please call your House member by April 4th at 202-225-3121 and ask your representative to support the Castle initiative.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

House Budget Committee Action

This is from the Committee for Education Funding (CEF)

Representative DeLauro (D-CT) will offer a $7 billion amendment for increased funding for education, health, and social services at today’s House budget committee mark-up of the FY07 House budget resolution. A vote is expected sometime around 1pm. The amendment is the same as the Specter-Harkin amendment that passed on the Senate floor two weeks ago. See attached talking points.

· Yesterday Rep. Michael Castle (R-DE) held a standing room only rally at the Capitol with education and health advocates to demand $7 billion more in funding for discretionary programs in the House budget resolution.

· Castle is leading an effort, among moderate Republicans to make sure the House budget resolution contains a $7 billion increase for education and health. If it does not, he publicly announced he and other moderates will work to defeat it on the floor.

Friday, March 24, 2006

House Budget Amendment Pending

The House Budget Committee is expected to begin working on their spending/revenue plan starting March 29th. It is anticipated that the following week will see the measure on the House floor. Represenative DeLauro (D-CT) has said that she will offer an amendment to restore cuts to education, health and labor programs.The Labor-HHS- ED appropriations bill funds the federal programs that keep America competitive and provide health, education, and job opportunities to those who need it most. But those programs are in danger under the President’s proposed FY07 budget, which would slash $4.2 billion from the FY06 Labor-HHS-ED bill and is $7 billion below the level in the FY05 bill. Just as in the Senate the Specter-Harkin amendment, the DeLauro amendment restores those cuts by providing an additional $7 billion over the President’s budget request – allowing Congress to fund the FY07 Labor-HHS-ED bill at the level enacted two years ago, in FY05. Funding is provided by increasing the cap on FY08 advance appropriations by $7 billion.Key Labor-HHS-ED programs that are endangered by the President’s budgetEducation Programs: The President’s budget eliminates 42 programs, including all the vocational and technical education programs, Educational Technology State Grants, GEAR UP, Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities State Grants, TRIO Talent Search and Upward Bound.Student Financial Aid: The President’s budget freezes the maximum Pell Grant award at $4,050, the same amount as four years ago, while tuition costs have risen dramatically.National Institutes of Health: The President’s budget cuts funding for 18 of the 19 institutes at NIH. Funding for cancer research would be cut by $40 million.Human Services for the Poor: The President’s budget cuts the Social Services Block Grant by $500 million and completely eliminates the Community Services Block Grant.The Senate budget resolution says it has more funding for health and education than the President’s budget does. Yet it includes the same total amount for discretionary spending. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the alleged health and education increases will ever materialize in the Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill. The only way to ensure more funding for Labor-HHS programs is to add money to the total spending level.Every health, education, and job training program will benefit under this amendment. If Congress has to write a Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill that’s $4.2 billion lower than last year, as the President has proposed, every program is in danger of being reduced or eliminated. Restoring funding to the FY05 level will make it possible to save programs that are on the President’s chopping block and provide increases for key health, education and workforce initiatives.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Senate Vote on Specter-Harkin Amendment

Adopted by a vote of 73-27:

YEAS (73)

Alexander, L. (TN)
Frist (TN)
Smith, G. (OR)
Bennett (UT)
Grassley (IA)
Snowe (ME)
Burns (MT)
Hagel (NE)
Specter (PA)
Chafee (RI)
Hatch (UT)
Stevens (AK)
Cochran (MS)
Hutchison (TX)
Talent (MO)
Coleman (MN)
Lott (MS)
Thune (SD)
Collins (ME)
Lugar (IN)
Voinovich (OH)
DeWine (OH)
Murkowski (AK)
Warner (VA)
Dole (NC)
Roberts (KS)

Domenici (NM)
Santorum (PA)

Akaka (HI)
Feingold (WI)
Mikulski (MD)
Baucus, M. (MT)
Feinstein (CA)
Murray (WA)
Bayh (IN)
Harkin (IA)
Nelson, Ben (NE)
Biden (DE)
Inouye (HI)
Nelson, Bill (FL)
Bingaman (NM)
Johnson, Tim (SD)
Obama (IL)
Boxer (CA)
Kennedy, E. (MA)
Pryor (AR)
Byrd (WV)
Kerry (MA)
Reed, J. (RI)
Cantwell (WA)
Kohl (WI)
Reid, H. (NV)
Carper (DE)
Landrieu (LA)
Rockefeller (WV)
Clinton (NY)
Lautenberg (NJ)
Salazar, K. (CO)
Conrad (ND)
Leahy (VT)
Sarbanes (MD)
Dayton (MN)
Levin, C. (MI)
Schumer (NY)
Dodd (CT)
Lieberman (CT)
Stabenow (MI)
Dorgan (ND)
Lincoln (AR)
Wyden (OR)
Durbin (IL)
Menendez (NJ)

Jeffords (VT)

NAYS (27)

Allard (CO)
Craig (ID)
Kyl (AZ)
Allen, G. (VA)
Crapo (ID)
Martinez (FL)
Bond (MO)
DeMint (SC)
McCain (AZ)
Brownback (KS)
Ensign (NV)
McConnell (KY)
Bunning (KY)
Enzi (WY)
Sessions, J. (AL)
Burr (NC)
Graham (SC)
Shelby (AL)
Chambliss (GA)
Gregg (NH)
Sununu (NH)
Coburn (OK)
Inhofe (OK)
Thomas, C. (WY)
Cornyn (TX)
Isakson (GA)
Vitter (LA)

Win on the Senate Budget Amendment

Thank you for all your support, your voice made a difference.

The Specter-Harkin $7 billion amendment has passed on the Senate floor by a vote of 73-27.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Senate Budget Amendment to increase ED and Health

Sometime between Tuesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon the Senate is likely to vote on an amendment to increase funding by $7 billion for discretionary programs with the plan that this money will go to education, health and labor programs. The $7 billion would bring funding back to the FY 2005 levels!

Please contact your Senators and ask them to support the Specter/Harkin budget amendment to increase education, health and labor programs by $7 billion.

You can call 202-224-3121 - the capitol switchboard and ask for your senator -by name or your state.

The following is a list of Senators who are up for re-election this year.

US Senate - Up For Reelection in 2006
Akaka, Daniel - (D - HI)
Bingaman, Jeff - (D - NM)
Byrd, Robert - (D - WV)
Cantwell, Maria - (D - WA)
Carper, Thomas - (D - DE)
Clinton, Hillary - (D - NY)
Conrad, Kent - (D - ND)
Dayton, Mark - (D - MN)
Feinstein, Dianne - (D - CA)
Kennedy, Edward - (D - MA)
Kohl, Herb - (D - WI)
Lieberman, Joseph - (D - CT)
Menendez, Robert - (D - NJ)
Nelson, Bill - (D - FL)
Nelson, Ben - (D - NE)
Sarbanes, Paul - (D - MD)
Stabenow, Debbie - (D - MI)

Jeffords, James - (I - VT)

Allen, George - (R - VA)
Burns, Conrad - (R - MT)
Chafee, Lincoln - (R - RI)
DeWine, Mike - (R - OH)
Ensign, John - (R - NV)
Frist, Bill - (R - TN)
Hatch, Orrin - (R - UT)
Hutchison, Kay - (R - TX)
Kyl, Jon - (R - AZ)
Lott, Trent - (R - MS)
Lugar, Richard - (R - IN)
Santorum, Rick - (R - PA)
Snowe, Olympia - (R - ME)
Talent, James - (R - MO)
Thomas, Craig - (R - WY)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Senate Budget Action

Sometime in the next two days we will be asking you to contact your senators concerning an amendment being put together by Senators Harkin (D-IA) and Spector (R-PA).

Sens. Harkin and Specter are likely to co-sponsor a bi-partisan floor amendment to the FY07 budget resolution when it goes to the Senate floor this week. The amendment may offer $7 billion over the President’s proposed discretionary cap in an effort to get the overall budget for function 500 back to the FY05 level. The amendment is not likely to include an offset.

Please monitor this blog for a request for action on Tuesday afternoon, March 14th.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Budget Process - background

The Federal Budget Process
The Federal Budget process begins the first Monday in February of each year and should be concluded by October 1, the start of the new Federal Fiscal Year. In some -- make that many -- years, the October 1 date is not met. Here is how the process is supposed to work.

The President Submits a Proposed Budget to Congress
Following the procedure required by the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, the President presents a proposed budget for the coming Fiscal Year to Congress on or before the first Monday in February.
Based on the input of the Federal Agencies, the President's budget projects estimated spending, revenue, and borrowing levels broken down by functional categories for the coming fiscal year to start October 1.
The President's budget serves as a "starting point" for the Congress to consider. Congress is under no obligation to adopt all or any of the President's budget and often makes significant changes. However, since the President must ultimately approve all future bills they propose, Congress is often reluctant to completely ignore the priorities of the President's budget.

House and Senate Budget Committees Report the Budget Resolution
The Congressional Budget Act requires passage of an annual "Congressional Budget Resolution", a concurrent resolution passed in identical form by both House and Senate, but not requiring the President's signature.

The Budget Resolution is an important document providing Congress an opportunity to lay out its own spending, revenue, borrowing and economic goals for the coming fiscal year, as well as the next five future fiscal years. In recent years, the Budget Resolution has included suggestions for government program spending reforms leading to the goal of a balanced budget.
Both House and Senate Budget Committees hold hearings on the annual Budget Resolution. The committees seek testimony from Administration officials, Members of Congress and expert witnesses. Based on testimony and committee deliberations, each committee writes or "marks-up" its respective version of the Budget Resolution.

The Budget Committees are required to present or "report" their final Budget Resolution for consideration by the full House and Senate by April 1.
The full House and Senate now debate, amend, and take action on the Budget Resolution as reported to them by their respective Budget Committee.
While the Budget Act sets no deadline for this phase, it does require that a final, single version of the Budget Resolution, agreed to by both House and Senate be approved by April 15.
House and Senate Work Out Differences in Conference

Since the versions of the Budget Resolution passed by the House and Senate will always differ, each body appoints conferees -- negotiators -- to meet and resolve the differences. The "conference committee" works to come up with a single, agreed version of the Budget Resolution that must be agreed to by at least half of the conferees from both the House and Senate.
Full House and Senate Consider Conference Agreement

The Budget Act requires that by April 15, both the House and Senate approve by majority votes the final version of the Budget Resolution reported by the conference committee.
The terms of the final, approved Budget Resolution govern the remainder of the budget process for the year.

Discretionary Spending Allocations Set by Congress
As a vital part of the Budget Resolution, Congress must agree on "spending allocations" or limits on how much money can be spent on discretionary programs during the coming fiscal year and at least the next 5 fiscal years. "Discretionary" funding refers specifically to money provided each year through the allocations process. Congress exercises control over how and how much money is spent, hence the term "discretionary". Discretionary spending usually represents about one-third of total annual Federal spending. Funds for programs to which the government is pre-committed to paying, like interest on the national debt and long-term entitlements are called "uncontrollable".

These spending allocations establish aggregate totals of money that cannot be exceeded by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees during the upcoming annual spending process.
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees now take the total aggregate spending allocations from the Budget Resolution and divide the amount into thirteen "sub allocations". Quite literally, they take the total discretionary "money pie" and cut it in to thirteen pieces.
Each slice of the discretionary "pie" funds a different government function as follows:
1. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies
2. Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related agencies
3. Department of Defense
4. Operations of the government of the District of Columbia
5. Energy and water resources development
6. Foreign operations, export financing, and related programs
7. Department of the Interior and related agencies
8. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related agencies
9. Legislative Branch
10. Military construction, family housing, and base realignment and closure for the Department of Defense
11. Department of Transportation and related agencies.
12. Treasury Department, the United States Postal Service, the Executive Office of the President, and certain Independent Agencies
13. Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and for sundry independent agencies, boards, commissions, corporations, and offices

The Budget Act allows the Appropriations Committees from May 15 until June 10 to finalize the 13 spending bills and forward them to the full House and Senate.
House and Senate Consider 13 Annual Spending Bills
By June 10, the full House and Senate should begin consideration of the 13 annual spending bills. Other than some special rules of debate, the 13 spending bills follow the same legislative procedure as other bills. Current Status of the FY 2000 Spending Bills
House and Senate work out differences in Conference
Since the spending bills are once again being debated and amended separately, House and Senate versions will have to go through the same conference committee process as the Budget Resolution. The conferees have to agree on one version of each bill capable of passing in both the House and Senate by a majority vote.
Full House and Senate Consider 13 Conference Agreements
Once the conference committees have forwarded their agreements to them, the House and Senate must both approve them by a majority vote.
The Budget Act stipulates that the House should have given final approval to all 13 spending bills by June 30.
President May Sign or Veto Any or All of the Appropriations Bills
As spelled out in the Constitution, the President has ten days in which to decide: (1) to sign the bill, thereby making it law; (2) to veto the bill, thereby sending it back to Congress and requiring much of the process to begin again with respect the programs covered by that bill; or (3) to allow the bill to become law without his signature, thereby making it law but doing so without his express approval.
The Government Begins a New Fiscal Year
If and when the process goes as planned, all 13 spending bills have been signed by the President and have become Public Laws by October 1, the start of the new Fiscal Year. Most years, this happens.
Right Now in the Budget Process
As you can tell by looking at the table showing the current status of the 13 spending bills, the budget process was not completed by the October 1 deadline. The government is currently operating under H.J.Res. 110 - a "Continuing Resolution" authorizing spending through Oct. 14, 2000.

The Budget Calendar Summary
Before the 1st Monday in February:
President transmits proposed budget to Congress
Six Weeks Later:
Congressional committees report budget estimates to Budget Committees
April 15:Action to be completed on congressional budget resolution.
May 15:House consideration of annual appropriations bills may begin.
June 15:Action to be completed on conference committee reports.
June 30:Action on appropriations bills to be completed by House.
July 15:President transmits Mid-Session Review of the budget.
October 1:New Fiscal Year begins.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

IRA statement on ACT report on Reading

Embargo to 2:30 pm March 1, 2006
Media contact:
Beth Cady, Public Information Office
Telephone 302-731-1600, ext. 293
Fax 302-731-1057
E-mail bcady@reading.org
Website www.reading.org
Teens Gain Support for High School Reading Instruction

NEWARK, DELAWARE, USA— ACT joined a growing number of policymakers and education professionals concerned about adolescent literacy with its new report, Reading between the Lines: What the ACT Reveals about College Readiness for Reading. “The ACT report demonstrates how critical literacy experiences are for high school kids—particularly with regard to assigning them and instructing them in demanding texts in all subjects,” commented Timothy Shanahan, professor of urban education and director for the Center of Literacy, University of Illinois, Chicago. Shanahan, who will become president of the International Reading Association in May 2006, sees the need for a comprehensive adolescent literacy agenda that emphasizes reading instruction throughout middle and high school and that provides added support for struggling students.
Richard Allington, IRA’s current president and professor of education at the University of Tennessee, concurs. “Federal and state governments must invest more in middle and high schools,” Allington comments. “If we hope to graduate high school students with reading levels appropriate to postsecondary pursuits, there are several steps we need to take.” Allington’s short list of actions is focused primarily on teacher preparation and continuing professional development:
§ A federal grant program to fund professional development of middle and high school reading specialists and coaches.
§ State education agency review of certification requirements for high school teachers to ensure that all content teachers are being well prepared to meet the challenges of high-level reading instruction and the reading of complex texts.
§ Expansion of Title I funds to high school level.
Efforts to build collaboration among content and reading specialists have already resulted in Standards for Middle and High School Literacy Coaches, jointly released in 2005 by IRA, the National Council of Teachers of English, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Science Teachers Association, and National Council for the Social Studies. With poor reading skills contributing to the high rates of high school dropouts and growing enrollment in college-level remedial reading classes, reading instruction may finally find its place in the education of older students. For more information about adolescent literacy, visit www.reading.org.