CHN: Finance Committee Passes Amended Version of CARE Act
Articles from June 21, 2002
Parties Offer Competing Medicare Prescription Drug Plans
With an eye toward the November elections, both Democrats and Republicans have introduced Medicare prescription drug proposals. Despite the shared goal of wooing senior voters, the substance of the competing plans is far apart. Prepared to spend more on their plans than Republicans, Democrats have been labeled fiscally irresponsible by their counterparts. Democrats respond that their plans – House and Senate Democrats have offered two different proposals – are more affordable for seniors, and have criticized the Republican package for requiring patients to buy drugs directly from private companies. Under the Democratic plans, the drug benefit would be run through the existing Medicare program.
Senate Committee Expected to Mark Up TANF Bill Next Week
On June 18, Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Tim Hutchinson (R-AR) introduced a comprehensive welfare bill (S 2648) that largely mirrors President Bush’s plan to reauthorize the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. The House passed similar legislation (HR 4737) in May.
Republicans Fall Short on Estate Tax
On June 12, Republicans in the Senate garnered only 54 of the 60 votes needed to pass legislation – introduced by Senator Phil Gramm (R-TX) – to make permanent a repeal of the estate tax. A phase-out of the estate tax was included in the $1.35 trillion tax cut enacted by President Bush last year. Currently, the phase-out is set to sunset in 2010. Nine Democrats voted for repeal, including three seeking re-election this November – Max Baucus (D-MT), Max Cleland (D-GA), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Two Republicans – John McCain (AR) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) – aligned themselves with the majority of Democrats who voted against permanent repeal.
Senate Passes Terrorism Insurance Bill
Roughly nine months after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, the Senate passed a measure on Tuesday, June 18 that would provide federal monies to the property and casualty industry to cover future terrorism-related losses. Under the measure (S 2600), introduced by senior Senate Banking Committee member Christopher Dodd (D-CT), the government would cover 90 percent of terrorism-related claims made to commercial property and casualty insurance companies for the remainder of this year. Government aid would kick in after the costs of future insurance claims exceed $10 billion, and would be capped at $100 billion.
Finance Committee Passes Amended Version of CARE Act
On June 18, the Senate Finance Committee passed the charitable giving component of the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act of 2002 (S 1924) by voice vote. The legislation, introduced by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), would increase annual funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) from $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion by 2004, and provide $450 million to expand Individual Development Accounts (IDA) to 300,000 new account holders. In addition, the legislation would grant more than $8.4 billion in new tax incentives to encourage private donations to charitable organizations, including a tax deduction for 86 million Americans who do not itemize their taxes. It is unclear whether the legislation will reach the Senate floor for consideration. The House passed a more comprehensive and controversial bill (HR 7) based on the President’s faith-based initiative on July 19, 2001.
House Committee Considers Omnibus Housing Bill
On Thursday, June 20, the House Financial Services Committee began marking up HR 3995, an omnibus affordable housing bill introduced by Representative Marge Roukema (R-NJ) last March. The bill contains major provisions specifically aimed at increasing the availability of adequate housing for very low and extremely low-income people, in addition to authorizing funds for a variety of federal housing programs and overhauling some housing regulations.