June 11, 2010 —This week was chock full of excitement as another round of primaries came to a close Tuesday night with an especially close contest in Arkansas ending with the National Work and Family Month resolution sponsor, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), winning her run-off with Arkansas Lt. Governor Bill Halter. Back on Capitol Hill, the focus remained on the financial regulatory reform conference committee and the Senate debate on the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010.
The financial regulatory reform conference committee began meeting this week and the first day of negotiations seemed as partisan as the debate to date. Democrats on the committee, however, seem to be working out their internal differences over what should be in the final bill. The committee is using the Senate version of the bill as the base text plus hundreds of additional pages, the inclusion of which angered Republicans on the committee as they received the final text only a few hours before the start of negotiations. The committee will reconvene on Tuesday and negotiations will be broadcast on C-SPAN. A great summary of what’s in the base bill can be found here.
The Senate has also been hard at work on the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act of 2010, also known as the tax extenders bill. Word on the street is that the Senate wants to add back in the COBRA subsidy extension and that they are also considering deleting the defined contribution fee disclosure language added in the House. Once again, the biggest problem Senators on both sides of the aisle have is the cost of the bill and concerns over the deficit. In order to tackle the cost of the bill, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has introduced an amendment to the bill to provide ways to pay for the cost of the bill, including a freeze on federal salaries.
Meanwhile, the Administration faces increasing pressure to address long term unemployment and add jobs while not adding to the deficit. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the high unemployment rate is “crimping economic output by as much as $1 trillion per year, as workers lay idle and don't contribute to gross domestic product.” Along these lines, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing this week to examine strategies to address long-term unemployment. The majority of the witnesses advocated for increasing spending on unemployment insurance programs and encouraging states to adopt work-sharing programs that allow employers to cut hours for its workforce, the lost compensation being replaced by partial unemployment benefits, instead of instituting layoffs to cut costs.
Be sure to check out our new, health care reform implementation page where we are tracking the latest guidance and regulations on implementing the new health care reform law, including how to apply to the early retiree reinsurance program.
Paul, The page is a work in progress. The "Mandated Benefits" section has been filled in and the "WorldatWork Advocacy" section will be filled in with our comment letters once we begin filing them. Thanks!