On Monday, the House recess ends, and representatives will be returning to Washington.
Before the recess, the Senate passed legislation to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program, supporting the retroactive extension of assistance to job-seekers who are struggling to find employment in a rough job market. In theory, representatives have spent the last two weeks in their home districts interacting with and getting feedback from their constituents, including on long-term unemployment insurance.
It was a long and cold winter in Washington, DC, in more ways than one. At the end of 2013, Congress allowed Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) to expire, leaving 1.3 million Americans who had been without work for more than six months suddenly cut off from their lifeline benefits. Unemployment benefits don't provide a lot – about $269 a week on average – but it is enough to put some food on the table, pay the most urgent bills, and hang on by your fingernails until work can be found. Without this support, many families are forced to drain their retirement accounts and sell their belongings. Some face homelessness.
Reforming America's Taxes Equitably, or RATE Coalition, is a corporate lobby group made up of 29 major corporations and two trade associations. Formed last year, the RATE Coalition has been increasingly active in pressing Congress to cut corporate income tax rates from current levels. But a number of the companies involved in the coalition benefit from the very revenue stream they're seeking to shrink.
Polls show that more than three-quarters of Americans support an increase in the minimum wage. Approximately 76 percent support raising the minimum wage to at least $9 an hour, and as many as 73 percent support an increase to $10.10, the minimum proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA). That bill would raise the minimum wage over two and a half years and then peg future increases to inflation. Raising the minimum wage enjoys broad bipartisan support: when polled, 58 percent of Republicans expressed support for increasing the minimum wage to $9 per hour.
Last month, House Ways and Means Chairman David Camp (R-MI) released his long awaited tax reform package. In it, he proposed overhauling the corporate tax code, eliminating many deductions and loopholes.
For the last 30 years, various political leaders have launched efforts to "Reinvent Government." Done in the name of making government more efficient, these initiatives have most often centered on reducing the size of the government workforce, by handing over to the for-profit sector services that have long been provided by government employees. The goal was to save money, but all too often, unintended consequences have included a troubling lack of accountability and deteriorating public services.
Congress's investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), recently released its latest analysis of the executive branch's civilian government workforce, and it shows a modest increase between 2004 to 2012. However, the GAO's analysis does not take into account workforce reductions of around 70,000 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). When the 28,000 full-time equivalent reductions from 2011 to 2012 are included, there has been a contraction of the federal civilian workforce of around 100,000 in the last three years.1 The report also leaves out significant context, which might lead readers to draw somewhat different conclusions about how the federal workforce has changed over time.