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Capitol Hill Update

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There was a flicker of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill this week. Following the successful military operation against al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the Senate unanimously agreed to a resolution (S. Res. 159) honoring the members of the military and intelligence community who carried out the mission. 

That brief spirit of unity isn’t likely to last long.  Partisan sniping should resume as Congress turns its attention to a series of contentious issues it must tackle this summer. Here is a brief snapshot of some of the issues of interest to HR professionals:

  • Health Care – The Republican-controlled House will continue to attempt to dismantle the health care reform law. The House passed a bill (H.R. 1213) on Tuesday, May 3, to repeal another provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).  It would eliminate the mandatory funding provided to states to establish the health care exchanges. President Obama signed a measure on April 14 (H.R. 4) to repeal the Form 1099 provision in the reform law.  That provision would have required all businesses to report to the IRS every business transaction of $600 or more.
  • Debt Limit – Congress faces a vote to raise the $14.294 trillion federal debt ceiling sometime this summer. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has calculated that the debt ceiling will come due in early August 2011. Coupled with raising the debt limit, Republicans are pushing additional spending cuts, while Democrats want to raise income taxes on wealthy individuals. To find common ground, a bipartisan group of six senators – known as the “Gang of Six” – have been negotiating a proposal to turn the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission into legislation.
  • Employment Verification – Immigration reform will remain a top-tier issue through the 2012 presidential election. There is strong bipartisan support in Washington for Congress to act on stronger worksite enforcement measures. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) is poised to introduce a bill that would require all employers to use the federal government’s voluntary employment verification program, E-Verify.
  • Labor Relations – All 10 Republican senators on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee wrote a May 3 letter to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) opposing its recent action against The Boeing Company. On April 20, NLRB launched an adjudicatory process to prevent Washington state-based Boeing from opening an additional production line in South Carolina. The Board contends that Boeing is unlawfully transferring work away from its unionized workforce in Washington to a non-union facility. The senators assert that Boeing announced the new production line in October 2009, but the NLRB waited until April 2011 to file the complaint.
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