Before the end of the year, the Senate must take up three important bills to deal with hard deadlines. These include a continuing resolution to fund the government beyond the current deadline of December 11; authorization for continued defense spending; and legislation to extend expiring tax provisions.
Last year the Obama administration put Americans at risk as it ignored numerous warnings about the readiness of HealthCare.gov. Its decision to go ahead with the website caused confusion and frustration at the same time Obamacare was causing people to lose their insurance. This year, the administration has created another large risk for federal exchange enrollees. It’s been providing potentially unlawful tax credits for people to buy insurance in states with federal exchanges.
On the day before Thanksgiving, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new 626-page (plus a 575-page appendix) ground-level ozone standard of 65 to 70 parts per billion. This would be down from 75 ppb established in 2008 by the Bush administration. EPA estimates that a 65 ppb standard would impose costs of $15 billion per year on the nation (except California) in 2025, and $1.6 billion per year on California after 2025. The National Association of Manufacturers warns, “This new ozone regulation threatens to be the most expensive ever imposed on industry in America.”
In early August, the Highway Trust Fund is expected, by law, to stop making payments to states to avoid a negative balance. In the past, Congress kept the HTF solvent primarily with general fund money – transferring $54 billion since 2008. But the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 stipulated that any transfer to the HTF now must be offset. Congress is currently working through options to keep the HTF solvent.