Federal issues — and the price tags attached to many of the efforts and proposals — were featured in today’s Policy Issue Conference Call for Chamber members. Cameron Carter, who leads the Chamber’s federal lobbying efforts, discussed a variety of topics.
Add up the numbers — $1.2 trillion in stimulus, $750 billion in TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), $410 billion in additional 2009 budget appropriations and proposed 2010 budgets from the House, Senate and White House of approximately $3.5 trillion — and as Carter said, "We’re looking at debt levels not seen since the end of World War II." The expected $1.75 trillion deficit in a single year is projected to double the existing debt in five years and triple it within 10 years.
Some of the other discussion points:
- Employee Free Choice Act: Senate is now several votes short of what it needs for cloture. The issue is not going away, however, with a potential return to the agenda in June or July.
- Environmental carbon tax, and cap and trade provisions that would "increase the cost of all goods we consume." While the goal of protecting the environment is laudable, the creation of a market for carbon emissions will produce a price tag beyond comprehension. Carter says to expect some type of legislation yet this year.
- Health care: Another top President Obama priority, Carter calls it a "stealth" procedure thus far, putting elements of health care reform into the stimulus package and budget resolutions. While a health care bill itself with the goal of providing insurance for all is on the way, the strategy thus far in this area and others of "policymaking within budget resolutions" is concerning. The reason it’s being done: it takes 51 votes in the Senate to pass budget matters, compared to the 60 needed for cloture on other issues to allow debate to move forward.
- Immigration reform: In the past week, Obama cited this as another top priority to an already crowded plate for Congress. That may lead, Carter offers, to something else falling by the wayside.
Carter also discussed the more high profile roles for Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (one of the leaders of a Moderate Dems Working Group) and Rep. Mike Pence (chairman of the House Republican Conference). He closed with a simple "no" when asked if he had any desire to be working on these issues in Washington — where he served on the staff of Sen. Richard Lugar in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
That’s OK. He and others working to protect the business interests of Indiana companies and their employees will have their hands full right here in the Hoosier state.