By Chris Whatley, CSG Washington, D.C., office director
It has come down to three votes.
With Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy out of town and the Minnesota Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken in limbo, passage of the largest spending bill in the history of the United States requires the support of at least three Republican senators in order to move forward. Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has abandoned his goal of securing 80 votes for the package and appears committed to holding a vote later today if the three senators, and their moderate Democrat counterparts, can be brought on board.
Moderate Republicans have joined with several moderate Democrats (including former CSG President Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson) to form the so called “Gang of 18” which is working to develop a floor amendment to trim more than $100 billion from the economic recovery package. These cuts will likely include substantial reductions in the estimated $112 billion in flexible state fiscal relief included in the bill. If the moderates can reach agreement on spending cuts the bill could squeak through with the 60 votes needed to overcome the threat of a filibuster sometime later today.
Depending on the Senate vote, action will shift next week to what is expected to be a swift conference process. No matter what happens in the Senate or the conference, states need to begin making decisions to put policies and procedures in place to take advantage of the stimulus. For example, both the House and Senate versions contain $4 billion in renewable energy funding. However, the legislation requires states to restructure their utility rates by decoupling power company revenue from output sales if they want to access funding.
According to Congressional Quarterly, 41 states would have to decouple their utility rates in order to be eligible for renewable energy funding. The infrastructure, Medicaid and education components of the stimulus will also likely require adjustments in many states in order to secure maximum federal fund eligibility.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has appointed a stimulus czar to ride herd on state efforts to take advantage of anticipated federal relief. West Virginia has asked The Council of State Governments to provide testimony for a joint House and Senate hearing on the same subject. More states are likely to follow.
Additional information on the stimulus, including background information from both parties can be found below:
- Congressional Budget Office Analysis of the Senate Bill:
- Democratic Policy Council State-by-State Benefit Analysis
- Republican Policy Council Bill Analysis