Washington, D.C.: “The Room” in the Dirksen Senate Office Building….
If you were walking in front of one of the rooms on the third floor of the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capital Hill today, you would find a simple type of “do not disturb” sign and a large group of reporters and cameramen milling about. They’re waiting for anyone to come out of “the room” to offer any tidbit of information about the Senate stimulus package, S. 1, which now has 264 amendments to be considered.
If you talked with one of the media folks, you’d find out that they are prepared to stay late into the night because of the expected long debate. One cameraman confirmed what we’ve heard elsewhere: the Senators still think they can have a vote tonight or tomorrow and get to a House/Senate conference committee next week. Due to the logistical difficulty (if not nightmare) of debating each amendment, it is likely that the Senate will roll many of the amendments together and then vote on the entire package tonight or tomorrow. News reports indicate that the Senators behind closed doors have, for now, kicked out their staffers and are doing the negotiating themselves. To get more bi-partisan support, parts of the bill are being cut or eliminated – although at this writing we do not know any specifics.
Some key amendments impacting libraries that we do of about include:
Collins/Nelson Amendment: This amendment would strike some education funding and the state stabilization funding. This could include programs such as Title I and IDEA funding.
Sanders Amendment: Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) proposed Senate Amendment 266 which includes numerous broadband and wireless proposals including: one to “provide broadband education; awareness; training; access; equipment and support to schools; libraries, medical and healthcare providers, community colleges and other institutions of higher education; and other community support organizations and entities to facilitate greater use of broadband service by or through these organizations.”
Leahy Amendment: Senator Patrick Leahy (VT-D) introduced a “technical amendment” to Section 1401 of the bill to allow adult education as a permissible activity for funding along with public safety, elementary and secondary education and public institutions of higher education. This could be another amendment that could include libraries.
We understand that several senators are also advocating for libraries in various ways and on different pieces of this bill, including Senator Daniel Inouye (HI-D), chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
Once this stimulus bill passes the Senate there must be a conference to reconcile the many differences between the House and Senate economic stimulus packages. At this writing, the Senate version is more expensive ($9 billion) – bigger difference than the House version ($6 billion) – which means the final version will change as it goes to conference.
STANDBY: ADVOCACY ALERT
Library champions on the Hill will be expecting major grassroots efforts from library supporters during the conference negotiations in the coming days or week. The American Library Association’s Washington Office will continue to monitor the stimulus packages’ developments. We will need a strong grassroots advocacy to ensure that library interests are protected as we move forward. Please check the District Dispatch often to review the most recent developments, action alerts and needed talking points. We’ll report as soon as we hear anything coming out of “the room.”
Government Relations Specialist
American Library Association Washington Office