This Week In Congress: The Economy, Cancer Research Funding And Congressional Approval For Libya Intervention | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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This Week In Congress: The Economy, Cancer Research Funding And Congressional Approval For Libya Intervention

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After two years of what economists euphemistically call "negative growth," state revenues have started to climb. But slowly. According to Arturo Perez, director of the Fiscal Affairs Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures, that's pretty much the story nationwide.

"Most economists would say that the national economic recovery is occurring but it's rather tepid. That is to say, it's not robust," he says.

That is to say, not fast enough to off-set growth in demand for state services. And not fast enough to make up for the loss of federal stimulus money.

"Collectively states were facing about $82.1 billion in shortfalls for the fiscal year that begins July 1st of this year," Perez says.

According to Perez, states are following a predictable course: Their emergence from a recession typically lags one to two years behind nationwide recovery as a whole.

Perez has some words of advice for anyone trying to capture this narrative in the form of a snapshot.

"You're still in the middle of the story. There's no immediate end to this. Oftentimes we talk about a story after it's over but in this case it's still an unfolding story with risks all around," he says.

Which brings us to the word of the week -- "cautiomistic". Apparently, the term is now making its way around states and economic development circles.

Speaking of reasons to temper optimism with caution –- and vice versa –- this week the American Cancer Society took a turn at making its case for being spared the budget axe.

"The truth is the hopeful side of cancer has never been more hopeful and that's because of consistent funding [by] Congress of NIH and its ving [by] Congress of NIH and its various research and prevention programs," says Dr. John Seffrin is head of the organization's lobbying arm, Cancer Action Network.

"We're saving 350 more lives per day than in 1991, and we've had 15 successive years of decline in eight standardized cancer mortality rates. We can't let that stop," he says.

Cancer advocates are marshalling forces against the House-passed budget for this year, which would cut more than 5 percent from NIH and 21 percent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"A 20 percent reduction in eight standardized cancer mortality rates yields the American people a $10 trillion value. So it's a good investment," Seffrin says.

It's also one on a growing list of priorities, whose advocates will be looking to the Senate for a budgetary reprieve -- cautiomistically.

Finally, over the course of the week, members weighed in from afar on President Obama's decision to initiate an air assault on Libya. Arguably his most outspoken critic is Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who has announced plans to introduce an amendment to defund the U.S. military effort in Libya.

"The administration obviously spent some time building support for this attack. They had time to talk to the Arab League, time to talk to the UN, NATO, Great Britain and France in particular. But no time to talk to the United States Congress to ask for approval," he says.

Instead the president sent a letter, in which he asserted his authority under the War Powers Act. His past support for the President notwithstanding, Kucinich disputes that claim.

"I like Barack Obama. I love the Constitution," he says.

Congress isn’t in session this week. But Kucinich has his proposal ready to go for his fellow lawmakers when they return. A closed-door hearing on the situation in Libya is set for next Wednesday.

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