This Week in Congress: The Season for ActionSeptember 14, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
As Obama said in his big healthcare speech last week, it’s time for Congress to deliver on healthcare. The action this week will happen mostly behind the scenes – in closed-door meetings and in the Senate Finance Committee – where Democrats will try to finalize the details of their healthcare reform legislation so they can start voting on it. Things will be relatively quiet on the floor of the Senate and the House, but it might get interesting if the House decides to vote on a formal censure of Rep. Joe Wilson [R, SC-2] for shouting “You lie!” at the President.
On Sunday, the two moderate senators form Maine provided some insights into where things stand on a bipartisan healthcare deal. Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME], the most likely Republican to vote with the Democrats on healthcare, said that the public insurance option plan that is supported by President Obama and most Democrats should be scrapped in order to get a bill passed. Obama “should take it off the table,” Snowe said “Face the Nation.” “It would give real momentum to building consensus.” But she repeated her support for including a “trigger” mechanism in the bill that would allow for a public insurance option to be set up in states where a sizable percentage of people remain uninsured after the new subsidies and insurance reforms take effect.
But Snowe’s colleague, Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], arguably the second most likely cross-over vote for the Democrats, said on Sunday that she would not support a bill with a trigger. “The problem with trigger is it just delays the public option,” she said on CNN’s State of the Nation program, “because the people who are going to be making the determination about whether the market is competitive enough, want the public option.” In Febuary, Collins and Snowe were the only two Republicans to vote with the Democrats on passing the stimulus bill, but Collins’ flat-out opposition to the public option plan make her a less likely ally for the Democrats when it comes to healthcare reform.
The White House held strong in their support for the public option on Sunday." [President Obama] “continues to believe it’s a good idea, he continues to advocate it and I’m not willing to accept that it’s not going to be in the final package,” David Axelrod, a senior advisor to President Obama, said on Sunday. “But what he also said, and what we’ve all said, is that this is not the whole of health insurance reform and that we should not let the whole debate … circulate around this one question and lose the best opportunity we’ve had in generations to do something very significant about a problem that is just getting worse.” And in a speech in Minneapolis, the President said: “I think one of the options should be a public insurance option.” “I have said that I’m open to different ideas on how to set this up, but I’m not going to back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage we’re going to provide you a choice.”
Also on the Sunday talk shows, Rep. Joe Wilson [R, SC-2], the member of Congress who heckled President Obama during his joint speech to Congress, said that he is done apologizing. “I apologized one time. The apology was accepted by the president and the vice president, who I know. I’m not apologizing again,” Wilson said on Fox News Sunday. His remarks greatly increase the chances that House Democrats will bring forth a resolution of disapproval against him this week. Under House decorum rules, it is considered unparliamentary to call the President a “liar,” attribute hypocrisy to him, accuse him of demagoguery, or use other such insulting language. The House Democratic leadership has acknowledged Wilson’s violation and says that it needs to be resolved by a formal apology before the House or a resolution of disapproval.
The House and Senate calendars for the week are below. We’ll be writing this week on some of the more significant bills coming to the House floor this week. And, of course, we’ll be following the healthcare negotiations.
First, this week’s House schedule:
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2009
On Monday, the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for Morning Hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Suspensions (8 Bills)
1. H.Res. 686 – Recommending that the United States Constitution be taught to high school students throughout the Nation in September of their senior year (Rep. Grayson – Education and Labor)
2. H.Res. __ – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week should be established (Rep. Grijalva – Education and Labor)
3. H.Res. 6 – Recognizing the significant contribution coaches make in the life of children who participate in organized sports and supporting the goals and ideals of National Coaches Appreciation Week (Rep. McIntyre – Education and Labor)
4. H.Res. 459 – Expressing support for designation of “National Safety Month” (Rep. Roskam – Education and Labor)
5. H.Con.Res. 59 – Supporting the goals and ideals of senior caregiving and affordability (Rep. Terry – Education and Labor)
6. H.Res. 260 – Supporting efforts to reduce infant mortality in the United States (Rep. Cohen – Energy and Commerce)
7. H.Res. 57 - Recognizing the persistently high rates of drowning fatalities among children (Rep. Sires – Energy and Commerce)
8. H.Res. __ – Recognizing the 15th Anniversary of the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act (Rep. Slaughter – Judiciary)
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2009 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Tuesday, the House will meet at 10:30 a.m. for Morning Hour debate and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, no votes are expected in the House.
Suspensions (16 Bills)
1. H.R. 3146 – 21 Century FHA Housing Act of 2009 (Rep. Adler – Financial Services)
2. H.R. 2947 – Securities Law Technical Corrections Act of 2009 (Rep. Jenkins – Financial Services)
3. H.R. 3527 – FHA Multifamily Loan Limit Adjustment Act of 2009 (Rep. Weiner – Financial Services)
4. H.Res. 215 – Congratulating the Minority Business Development Agency on its 40th anniversary and commending its achievements in fostering the establishment and growth of minority businesses in the United States (Rep. Honda – Financial Services)
5. H.R. 3179 – SIG TARP Small Business Awareness Act of 2009 (Rep. Paulsen – Financial Services)
6. H.Res. 317 – Recognizing the region from Manhattan, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, as the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor (Rep. Moore (KS) – Agriculture)
7. H.Con.Res. 95 – Recognizing the importance of the Department of Agriculture Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges (Rep. Childers – Agriculture)
8. H.R. 511 – To authorize the Secretary of Agriculture to terminate certain easements held by the Secretary on land owned by the Village of Caseyville, Illinois, and to terminate associated contractual arrangements with the Village (Rep. Costello – Agriculture)
9. H.R. 3175 – To direct the Secretary of Agriculture to convey to Miami-Dade County certain federally owned land in Florida (Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart – Agriculture)
10. H.R. 940 – To provide for the conveyance of National Forest System land in the State of Louisiana (Rep. Alexander – Agriculture)
11. H.Res. 81 – Recognizing the importance and sustainability of the United States hardwoods industry and urging that United States hardwoods and the products derived from United States hardwoods be given full consideration in any program directed at constructing environmentally preferable commercial, public, or private buildings (Rep. Ellsworth – Agriculture)
12. H.R. 1002 – Pisgah National Forest Boundary Adjustment Act of 2009 (Rep. Shuler – Agriculture)
13. H.R. 3386 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1165 2nd Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa, as the “Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Memorial Post Office” (Rep. Boswell – Oversight and Government Reform)
14. H.Res. 679 – Supporting the goals and ideals of American Legion Day (Rep. Halvorson – Oversight and Government Reform)
15. H.R. 3137 – To provide clarification relating to the authority of the United States Postal Service to accept donations as an additional source of funding for commemorative plaques (Rep. Issa – Oversight and Government Reform)
16. H.R. 22 – To allow the United States Postal Service to pay its share of contributions for annuitants’ health benefits out of the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, as amended (Rep. McHugh – Oversight and Government Reform)
H.R. 3246 – Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2009 (Rep. Peters – Science and Technology) (Subject to a Rule)
H.R. 3221 – Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009 (Rep. George Miller – Education and Labor) (Subject to a Rule)
* Conference Reports may be brought up at any time.
* Motions to go to Conference should they become available.
* Possible Motions to Instruct Conferees.
And in the Senate:Convenes: 2:00pm. Morning Business until 3:00pm, with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. 3:00pm, resume consideration of H.R.3288, Transportation, HUD and related agencies appropriations.
Much of the Senate’s time this week will be taken up by amendment from Sen. John McCain [R, AZ] and his Republican colleagues to strike earmarks from the bill. Subscription-only CongressDaily has the scoop:McCain is looking to block $195,000 for renovation of the Emmett Till Memorial Complex in Tallahatchie County, Miss., as well as $500,000 to construct a beach park promenade in Pascagoula, Miss., both requested by Appropriations ranking member Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
McCain also wants to strip $500,000 from the bill requested by Reid to provide a credit counseling service in Las Vegas.
The Arizonan has targeted transit projects, including $85 million requested by Sens. Jim Webb, D-Va., and Mark Warner, D-Va., to help fund an extension of Washington’s subway system to Washington Dulles International Airport.
McCain also wants to strike $30 million for the Honolulu High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, sought by Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye and Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, as well as $75 million for the Houston North Corridor Light Rail Transit requested by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.
Other amendments include a proposal by Senate Budget ranking member Judd Gregg to prohibit the use of funds in the $787 billion stimulus bill enacted in February from being used for congratulatory signage that allows lawmakers to promote their spending of tax dollars on stimulus projects.
Sens. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and David Vitter, R-La., filed amendments to bar the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, from directly or indirectly receiving any money in the bill. Republicans have long accused the group of fraudulently registering voters.
David Waldman at Congress Matters has the full committee schudule for the week.