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The Week Ahead in Congress

December 13, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

This week, Congress will be working to finish up and pass a bill to fund the Department of Defense by Friday in order to avoid having to extend a continuing resolution to keep the department funded and punting the issue further down the road. That goal could be complicated by a number of unrelated issues Democrats in both chambers are hoping to add to it, including a 6-months unemployment insurance extension, a nearly $2 trillion increase in the debt ceiling, a jobs bill and pay/go rules.

Meanwhile, the Senate will continue with the health care reform issue that has been before Congress for nearly 6 months. Congressional Democrats are still hoping to finalize the health care bill before leaving for the Christmas recess.

Here’s where things stand right now with the health care debate: Last week, a group of 10 Senate Democrats — a mix of liberals and conservatives — struck a deal that they think can win enough votes for the health care bill to be approved. The deal would involve removing the public option from the bill in exchange for opening up Medicare for people between the ages of 55 and 64, a new network of federally-administered, privately operated non-profit insurers and a “trigger” that would put a national public option plan in place if the non-profit network didn’t result in cheap enough insurance for enough people. Most liberal seem to like the deal, but most conservative Democrats are waiting for a full scoring from the Congressional Budget Office, which will probably be finished sometime this week.

If the score comes back showing that the new trades off for the public option don’t save money and/or are not effective at expanding insurance coverage, it’s back to the drawing board and the Democrats would then be looking at sometime after the January recess for passing the bill. If the CBO score comes back looking good, it’s very possible that the bill could still be approved before the Christmas recess.

We can certainly expect contentious votes this week on a drug re-importation amendment and an amendment recommit the bill back to committee in order to remove any tax increases that could affect people earning less than $250,000 annually.

On the DoD funding front, one of the most contentious issue that will have to be ironed out between the Senate and House before a final bill can be passed is pay/go. On Friday, Democratic leaders in the House announced their intention to add statutory pay/go language to the bill, which would require, by law, all spending and tax bills that would increase the deficit to be fully offset by finding new savings elsewhere. But the House’s pay/go language would exempt all bills that would cut taxes for the middles class, patch the alternative minimum tax, reduce the estate tax, or provide higher Medicare payments to doctors. Senate Democrats oppose the House’s pay/go language because the want these policies to be subject to the same set of rules.

Here’s the House’s schedule for the week:


On Monday, the House will meet at 12:30 p.m. for Morning Hour debate and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.

Suspensions (5 Bills)

1.       S. 303 – Reauthorizing and improving the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999 (Sen. Voinovich – Oversight and Government Reform)

2.       H.Res. 779 – Recognizing and supporting the goals and ideals of National Runaway Prevention Month (Rep. Biggert – Oversight and Government Reform)

3.       H.Res. 942 – Commending the Real Salt Lake soccer club for winning the 2009 Major League Soccer Cup (Rep. Matheson – Oversight and Government Reform)

4.       H.Con.Res. 160 – Honoring the American Kennel Club on its 125th anniversary (Rep. Price (NC) – Oversight and Government Reform)

5.       H.R. 4284 - Andean Trade Preference Extension Act of 2009 (Rep. Rangel – Ways and Means)


On Tuesday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for Morning Hour debate and 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business.

Suspensions (10 Bills)

1.       H.R. 1517 – To allow certain U.S. Customs and Border Protection employees who serve under an overseas limited appointment for at least 2 years, and whose service is rated fully successful or higher throughout that time, to be converted to a permanent appointment in the competitive service (Rep. Engel – Homeland Security)

2.       H.R. 3978 – First Responder Anti-Terrorism Training Resources Act (Rep. Rogers (AL) – Homeland Security)

3.       H.Res. 894 – Honoring the 50th anniversary of the recording of the album “Kind of Blue” and reaffirming jazz as a national treasure (Rep. Conyers – Judiciary)

4.       S. 1472 – Establishing a section within the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice to enforce human rights laws, to make technical and conforming amendments to criminal and immigration laws pertaining to human rights violations (Sen. Durbin – Judiciary)

5.       H.Res. 150 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that A. Philip Randolph should be recognized for his lifelong leadership and work to end discrimination and secure equal employment and labor opportunities for all Americans (Rep. Rangel – Judiciary)

6.       H.R. 1110PHONE Act of 2009 (Rep. Scott (VA) – Judiciary)

7.       H.R. 1147 – Local Community Radio Act of 2009 (Rep. Doyle – Energy and Commerce)

8.       H.R. 1084 – Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (Rep. Eshoo – Energy and Commerce)

9.       H.R. 3714 – Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act of 2009 (Rep. Schiff – Foreign Affairs)

10.    H.R. 2194 – Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act of 2009 (Rep. Berman – Foreign Affairs)

Further Action on H.R. 3326 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010 (Rep. Murtha – Appropriations) (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 here’s what the Senate has released about their schedule for the week:

Monday December 14

Convenes: 2:00pm

The Senate will convene at 2:00pm and will be in a period of morning business with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each. The Republicans will control the first 30 minutes and the Majority will control the next 30 minutes.
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