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Moving Forward With Health Care Reform

January 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Tuesdays's special Senate election in Massachusetts will certainly be viewed as a referendum on Congress' health care bill. But even if the Republican candidate wins and the Democrats no longer hold a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, there will still be at least two realistic options for the health care bill to make it through Congress and be signed into law.

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The Senate and House will both be in session next week -- here are three things they could do easily and quickly to help the situation in Haiti. 1) Give Haitian Immigrants Temporary Protected Status Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is a special immigration status that the government sometimes gives to refugees of countries that it determines are in emergency situations. It's used in cases where it would be unsafe for refugees to return to the country due to armed conflict, environmental dis...

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The retiring Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd [D, CT] is prepared to cut the Consumer Financial Protection Agency from the regulatory reform bill in order to win Republican support.

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72 Hours for the Final Health Care Bill

January 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Of all the transparency considerations surrounding the health care reform negotiations, Congress has been the best about making the text of bills available online in a timely manner before voting on them. On this measure, they've been remarkably open. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] outlines on her blog, all the different versions of the health care bill have been online for at least 72 hours before being debated, including the 85% similar original bill, H.R. 3200, which has been available onli...

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Haiti and Debt Cancellation Legislation

January 14, 2010 - by Avelino Maestas

Despite the the constant focus of our national media and political blogs (including this one) on the big trends (namely, health care for the past 6 months), members of the United States Congress still manage to introduce and debate legislation on a myriad range of issues. With the number of constituencies and interests represented by the 541 Representatives, Senators and Delegates who can introduce legislation, it's not hard to find legislation related to the topic of the day. And this week, of course, the topic is Haiti.

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Dems, Unions Agree to Scale Back the "Cadillac Tax"

January 14, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The White House, congressional Dems and labor leaders appear to have struck a deal to raise the threshold for which high-cost health care plans will be taxed to pay for health care reform. Unions were aiming to exempt "collectively bargained" plans from the tax altogether.

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Rep. Slaughter Takes on Credit Card Interest Rates

January 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Rep. Louise Slaughter [D, NY-28] recently introduced a bill along with Rep. John Tierney [D, MA-6] that would set a nation-wide annual credit card interest rate cap at 16%. She's bringing the bill straight to the Rules Committee, of which she is the Chair, in an attempt to prevent it from simply dying in committee.

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Employer Mandate on the Chopping Block

January 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Numerous reports indicate that the final health care bill will eschew the House's plan to require businesses to provide insurance and instead will tax employers for each uninsured employee that qualifies for government health care subsidies.

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iPhone + OpenCongress = Real Time Congress

January 13, 2010 - by Avelino Maestas

Today our friends at Sunlight Labs released an iPhone/iPod Touch App that gathers data about what's happening inside Congress in an easy-to-use package. Real Time Congress features committee hearing schedules, Whip packs for both parties, and the live floor proceedings of both chambers of Congress. And there's much more:

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Health Insurance Trust Busters

January 13, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Democrats are pushing negotiators to include House language in the final bill that would take away the health insurance industry's long-standing exemption from federal anti-trust laws. The Hill reports: The campaign to end health insurers' federal anti-trust exemption reemerged on Wednesday, as 18 Senate Democrats urged their party's leaders to preserve the repeal in their final healthcare bill. The House's legislation would end the anti-trust provision, but the Senate's proposal wou...

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"In a potential setback for the White House, committee members were said to be talking about reducing the proposed agency's status, possibly making it instead a division of a new systemic risk regulator or a new super-cop for banks," Reuters reports.

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25 Bills Rushed in 2009

January 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In 2009, Congress rushed a total of 25 bills to the floor without posting them online at least 72 hours beforehand for public review. That includes a lot of major pieces of legislation, like the stimulus bill, cash for clunkers, and a bill to make the estate tax permanent.

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Lobbyists Writing Legislation

January 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Lisa Murkowski [R, AK] is gearing up to offer an amendment to the Interior Appropriations bill that would block the E.P.A. from following through on their plan to crackdown on carbon emissions if the Senate doesn't pass a bill on their own to do so. The Washington Post on Monday revealed that Murkowski wrote her amendment in consultation with former Bush E.P.A. officials who are now working as lobbyists for some of the country's biggest and dirtiest energy companies. The Washington Post h...

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Final Bill Shaping Up

January 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne previews the final health care bill and the concessions progressive House Democrats are getting in exchange for giving up the public option.

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Since the 1930's, the Amish have been exempt from paying Social Security taxes. The Watertown Daily Times, which is from a region of northern New York that many Amish families call home, notes that under Congress's health care bills, the Amish would also get an exemption from the mandate to have "acceptable" health insurance or pay a tax penalty if you don't.

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