Congress Retuns to Take on Healthcare ReformSeptember 7, 2009 - by Donny Shaw
The Senate and the House both return to work on Capitol Hill today after a five-week summer recess that was dominated by a bitter debate over the Democrats’ plans to reform the health insurance industry and the broader U.S. health care system. This week’s big event as the legislators settle back in will be President Obama’s healthcare speech on Wednesday night to a joint session of Congress.
Obama is expected to give his most detailed description yet of what he wants from Congress in healthcare legislation. So far, he has only provided vague outlines; the details of the actual legislation have been left up to Congress. In his speech, President Obama is also expected to be clear and forceful in telling Congress that it’s time for the reform process to move from the negotiating stage to actual legislative action. Aides to Obama say that his Labor Day speech delivered to a crowd of union members in Cincinatti was a sort of preview of the speech he will deliver to Congress on Wednesday.
It’s still unclear what Obama will say about the public option. For months he has said that he supports the creation of a new government-run health insurance plan to compete with the private insurers, but he has always stopped short of saying that he would oppose a bill that does not include such a plan. A consensus is beginning to form among progressives that any plan that requires all Americans to get insurance must also include a public option, and they will be watching on Wednesday to see if Obama will be supporting their position or if he will be striking a more conciliatory tone.
Meanwhile, members of Congress will continue to work on finding a bipartisan healthcare compromise. On Sunday, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT], released an outline of healthcare legislation that is likely Congress’ best shot at finding bipartisanship on reform. Baucus has been meeting for months with an ad hoc group of three Democrats and three Republicans in his committee, dubbed the “Gang of Six,” to work out a compromise they can all support. Baucus’ bill proposes a new fee on insurance companies’ most expensive plans, does not contain a public option like most Democrats support, and is less generous in its subsidies to help low-income people to buy healthcare than other proposals in Congress. The Gang of Six is meeting for the fist time in weeks on Tuesday to review Baucus’ proposal; President Obama and Senate Democrat leaders have given them until September 15th to finalize a compromise before they push a Democrats-only bill through using the budget reconciliation process.
Besides healthcare, several other issues will be on the back burner. The Senate still needs to pass a cap-and-trade bill to address climate change that can be reconciled with the one that the House has already passed. Both chambers need to pick up the pace on their legislation to overhaul regulation in the financial markets. Other issues that Congress is hoping to get to include shutting down Guantanamo Bay, comprehensive immigration reform, and appropriations bills to keep the government up and running. Realistically, with the House tentatively scheduled to adjourn for the year at the end of October, several of these items are going to have to be pushed back until next year if Congress is going to prioritize healthcare reform.
We’ll be following all the major developments on this blog as Congress takes up all these issues. For now here’s a preview of the legislation coming up in the week ahead:
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2009
On Tuesday, the House will meet at 2:00 p.m. for legislative business with votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.
Suspensions (11 Bills)
- H.R. 1043 - Deafy Glade Land Exchange Act (Rep. George Miller – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 1287 – Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center Partnership Act (Rep. Visclosky – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 324 – Santa Cruz Valley National Heritage Area Act (Rep. Grijalva – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 1858 – To provide for a boundary adjustment and land conveyances involving Roosevelt National Forest, Colorado, to correct the effects of an erroneous land survey that resulted in approximately 7 acres of the Crystal Lakes Subdivision, Ninth Filing, encroaching on National Forest System land (Rep. Markey (CO) – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 310 – HALE Scouts Act (Rep. Boren – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 3123 – Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel Remediation Act of 2009 (Rep. Lamborn – Natural Resources)
- H.Res. 541 – Recognizing and honoring the restoration and renovation of the Bishop Museum’s historic Hawaiian Hall (Rep. Abercrombie – Natural Resources)
- H.Res. 361 – Recognizing the historical significance of Historic Virginia Key Beach Park of Miami, Florida (Rep. Ros-Lehtinen – Natural Resources)
- H.R. 2004 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4282 Beach Street in Akron, Michigan, as the “Akron Veterans Memorial Post Office” (Rep. Kildee – Oversight and Government Reform)
- H.R. 1345 – District of Columbia Hatch Act Reform Act of 2009 (Rep. Norton – Oversight and Government Reform)
- H.R. 2760 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1615 North Wilcox Avenue in Los Angeles, California, as the “Johnny Grant Hollywood Post Office Building” (Rep. Watson – Oversight and Government Reform)
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2009 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. At approximately 8:00 p.m., the House is expected to meet in a joint session with the Senate for the purpose of receiving an address from the President of the United States. On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for legislative business. On Friday, no votes are expected in the House, which is a change to the previously announced schedule.
Suspensions (15 Bills)
- H.R. 3165 - Wind Energy Research and Development Act of 2009 (Rep. Tonko – Science and Technology)
- H.Res. 447 – Recognizing the remarkable contributions of the American Council of Engineering Companies for its 100 years of service to the engineering industry and the Nation (Rep. Shuler – Science and Technology)
- H.Con.Res. 167 – Supporting the goals and ideals of National Aerospace Day (Rep. Ehlers – Science and Technology)
- H.R. 445 – Heavy Duty Hybrid Vehicle Research, Development, and Demonstration Act of 2009 (Rep. Sensenbrenner – Science and Technology)
- H.Res. 623 – Requesting that the President focus appropriate attention on neighborhood crime prevention and coordinate certain Federal efforts to participate in National Night Out by supporting local officials to promote community safety and help provide homeland security (Rep. Stupak – Judiciary)
- H.Res. 556 – Recognizing the 75th anniversary of the passage of the Federal Credit Union Act and the vibrant Federal credit union community that was created as a result of this important piece of legislation (Rep. Himes – Financial Services)
- H.R. 2664 – Promoting Transparency in Financial Reporting Act of 2009 (Rep. Lee (NY) – Financial Services)
- H.R. 2571 – Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act of 2009 (Rep. Moore (KS) – Financial Services)
- H.R. 2097 – Star-Spangled Banner Commemorative Coin Act (Rep. Ruppersberger – Financial Services)
- H.R. 2498 – To designate the Federal building located at 844 North Rush Street in Chicago, Illinois, as the “William O. Lipinski Federal Building” (Rep. Oberstar – Transportation and Infrastructure)
- H.R. 2121 – To provide for the transfer of certain Federal property to the Galveston Historical Foundation (Rep. Paul – Transportation and Infrastructure)
- H.R. 2053 – To designate the United States courthouse located at 525 Magoffin Avenue in El Paso, Texas, as the “Albert Armendariz, Sr., United States Courthouse” (Rep. Reyes – Transportation and Infrastructure)
- H.Con.Res. 136 – Authorizing the use of the Capitol Grounds for a celebration of Citizenship Day (Rep. Watson – Transportation and Infrastructure)
- H.R. 3193 – To designate the United States courthouse under construction at 101 South United States Route 1 in Fort Pierce, Florida, as the “Alto Lee Adams, Sr., United States Courthouse” (Rep. Rooney – Transportation and Infrastructure)
- H.Res. __ - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the terrorist attacks launched against the United States on September 11, 2001 (Reps. Hoyer/Boehner)
H.R. 965 – Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Continuing Authorization Act (Rep. Sarbanes – Natural Resources) (Subject to a Rule)
And here’s what we know will be going on in the Senate this week:At 5:30pm on Tuesday, September 8, the Senate will proceed to vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Dorgan amendment #1347 to S.1023, Travel Promotion Act. If cloture is invoked, the time will run as if cloture was invoked at 10:30am on Tuesday, September 8.
As always, the intrepid David Waldman at Congress Matters has put together the full committee schedule for the week. Thanks, David!