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This Week in Congress - Let's Make a Deal

October 18, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Another slow week on the floors of the Senate and the House, but behind the scenes things continue to heat up on health care reform.

Both chambers are hoping to finalize the merging of the health care bills that have been passed through their committee – two in the Senate and three in the House – so they can get then to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for a budget score and bring them to the floor for votes as soon as possible. The House is currently set to adjourn for the year on October 30th, so I think it’s safe to say that it truly is crunch time.

The House received preliminary budget scores form the CBO last week that show that their two competing versions of health care legislation are both on target to satisfy President Obama’s total cost target of $900 billion over 10 years. Democratic House leaders are hoping to send a final version of the legislation to the CBO early this week so they can get an official score by early next week and move on to the actual floor debate shortly thereafter. But before they send a bill to the CBO, they have to reach a final agreement on the details of the public option plan (will it be tied to Medicare reimbursement rates or not?) and how they are going to finance the the bill (surtax on millionaires like the bills passed by the House committees, or some variation of the Senate’s plan to tax insurance companies’ “Cadillac” plans?).

Officially, the Senate is on the same schedule as the House, but realistically they have a lot more to work out before they’re ready to send a final bill to the CBO for budget scoring. Among other things, the three senators involved in the negotiations – Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV], Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Bauc us [D, MT] and former stand-in HELP Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd [D, CT] – will have to find some kind of compromise between the HELP bill that includes a public option plan that require the HHS Secretary to negotiate rates with providers and the Finance bill that does not include a public option. Based on the various reports and rumors circulating over the weekend, the negotiators appear to be leaning towards a plan to allow individual states to opt out of a public plan tied to Medicare rates and, in stead, set up other systems for providing competition in the health insurance market, like a non-profit co-op. For a complete run down of all the differences between the HELP and Finance bills that the negotiators will be working on ironing out this week, see the chart in this blog post.

We’ll be watching the reports out of both chambers and reporting the developments on this blog. Grab the RSS feed and stay tuned. Below are the full legislative schedules for the week in the Senate and the House.

First, the House:


On Monday, the House will not be in session.



On Tuesday, 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 (6 Bills)

  1. H.R. 3763 - To amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide for an exclusion from Red Flag Guidelines for certain businesses (Rep. Adler – Financial Services)
  2. H.R. 3319 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 440 South Gulling Street in Portola, California, as the “Army Specialist Jeremiah Paul McCleery Post Office Building” (Rep. McClintock – Oversight and Government Reform)
  3. H.R. 3819 – To extend the commercial space transportation liability regime (Rep. Gordon – Science and Technology)
  4. H.Res. 793 – Supporting the goals and ideals of National Chemistry Week (Rep. Reyes – Science and Technology)
  5. H.Res. 558 – Supporting the increased understanding of, and interest in, computer science and computing careers among the public and in schools, and to ensure an ample and diverse future technology workforce through the designation of National Computer Science Education Week (Rep. Ehlers – Science and Technology)
  6. H.Res. 797 – Expressing the sense of Congress with respect to raising awareness and enhancing the state of cyber security in the United States, and supporting the goals and ideals of the sixth annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month (Rep. Clarke – Science and Technology)



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 (12 Bills)

  1. H.R. 3792 - Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 (Rep. Pallone – Energy and Commerce)
  2. H.R. 3632 – Federal Judiciary Administrative Improvements Act of 2009 (Rep. Johnson (GA) – Judiciary)
  3. H.Con.Res. 177 – Raising the awareness of the need for crime prevention in communities across the country and expressing support for designation of October 1, 2009, through October 3, 2009, as “Celebrate Safe Communities” Week, and October as “Crime Prevention Month” (Rep. Reichert – Judiciary)
  4. H.Res. 811 – Expressing support for designation of October 2009 as “National Principals Month” (Rep. Davis (CA) – Education and Labor)
  5. H.Res. 837Recognizing Kentucky Wesleyan College for their service as an institution of higher education for over 150 years (Rep. Guthrie – Education and Labor)
  6. H.Res. 660 – Recognizing the distinguished history of the Laurinburg Normal Industrial Institute (Rep. Kissell – Education and Labor)
  7. H.Res. 836Expressing support for Teen Read Week (Rep. Roe – Education and Labor)
  8. S.Con.Res. 43 – Authorizing the use of the rotunda of the Capitol for the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to former Senator Edward Brooke (Sen. McConnell – House Administration)
  9. H.Res. 823 – Expressing deep condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of those killed and injured in the attack on the United Nations World Food Program office in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 5, 2009, and support for the WFP’s mission to bring emergency food aid to the most vulnerable people of Pakistan and around the world (Rep. DeLauro – Foreign Affairs)
  10. H.Res. 761 – Remembering and commemorating the lives and work of the Jesuit Fathers on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of their deaths at the University of Central America Jose Simeon Canas located in San Salvador, El Salvador on November 16, 1989 (Rep. McGovern – Foreign Affairs)
  11. H.Res. 672 – Calling on the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to release imprisoned bloggers and respect Internet freedom (Rep. Loretta Sanchez – Foreign Affairs)
  12. H.Res. 175 – Condemning the Government of Iran for its state-sponsored persecution of its Baha’i minority and its continued violation of the International Covenants on Human Rights (Rep. Kirk – Foreign Affairs)


H.R. 3585 – Solar Technology Roadmap Act of 2010 (Rep. Giffords – Science and Technology) (Subject to a Rule)


H.R. 3619 - Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (Rep. Oberstar – Transportation and Infrastructure) (Subject to a Rule)

And in the Senate:

Convenes: 2:00pm

Morning Business until 4:30pm with senators permitted to speak therein for up to 10 minutes each.

Following Morning Business, the Senate will resume the motion to proceed to S.1776, the Medicare Physicians Fairness Act of 2009, with the time until 5:30pm equally divided and controlled between the Leaders or their designees.

We expect to reach an agreement to consider S.1776. As a result, there will be no roll call votes on Monday.

… Besides the Medicare Physicians Fairness bill, Democrats will continue this week to try to find some kind of agreement with Repubilcans on passing a 14-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits (H.R. 3548). Republicans claim to be supportive of the extension, but they have blocked the bill each time the Democrats have brought it up for quick passage in the past few weeks.

As always, Congress Matters has prepared the full committee schedule for the week.

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