With health care reform ready to transition from committee work to the full chambers of the House and Senate, Congress is in a holding pattern this week, buying time with some overdue appropriations bills. Behind the scenes, the Democratic leadership and the White House will be meeting to decide what exactly should be included in the health care bills that they will bring to their chambers for debate and votes in the coming week.
While those negotiations continue, health care will step into the limelight at least once this week for a final vote on passage from the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. The Committee finished voting on amendments to their version of the health care bill last week, but held off on a final vote in order to give the Congressional Budget Office time to analyze it and determine how much it will cost. Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus [D, MT] is claiming that he has the votes to pass the bill, but two Democrats on the Committee – Sen. John Rockefeller [D, WV] and Sen. Ron Wyden [D, OR] – are threatening to vote against it. If all Republicans vote against it as well, that would be enough for the bill to fail.
As for when the full health care debate starts in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] is saying October 13, after Congress return from the Columbus Day holiday. A number of issues still need to be worked out before then. In the Senate, the public option remains the most contentious issue. The plan, which would set up a government-run health care option to compete with the private insurance companies, was included in HELP Committee’s version, but not in the Finance Committee’s. Whether or not it’s included in the version that comes to the floor will likely determine if it becomes law. If proponents of the plan have to try to add it by a floor amendment, they likely won’t get the 6o votes they will almost certainly need to overcome a Republican filibuster. A public option plan will be included in the House bill that comes to the floor – it was in all three of the versions passed by House committees – but debate remains over reimbursement levels. Liberals want the public option plan to use Medicare rates plus fiver percent. But the influential moderate Blue Dog Democrats bloc has been pushing to require the HHS secretary to negotiate rates with providers.
With committee work done, some members of Congress are hoping President Obama to step up his role. “The role of the president to this point in time has been more to steer the boat, not as much to row the boat,” Sen. Thomas Carper [D, DE] said last week. “I think going forward the administration needs to do a little more rowing.”
Here are the bills that will be coming to the House floor this week:
MONDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2009
On Monday, the House will not be in session.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2009
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 (8 Bills)
1. H.Res. 741 – Expressing support for designation of October 8, 2009, as national Jumpstart’s “Read for the Record Day” (Rep. Markey (CO) – Education and Labor)
2. H.Res. 167 – Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives supporting the goals and ideals of Campus Fire Safety Month (Rep. Pascrell – Education and Labor)
3. H.Res. 707 – Expressing support for designation of the week of September 13, 2009, as Adult Education and Family Literacy Week (Rep. Polis – Education and Labor)
4. H.Res. 650 – Recognizing that country music has made a tremendous contribution to American life and culture and declaring country music to be a uniquely American art form (Rep. Stearns – Education and Labor)
5. H.Res. 795 – Honoring the people of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the Flight 93 Ambassadors for their efforts in creating the Flight 93 temporary memorial and encouraging the completion of the National Park Service Flight 93 National Memorial by the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 (Rep. Shuster – Natural Resources)
6. H.Res. 701 – To recognize the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve as a unique and precious ecosystem (Rep. Moran (VA) – Natural Resources)
7. H.Res. 710 – Supporting the goals and ideals of “National Estuaries Day” (Rep. Castor – Natural Resources)
8. H.Res. 567 – Congratulating the University of California, Irvine’s men’s volleyball team for winning the 2009 national championship (Rep. Campbell – Education and Labor)
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2009 AND THE BALANCE OF THE WEEK
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 (7 Bills)
1. H.R. 3590 – Service Members Home Ownership Tax Act of 2009 (Rep. Rangel – Ways and Means)
2. H.R. 1016 – Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act of 2009 (Rep. Filner – Veterans’ Affairs)
3. S. 1717 – To authorize major medical facility leases for the Department of Veterans Affairs for fiscal year 2010 (Sen. Akaka – Veterans’ Affairs)
4. H.R. 3547 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 936 South 250 East in Provo, Utah, as the “Rex E. Lee Post Office Building” (Rep. Chaffetz – Oversight and Government Reform)
5. H.R. 2174 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 18 Main Street in Howland, Maine, as the “Clyde Hichborn Post Office” (Rep. Michaud – Oversight and Government Reform)
6. H.R. 2092 – Kingman and Heritage Islands Act of 2009 (Rep. Norton – Oversight and Government Reform)
7. S.J.Res. 12 – A joint resolution proclaiming Casimir Pulaski to be an honorary citizen of the United States posthumously (Sen. Durbin – Judiciary)
Conference Report on H.R. 2997 - Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2010 (Rep. DeLauro - Appropriations) (Subject to a Rule)
H.R. 2442 – Bay Area Regional Water Recycling Program Expansion Act of 2009 (Rep. George Miller - Natural Resources) (Subject to a Rule)
Possible Consideration of the Conference Report on H.R. 2892 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2010 (Rep. Price (NC) - Appropriations) (Subject to a Rule)
Possible Consideration of the Conference Report on H.R. 2647 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (Rep. Skelton - Armed Services) (Subject to a Rule)
And in the Senate:
Morning business until 4:00pm with Senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each.
Following morning business, the Senate will proceed to the consideration of H.R.2847, CJS Appropriations for debate only.
There will be no roll call votes on October 5.
When the Senate resumes consideration of H.R.3326 on Tuesday, October 6, the amendments listed below are the only amendments in order to the bill, with no second degree amendments in order prior to a vote, except for where noted:
Franken amendment #2588;
Barrasso amendment #2567;
Bond amendment #2596;
Coburn amendment #2565];
Coburn amendment #2566;
Kyl amendment #2608, that once the agreement entered, it be withdrawn;
Sanders amendment #2601;
Inhofe amendment #2618;
McCain amendment #2580;
McCain amendment #2584;
McCain amendment #2583;
Lieberman-Sessions amendment #2616, as modified; and
Managers' amendment that has been cleared by both Mangers and leaders.
That upon disposition of all amendments, the substitute amendment, as amended, be agreed to and the Senate proceed to vote on passage of the bill, as amended. Further that upon passage of the bill, the Senate will request a conference with the House and the Chair will appoint conferees.
And as always, Congress Matters has the full schedule for the week.