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The Week in Congress: April 20 – 24, 2009

This week Congress takes up a clean-energy bill, begins the process of reconciling on the budget, and takes steps toward health care reform.

Rush hour traffic on Independence Avenue makes its way past the U.S. Capitol Building. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rush hour traffic on Independence Avenue makes its way past the U.S. Capitol Building. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Energy and environment

Climate change heats up the House this week as the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment holds four hearings on comprehensive clean-energy legislation from Chairmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ed Markey (D-MA) of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. Wednesday’s hearing will feature Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. The Energy and Environment subcommittee will mark up the bill next week, with full committee consideration expected in early May.

Read more from CAP on seizing the energy opportunity:

Memo: We Must Seize the Energy Opportunity or Slip Further Behind by Ben Furnas

Speech: Cooperating with China on Climate Change by John Podesta

Column: Climate Change and International Competitiveness by Jake Caldwell
 

Budget

The House and the Senate will try to reconcile their versions of the fiscal year 2010 budget, with conferees expected to be named this week. The House version provides $532 billion in nondefense discretionary spending, while the Senate version provides $525 billion.

Conferees also must agree on the inclusion of reconciliation language in the final version of the budget. Reconciliation is an optional procedure that can be used during the budget process that requires committees to write legislation affecting government spending or revenues on a particular issue at a specified time in the future. If reconciliation instructions are included in the final version of the budget resolution, the committees with jurisdiction over the issue in question will develop separate bills that are then considered apart from the budget process. According to Senate rules, reconciliation legislation may not be filibustered, so it only requires a simple majority vote for passage. The House budget includes reconciliation instructions to reform health care and education programs, while the Senate’s contains no instructions.

More from CAP:

Video: President Obama’s Priorities for the Economy with Michael Ettlinger

Public Opinion: Public Backs Obama’s Budget by Ruy Teixeira
 

Health care

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will vote on the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. A floor vote confirming Governor Sebelius is possible by the end of the week.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing on reforming the health care delivery system. The House Ways and Means Committee follows with a Wednesday hearing on reforming health insurance markets.

Read more from CAP on health reform:

Video: Ask the Expert with Peter Harbage: How to Build an Effective Public Health Insurance Plan

CAP Action Report: Health Reform: Delivering for Those Who Deliver Health Care by Robert A. Berenson and Ellen-Marie Whelan
 

Finance and credit

The Senate will continue debate this week on S. 386, a bill to expand federal fraud laws to cover mortgage lenders that are not currently subject to federal regulation.

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee will mark up H.R. 527, the Credit Cardholders Bill of Rights.

Read more from CAP:

Column: Don’t Hamper Mortgage Modifications by Andrew Jakabovics

Report: Putting Credit Card Debt on Notice by Tim Westrich