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The Week in Congress: April 27 – May 1, 2009

This week Congress takes up the budget as well as a possible renewable energy standard and finance 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)

Budget

House and Senate conferees meet this week to come to an agreement on the fiscal year 2010 budget. Last week, the House appointed Budget Chairman John Spratt (D-SC), Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Allen Boyd (D-FL), and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) to serve as conferees. The Senate followed suit with Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND), Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH), and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

Staff-level negotiations on the budget took place over the weekend, and a preliminary agreement will preserve reconciliation instructions for health care and education reforms, meaning that separate legislation affecting those issues will be marked up in committee and considered on the floor no later than October 15 of this year. The exact amount of nondefense discretionary spending in the budget has not yet been agreed upon; the House version provides $532.6 billion while the Senate provides $525 billion. Floor votes on the conference agreement in both chambers could happen as early as Wednesday.

More from CAP:

Overview: A New, Ambitious Course of Action by Michael Ettlinger.

Defense: Obama’s Defense Budget Is on Target by Lawrence J. Korb.

Education: Investing Wisely in Our Children Cynthia G. Brown and Melissa Lazarín.

Energy: Energy Budget Is Sunlight After Eight Years of Darkness by Daniel J. Weiss.

Health care: One Step Closer to Better Health Care by Karen Davenport.
 

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. After being considered for several days last week, a cloture vote is scheduled for Monday evening, with a vote on final passage expected midday Tuesday.

The Senate is also expected to consider legislation which would allow bankruptcy judges to reduce the principal amount of a homeowner’s loan to current fair market value, known as a “cram down” in bankruptcy parlance.

This week, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 627, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act, a bill that prohibits credit card companies from implementing certain unfair practices on consumers. The bill cleared the House Financial Services Committee last week on a 48-19 vote.

More from CAP:

Column: Don’t Hamper Mortgage Modifications by Andrew Jakabovics.

Report: Putting Credit Card Debt on Notice by Tim Westrich.
 

Health care

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Under a unanimous consent agreement, the Senate will hold up to eight hours of debate on Gov. Sebelius’ nomination, with a 60-vote threshold required for confirmation.

More from CAP:

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

Testimony: Assuring Access to Employer-Provided Health Coverage by Karen Davenport.
 

Energy and environment

On Thursday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a markup on legislation to create a renewable energy standard.

More from CAP:

Column: Low-Carbon Fuels Done Right by Jake Caldwell

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