The Week in Congress: March 30 – April 3, 2009

This week Congress works on the budget, looks to expand national service, and holds hearings on health 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)


Both the House and the Senate are scheduled to consider their versions of the FY2010 budget resolution on the floor this week. The House Budget Committee reported out a budget on Wednesday, 24-15, that included reconciliation instructions on health care and education reforms. Floor debate is expected to begin mid-week. Comprehensive substitute budgets are expected from the Progressive Caucus and the Republican Conference. The Congressional Black Caucus may offer a substitute budget as well.

The Senate begins debate on their version of the FY2010 budget today. Under Senate rules, the budget resolution will be debated for 50 hours and requires only a simple majority for passage. The budget resolution as reported, 13-10, by the Senate Budget Committee last week does not include reconciliation instructions. Dozens of amendments will be allowed under a unanimous consent agreement, and votes on the amendments will be clustered following debate. A vote on final passage of the budget resolution is expected late Thursday or Friday.

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National service

Last week, the Senate passed a modified version of H.R. 1388, the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education, or GIVE Act, a bill to reauthorize several national service programs and expand the AmeriCorps program. As amended, the Senate replaced the text of the House-passed bill with their own version of the legislation, S. 277, the Serve America Act. The House will consider the Senate’s revisions today under suspension of the rules, meaning it cannot be amended and requires a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Upon passage, the bill will be cleared for President Barack Obama’s signature

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The House is expected to consider a bill this week from freshmen Reps. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Jim Himes (D-CT) that would limit companies receiving TARP funding from paying unreasonable or excessive compensation to employees. The bill, H.R. 1664, the Pay for Performance Act, will be considered on the floor mid-week.

Credit cards

Both the House and the Senate will mark up legislation this week addressing consumer credit card issues. On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee will mark up a bill from Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) while the House Financial Services Committee will mark up legislation from Joint Economic Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). Both bills prohibit banks from implementing certain abusive credit card practices, such as double-cycle billing and sudden unannounced interest rate increases.

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Health care

Several committees hold health care-focused hearings this week. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health holds two hearings: a Tuesday hearing on the role of public health in a national health care overhaul, and a Thursday hearing focusing on safety improvements and cost savings in a modernized health care system. On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee hosts a hearing on quality of care improvement and modernizing the healthcare delivery system.

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