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This Week in Congress: December 7 – 11, 2009

This week the Senate continues work on health care legislation, the House considers financial reform, and both chambers hold hearings on Afghanistan.

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)

Health care

This week the Senate continues consideration of their version of health care overhaul legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) continues to negotiate with members on compromises, most notably on the public option and provisions dealing with abortion.

At some point this week, Reid is expected to file for cloture on the health care bill, likely pushing a vote to the week of December 21. Such an early cloture motion is necessary because the bill still must go through three cloture votes with 60-vote thresholds—first on the substitute language itself (replacing the text of the House-passed shell bill), then on the manager’s amendment (which is expected to include compromises on abortion and the public option), then on the bill itself. After those three cloture votes, the vote on final passage will follow.

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Regulatory reform

On Wednesday, the House will consider H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a bill comprising eight separate regulatory reform measures that the House Financial Services Committee has marked up individually since mid-October. The package will include systemic risk provisions, create a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, allow shareholders to hold votes on executive compensation, and establish a new regulatory framework for the derivatives market.

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Appropriations

It is possible the House may also take up an omnibus appropriations bill later in the week, which is expected to include six of the remaining seven outstanding appropriations bills—the defense appropriations bill will be considered separately. The six-bill package will likely be added to the conference agreement on the fiscal year 2010 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill, and could include extensions of both unemployment insurance and COBRA health care benefits.

The defense appropriations bill will likely be considered in the House next week before the current continuing resolution expires on Friday, December 18; that bill could include job creation measures paid for by returned TARP funds.

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National security

General Stanley McChrystal, commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will testify at several hearings on U.S. strategy in Afghanistan this week, along with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry. The two will appear before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday.

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Taxes

The House may to take up a bill to extend several expiring tax provisions, including the research and development and renewable energy credits for businesses, shortened depreciation schedules on equipment, and the state and local sales tax deduction. The extenders will be paid for through investment fund managers paying normal income tax rates rather than capital gains rates on carried interest income, as well as increased penalties for companies who fail to disclose information on offshore bank account holdings.

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