This Week in Congress: January 19 – 22, 2010

This week Congress continues finalizing the health care bill, considers increasing the federal debt limit, and looks at tax benefits for charitable contributions to Haiti.

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

Negotiations continued over the weekend between House and Senate Democratic leadership and the White House on finalizing compromise language for the health care bill. A draft version was sent to the Congressional Budget Office on late Saturday evening for cost-scoring analysis, and the bill will not be considered in either chamber until scoring is complete. It is possible the conferenced version of the bill will be ready for consideration on the House floor by the end of January.

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This week the Senate will begin considering a measure to increase the national debt limit. A short-term debt limit increase was passed in late December 2009, but further action is necessary as the current limit will be reached in late February.

Under an agreement with Senate Republicans in December, several amendments will be considered to the bill: the Thune Amendment to end the Troubled Assets Relief Program; the Coburn Amendment to rescind stimulus funding; the Sessions amendment on spending caps; the Murkowski Amendment to repeal the EPA’s endangerment finding on carbon emissions and remove the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases; the Reid Amendment to enact statutory pay-as-you-go budget rules; and the Conrad-Gregg Amendment to establish a fiscal commission to make budget recommendations to Congress.

All amendments will require a 60-vote majority for passage. A vote on final passage of the debt limit is possible by the end of the week.

On Thursday, CAP Action’s John Podesta will testify before the House Budget Committee on long-term deficits.

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Homeland security

Several committees will hold hearings this week on the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meets for the first session of a two-part hearing on Wednesday, while the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committees will also hold hearings that day. On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed hearing on the bombing attempt.

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Haiti relief

On Wednesday, the House is expected to consider a measure to give tax benefits for contributions to earthquake relief in Haiti. Taxpayers would be able to claim deductions on their 2009 return for making charitable contributions. The bill will be considered under suspension of the rules, meaning it cannot be amended and will require a two-thirds majority vote for passage.

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