This Week in Congress: November 2 – 6, 2009

This week Congress debates health care legislation, considers extending unemployment insurance, and continues work on appropriations.

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

The House this week is scheduled to begin debate on H.R. 3692, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The bill was unveiled last week by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and represents a unified version of the bills that have moved through committee consideration for the previous several months.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) indicated that the manager’s amendment to the bill will be filed on Monday morning. This would begin the 72-hour public availability period before floor debate can start, so Thursday morning is the earliest point at which the House will begin consideration. If Republicans are able to offer a comprehensive plan of their own, a vote on that measure will likely be taken. It is unclear how long the bill will be considered on the floor, and votes could drag into next weekend. The Rules Committee will likely meet on Wednesday to determine the amount of floor time to be spent debating the health care bill.

Meanwhile, the Senate is awaiting full cost analysis from the Congressional Budget Office on their comprehensive health care legislation. If the CBO provides that information this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will introduce the bill and floor consideration could begin next week.

For more on health care see:


Senate consideration of H.R. 3548, the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, continues for a second week, with a cloture vote scheduled for Monday at 5:00 p.m. An agreement was reached late last week to include two additional provisions in the unemployment bill: an extension of the homebuyers’ tax credit through the end of April 2010 and a change to allow companies to carry back present losses to offset past taxes for an additional two years. If Monday’s cloture vote is successful, the unemployment bill will likely be passed by mid-week.

For more on unemployment insurance, see:


Disputes over amendments to the unemployment insurance extension bill last week in the Senate resulted in two long-delayed appropriations bills sliding into this week. The Senate is scheduled to again take up the fiscal year 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill. A cloture vote on the bill failed by three votes on October 13, and another cloture vote is expected on Tuesday. If the Senate is able to complete consideration of both the unemployment bill and the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill, they will then begin consideration of the FY10 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill later in the week.

For more on appropriations see:


The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is scheduled to begin marking up S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act on Tuesday, but a boycott effort led by Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-OK) will likely result in a delay of the markup. The committee must have at least two Republican members present to form a quorum and allow legislative business to proceed, but Inhofe and all other committee Republicans have indicated they will not attend.

For more on energy see:


The House is also expected to consider H.R. 3639, the Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act, a bill to move up the start date of consumer credit card regulations. In May 2009, Congress passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act, which prohibits lenders from implementing certain abusive credit card practices, such as double-cycle billing and sudden unannounced interest rate increases. The Expedited CARD Reform for Consumers Act makes those regulations effective as of December 1, 2009, rather than August 2010.

For more on consumer credit protection see:

Homeland security

The House will take up H.R. 2868, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2009, a bill to authorize additional Homeland Security programs to protect chemical, wastewater, and drinking water plants.

For more on chemical regulation see:


German Chancellor Angela Merkel will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday morning at 10:30 a.m. Chancellor Merkel’s address, which comes a few days prior to the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, will focus on how the United States and Germany can work together on climate change, international security, and the global financial crisis.

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