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This Week in Congress: October 26 – 30, 2009

This week Congress works on appropriations bills and legislation on health care reform, energy, and regulatory 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)

Appropriations

Both chambers will have to take up a continuing resolution this week, as the current funding for the federal government runs out on October 31. It is expected that conferees on the Interior-Environment appropriations bill will add the text of the continuing resolution to their bill, and both chambers will pass the conference report by the end of the week. The continued funding will likely run through December 15, by which time Congress will have to pass an omnibus appropriations bill containing the rest of the outstanding bills for fiscal year 2010.

The Senate may again take up the FY10 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill later in the week. A cloture vote on the bill failed by three votes on October 13—all Senate Republicans opposed the measure due to a dispute over amendments. Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) still plan to offer their amendment, which requires census employees to inquire about citizenship status. Before the end of the week, the Senate may also consider the FY10 Military Construction-Veterans Affairs appropriations bill.

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Unemployment

After slipping from last week’s schedule, the Senate will hold a cloture vote Tuesday on a bill to extend unemployment insurance. The Senate will modify a House-passed unemployment bill and will likely provide a 14-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits, with an additional six weeks of benefits for states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent. Senate leadership has indicated they will attempt to attach an extension of the homebuyers’ tax credit and the net operating loss carryback provision to the unemployment bill.

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Energy

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold several hearings this week on S. 1733, the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. CAP President and CEO John Podesta will testify at Thursday’s hearing. Markup on Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) bill may begin the week of November 2.

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Health care

This week, the Senate will submit their version of a comprehensive health care overhaul bill to the Congressional Budget Office for cost estimates. Senate leadership has been working for several weeks to merge the contents of bills from the two committees with jurisdiction over the issue—Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Once CBO receives the bill, they are expected to complete the scoring analysis within a week.

Meanwhile, House leadership may also make their comprehensive health care bill public this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) have been working the Democratic Caucus to gauge support for various versions of the public option, all of which have already been scored by the CBO. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has indicated that the House may begin debate on their health care bill as early as November 7.

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Regulatory reform

The House Financial Services Committee will continue to mark up individual components of a regulatory reform package this week, with the goal of the larger bill to be considered on the floor in November. The bills marked up this week are expected to place restrictions on the credit-ratings industry, enhance investor protection for securities, require private capital pools to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and create a Federal Office of Insurance in the Treasury Department.

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