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This Week in Congress: September 13 – 17, 2010

This week Congress debates a small business jobs package, considers a rural energy efficiency program, and votes on the new arms control treaty.

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)

Small businesses and banking

The Senate will continue debate on a small business jobs package today. The bill provides $12 billion in targeted tax incentives for small businesses as well as a $30 billion lending fund for banks to provide capital for small businesses.

The Senate will vote on the Johanns amendment, which will repeal the small business tax reporting provision from the health care bill and offset that cost by cutting a fund for preventive care and weakening the health care bill’s individual mandate. If the Johanns amendment is defeated, the Senate will then vote on the Ben Nelson alternative amendment, which will exempt businesses with fewer than 25 employees from the tax reporting provision and raise the reporting threshold from $600 to $5,000. The Nelson amendment offsets that cost by preventing large oil companies from claiming an existing domestic manufacturing deduction.

If neither amendment is successful, the Senate will then proceed to a cloture vote on the small business bill. Last week Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) announced that he would support cloture on the small business bill if the Johanns amendment received a vote. The cloture vote is expected to succeed with Voinovich’s support, and the Senate will vote on final passage of the bill by the end of the week.

Energy

Later this week the House will consider H.R. 4785, the Rural Energy Savings Program Act, a bill authorizing new energy efficiency loan programs. A total of $4.25 billion is authorized over five years for the HOME STAR program, with an additional $750 million for a Rural Star energy program that will make loans to rural utility providers. HOME STAR, sometimes called “cash for caulkers,” provides consumer rebates for home energy efficiency retrofits.

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Arms control

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to vote this Thursday on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, after delaying a previously scheduled vote prior to the August recess.  With the support of Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Richard Lugar (R-IN) the treaty is expected to pass, though no other Republican member of the committee has indicated they will vote in favor.

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Stem cells

Several committees hold hearings this week on stem cell research.

On Wednesday, committees in both chambers will mark up counterpart versions of the Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Reauthorization Act. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee marks up S. 3751, and House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health marks up H.R. 6081.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and Related Agencies also holds a Thursday hearing on human embryonic stem cell research. National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins will testify.

Office of Management and Budget director

Two Senate committees, Senate Budget and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, hold hearings Thursday on the appointment of Jacob Lew to direct the Office of Management and Budget.

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