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This Week in Congress

October 19-23, 2009

This week Congress makes decisions about how to fund the federal government, whether to expand the definition of hate crimes, and whether to extend unemployment insurance.

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

The Senate failed last week to bring the Fiscal Year 2010 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill to a vote when the cloture vote failed 57-37. But the Senate may take it up again later this week. The holdup is due to objections by conservative senators who say they have not been given enough chances to offer amendments to the bill.

The Senate is also expected to consider the conference report to the FY10 Homeland Security appropriations bill. Passage would send the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature, making it only the fourth appropriations bill passed for FY10.

The Senate still has not passed five of its appropriations bills, and time is winding down before the current continuing resolution that is funding the federal government expires on October 31. Congress will have to pass another short-term continuing resolution next week to continue funding for the federal government, and will have the option of combining several of the remaining spending bills into a minibus package.

For more on appropriations for fiscal year 2010, see:

Health care

The Senate today will begin debate on S. 1776, a bill to permanently amend the Medicare physician payment schedule and eliminate scheduled annual cuts. Congress has in the past always patched cuts in payments to doctors with annual legislation, but this bill will eliminate the need to do so. The bill may face difficulties because fiscal conservatives would like congress to offset the $245 billion cost of the bill to with revenue increases or spending cuts elsewhere.

For more on health care reform, see:

Regulatory reform

The House Financial Services Committee will mark up legislation this week that would establish a Consumer Financial Protection Agency, increase oversight for investor protections, and create a Federal Insurance Office. The House Agriculture Committee will also take up a Financial Services Committee-passed derivatives oversight bill and modify it; both committees have jurisdiction over derivatives.

For more on regulatory reform, see:

Civil rights

The Senate is scheduled to consider the conference report to the FY2010 defense authorization bill this week after it slipped from the calendar last week. The conference report includes hate crimes language that will expand the definition of a hate crime to include those on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

For more on hate crimes legislation, see:

Unemployment

The Senate may consider and amend a House-passed bill to extend unemployment insurance this week. The Senate’s modified version is expected to provide a 14-week extension of unemployment insurance benefits, with an additional six weeks for states with unemployment rates above 8.5 percent. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is expected to offer an extension of the first-time homebuyers’ tax credit during consideration of the unemployment bill.

For more on unemployment insurance, see: