Here’s what’s happening this week:
Congress will begin its July 4 recess at the close of business on Friday — don’t we all wish we could do the same? — but before it does, it will attempt to make some headway on health care legislation.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee continues to markup its version of the bill, while according to the New York Times the Senate Finance Committee will be engaged in “intense back-room negotiations“. In the House, three committees — Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor — will take up the 852-page draft of their joint health care bill.
Look for many in the GOP — and too many timid Dems — to try to kill the public plan option by citing a CBO report that estimated the HELP plan would cover “only 16 million people”.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes, “The CBO analysis covers only a part of the HELP plan… and does not include major elements… that would further substantially reduce the number of uninsured.” Democrats in need of a little spine should check out the latest New York Times/CBS News poll that finds 72 percent of Americans support a public plan option that would compete with private insurers. On Thursday, Health Care for America Now (HCAN) will hold a large rally and lobbying day at the Capitol.
The House will vote on the mammoth $680.4 billion FY10 defense authorization bill. According to CongressDaily, Rep. James McGovern will once again offer his good amendment demanding an Afghanistan exit strategy — something President Obama himself has said is needed but is still inexplicably missing from his Af-Pak strategy. The House and Senate will also take up the FY10 Homeland Security bill (approximately $45 billion). The House will also take up the $32.3 billion Interior-Environment spending bill.
The Senate is expected to sign a tourism promotion bill. That’s not too exciting in itself, but the battle around the amendments is of interest. So far, the GOP has blocked an amendment from Senator Bernie Sanders that would take on oil speculation.
Senator Frank Lautenberg continues to push commonsense gun regulation even as many of his Democratic colleagues turn weak-kneed on the issue. Today, he will introduce legislation that would allow the Attorney General to block gun sales to people on terror watch lists. That’s right — as things stand now, people on the list can’t board a plane but they can load up on guns and ammo, no problem.
Congress also begins its work on a financial regulatory reform bill. This morning, the Senate Banking Committee looks at regulating over-the-counter derivatives — a weakness in the Obama proposal. House Financial Services, on the other hand, takes a look Wednesday at one of the stronger aspects of Obama’s proposal — enhancing consumer protection. Obama proposes creating a Consumer Finance Protection Agency.
The White House is scheduled to have one of its bipartisan, let’s see what we agree on, meetings this Thursday — this one on immigration reform. It’s been postponed twice already.
Notable hearings — all taking place on a busy Thursday: Attorney General Eric Holder appears before Senate Judiciary regarding proposed changes to “The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009″…. House Financial Services looks at preserving federal and state affordable housing…. Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Bank of America’s acquisition of Merrill Lynch and the subsequent government bailout…. and the Joint Economic Committee looks at predatory lending and reverse redlining.