A burst of activity awaits this week, as both the Senate and the House will be working on areas of concern for independent producers. With November only a week away, time is becoming more and more precious, and concrete progress will need to be made on pending legislation if it is to be completed in 2009. Like the Three Amigos, health care, climate change, and financial regulation all remain closely linked. The success or demise of one depends on the others.
Health care: Political spin is ramping up around the status of the Senate bill. Senator Schumer (D, NY) this week claimed that the majority is on the verge of achieving the necessary 60 votes to move the Senate version forward and pass through the Senate. House Majority Leader Hoyer (D, MD-05) announced that a vote is expected on the House version of the bill on November 6th. Lots of positive progress in a short amount of time it appears. But contrast these statements with last week’s sentiments from Senator Baucus (D, MT), the Senate Finance Committee Chairman and center of the health care negotiations, when he said that health care will take longer than people think it will. It’s safe to say that the final result is still unknown, but health care retains the number one spot on the priority list.
Climate Change: Senator Kerry (D, MA) hinted at the need for a Thanksgiving deadline for all Senate committees to have completed their work on the climate bill. While that has not been put in place as a hard and fast deadline, it reflects the feelings of the majority about wanting to make significant progress on the bill. The Kerry-Boxer bill was released on Friday with details of allocations filled in, and it seems that most provisions track with the Waxman-Markey bill from the House, but also includes some provisions more stringent. While Senator Boxer’s (D, CA) EPW Committee will hold multiple hearings on the bill this week, we expect questions to be answered and more to arise. Unclear still is if and when a mark-up will be held on the bill, although Senator Boxer has hinted that she would like to do so in early November. The climate change debate continues to play second fiddle to health care, and will do so for the immediate future. The success of EPW’s hearings this week are a wild card for the eventual success of the bill, however, and we will know more by the end of the week. Meanwhile, natural gas garners more attention, as Senator Bingaman’s (D, NM) ENR Committee will hold a hearing about the use of natural gas and its effect in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Financial Regulation: The House has made significant progress on both versions of this legislation, from the House Ag Committee and House Financial Services Committee. Encouraging, bipartisan efforts have played a key role in the early progress of the bills. While timing is still unclear, the two versions will be merged together sometime in the next couple weeks to make a final House version to be considered. Depending on the fates of both health care and climate change, this legislation may be needed as a signature victory for the Administration and Congress. Keep an eye on its status, not only because of the concerns related to independent producers, but also as a clue for progress on the other two issues.
Floor considerations this week for both chambers will consist mainly of the continued work on FY10 appropriations bills, including another continuing resolution to keep the government running/funded. The current CR is set to expire this week, so it is necessary to extend, possibly through mid-December, so work can be completed.
Key Committee Schedules for the Week of Oct. 26-30: