August 3, 2009

Update from Washington, DC

By Christy Gullion

With the House gone for its August recess, the Senate will turn its attention this week to passing one more spending bill, replenishing the popular Cash for Clunkers program, and confirming President Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, all with the aim to leave town Friday until after Labor Day.

APPROPRIATIONS

As Congress prepares to leave for August recess, the House, which adjourned last week, has completed work on all 12 appropriations bills, and the Senate is expected to be a third of the way done when it departs Friday.  The Senate will consider its Agriculture spending measure this week.  With Senate passage of the Agriculture bill this week, the Senate will have passed four of its bills.

The Senate plans to continue floor consideration of spending bills in September, and leaders would like to get a handful of spending bills enacted before the Oct. 1 start of federal fiscal year 2010.  A continuing resolution will be needed to fund most government agencies when the new fiscal year arrives.  Democrats remain intent on enacting all 12 spending bills individually, and avoiding a massive multi-bill omnibus spending measure, as has so often been the result over the past 14 years. 

The House and Senate will begin informal and then formal conference committee negotiations to work out the differences between their spending measures.  The Office of Federal Relations will continue to advocate for funding priorities that affect the University of Washington, including congressionally-directed funding and specific programmatic (agency) funding.

HEALTH

The six Senate Finance Committee members negotiating a bipartisan healthcare overhaul bill will meet throughout the week, but will not hold a markup on any overhaul measure.  While they keep reporting that the group is making progress, no one has seen a proposal on paper.  One provision that appears close to a final decision is an insurance co-op in lieu of a public option.  The public option issue will likely be hotly debated when Congress returns to DC in September. 

The House meanwhile may be on recess, but lawmakers working on a health care overhaul still have a lot of work to do over the break to prepare to pass legislation when they return.  Democratic leaders and committee chairs will have to find a way to resolve differences in the versions of the bill approved by two committees – Education and Labor and Ways and Means – and a compromise measure approved just before the House recessed last week by the Energy and Commerce Committee that includes proposals crafted with moderate Democrats on the panel who had opposed the original bill over cost concerns.

The House is looking now to pass the bill in mid-September, a few days after Congress reconvenes. 

AUGUST RECESS

House Members have already started their August recess, with many of them back in their home states/districts.  The Senate will follow after they complete their work this week.  The WA State Delegation will spend the recess period holding town hall meetings, attending forums, and meeting with community leaders and constituent groups – with a focus on health care reform, Recovery Act implementation, and climate issues.  Many of the DC staff from these offices will be in the state, and I am arranging for several of these staff to be on campus to learn more about our priorities as they relate to the federal government. 

I will be on campus from August 19 through September 4, and am currently scheduling meetings with faculty and staff to discuss on-going University projects and issues.  The Office of Federal Relations is also gearing up on the development of our FY2011 Federal Agenda.  This agenda will likely include a continued focus on obtaining Recovery Act funding, as well as identifying new research opportunities through health care reform and climate legislation.  Additionally, we are beginning to discuss priorities for FY2011 congressionally-directed funding requests.

Please let me know if you would like to meet with me during the time I’m on campus – either to discuss the current FY2010 process, the upcoming FY2011 Federal Agenda development, or any other issue that has some federal nexus and needs some attention by the Office of Federal Relations. 

Christy Gullion, Director

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