Federal Relations

September 7, 2009

Update from Washington, DC

Congress returns to work this week after a fractious August recess during which lawmakers were confronted about the public health insurance option and other contentious elements in Democratic health reform bills.  Policy experts already are identifying less controversial proposals that could attract support from moderate Democrats and even some Republicans.

Lawmakers hope to come up with a compromise on health reform by the middle of October.  If no compromise is found, it’s likely they will try to enact a series of smaller health measures. 

President Obama will address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday to discuss health care overhaul legislation. Health care negotiations in both chambers are expected to dominate legislative business for much of the fall. 

Meanwhile, it seems all but certain that Congress will not be able to complete all twelve FY10 appropriations bills before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1st.  Lawmakers will likely has to pass a continuing resolution (CR) later this month to fund federal agencies when FY10 begins. 

House and Senate leaders still hope to avoid an omnibus package.  Completing all of the bills individually will depend largely on how quickly the Senate acts on its eight remaining measures. 

The House has passed all twelve of their FY10 bills, but none of the measures has gone to conference or been enacted into law.  Four bills that both chambers have approved – Agriculture, Energy-Water, Homeland Security, and Legislative Branch – will likely be sent to the President for signature before October 1st

The Senate is expected to take up three of their FY10 spending bills this week, including Transportation-HUD, Interior-Environment, and Commerce-Justice-Science. The Defense spending bill will follow late this week or next, after subcommittee markup on Wednesday. 

Even with the busy legislative schedule this fall, we are looking forward to seeing several members of the UW community in DC and on Capitol Hill.  If you are planning on being in DC this fall, please get in touch with our office so that we can coordinate all the visits – and to ensure that you are getting appointments with the folks you need to see.  As always, we are here to help you advocate for your projects and programs! 

Christy Gullion, Director