Federal Relations

Timeline Slipping for Major Legislation

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) announced this week that a climate bill will not likely emerge before the spring of 2010. The announcement confirms that at least 1 of 3 (and likely all 3) of President Obama’s top legislative initiatives for 2009 will slip into 2010 -the other two being health care and student aid reform. Some proponents of the three pieces of legislation hoped to move to completion this year, as to avoid political considerations made by the 2010 mid-term election season. The cap-and-trade climate legislation, introduced by Senator Kerry and Senator Boxer (D-CA), initially drew support from accross the aisle; as Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) came out in support of the effort. However, since then, the bill has garnered little bipartisan support; passing the Senate Energy and Public Works Committee without Rebuplican support on the panel and after a boycott of the mark-up. At present, it appears that Senator Kerry is trying to put together a compromise that will garner the 60 votes necessary to break a filibuster; much the same tactic that is being employed by Majority Leader Reid in advancing a health-care overhaul.

Given that the Senate companion bill to the House Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) has been linked to the passage of health care reform, student aid reform remains on hold. Leaders on the Hill have indicated that both chambers will likely be in session until the third full week of December.