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Senate Recesses; House Eyes Short Work Week with Action in Key Committees
The Senate has recessed and will resume legislative business on October 15. The House is scheduled to be in session for just three days this week.
Following a week in which the President's veto of SCHIP legislation was the dominant health care issue in Washington, several other health care priorities will be the focus of discussion this week in House committees:
• On October 10, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up H.R. 1424, the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act."
• On October 11, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing on the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Independence Blue Cross will testify on behalf of AHIP.
• On October 11, two subcommittees of the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a joint hearing on audits of Medicare Advantage plan bids.
• On October 11, the House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on the tax treatment of health insurance coverage.
The Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Act (S. 1710/H.R. 3043) is expected to be a candidate for Senate floor action soon after the Senate reconvenes on October 15. This $150 billion spending bill includes funding for numerous programs and agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
With just six weeks remaining before the November 16 target date for adjournment, there is considerable uncertainty about whether Congress will finish its work by this deadline – meaning that the 2007 session may extend into December. Faced with limited time on the calendar, congressional leaders are contemplating possible "end game" scenarios for wrapping up this year's legislative business. In addition to addressing SCHIP reauthorization and Medicare legislation (see items #2 and #3 below), finalizing the appropriations process will be a significant obstacle for Congress to overcome before adjourning this year. Right now, Congress is planning to send the spending bills to the President individually. However, as the clock ticks closer to the end of the year, at some point these and other priorities may be combined into an "omnibus" end-of-the-year legislative package.