Congress Returns from August Recess, Faces ‘Backlog’ of Bills
As Congress returns from its August recess today, it will begin to address a "backlog of major issues," including the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security, the Los Angeles Times reports. The "pile of unfinished business" is so large that many lawmakers expect Congress to hold a "lame-duck" session after the November elections, the Times reports (Hook, Los Angeles Times, 9/3). Although the Nov. 5 election is expected to impact "all decision making," the Washington Post reports that there is "little consensus" on whether the election will aid or delay the passage of legislation. When the Senate reconvenes today, it will begin work on the homeland security department, which many lawmakers view as something they "must do," the Post reports. The House already approved a version of the homeland security bill (Washington Post, 9/1). Meanwhile, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and John Breaux (D-La.) will seek again to pass a Medicare prescription drug benefit, which the Senate failed to do before adjourning. Over the recess, the senators' staff members worked on compromise legislation, the New York Times reports (Hulse, New York Times, 9/3).
In the House, which reconvenes Wednesday, lawmakers will start work on the Labor-HHS appropriations bill. Under a deal reached between House Republican leaders and conservatives, the measure will be the first appropriations bill the chamber will consider this month. Conservatives had been concerned that debating the bill later in the session could prompt a majority of representatives to approve it quickly and adjourn, rather than "stay and fight over budget issues," the Washington Times reports. Opponents of the arrangement, however, say that passing the Labor-HHS bill first could "shortchange [other] critical needs." For example, if lawmakers follow President Bush's request that the NIH budget be doubled, less funding will be available for other health programs, the Washington Times reports (Dinan, Washington Times, 9/3). The House and Senate also are expected to try to resolve differences in their versions of the patients' rights bill, which the Post reports is "likely to die in conference" (Washington Post, 9/1). NPR's "Morning Edition" today reports on Medicare issues Congress must resolve before the November elections, such as a "promised" prescription drug benefit, physician reimbursements and temporary payment increases for the nursing home industry. The segment includes comments from American Medical Association President-elect Dr. Donald Palmisano and AARP Policy Director John Rother (Rovner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 9/3). The full segment will be available in RealPlayer online after noon ET.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.