Congressional Democrats are going to have to step up the pace a bit if they hope to do all those things they promised before the end of the year.
For all practical purposes, there are only about eight workweeks left in 2009 for the majority to pass sweeping health care reform, fund the federal government for the next year and throw the still sluggish economy a bone.
The tight timeline makes it next to impossible to get climate change legislation or banking regulatory reform to the Senate floor, but the House still hopes to do a financial regulatory reform bill and already passed its global warming measure this summer.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has blamed Republicans for much of the delay on the spending bills, in particular, and continues to gear up for a long slog on health care.
Sen. Reid wants to use the balance of this years legislative calendar to focus on bringing relief to the millions of American families, many in Nevada, who are struggling as our economy continues to recover, Reid spokesman Jim Manley said. In order to address as many issues as possible, Republicans need to put partisanship aside so they can become engaged partners in governing. So far, theyve taken every opportunity they can to stall important legislation and slow down progress on a number of key issues the American people expect and deserve more.
Still, it wont be just Republicans clamoring for debate time on health care in the Senate, and those deliberations are likely to eat up the entire month of November, if not some time in December. Assuming Democrats can get their version off the floor by Thanksgiving, the health care conference report with the House will probably eat up a week or two in December a month in which there are really only three full workweeks.
Senate Democrats acknowledged Monday that the health care debate may not start on the floor next week as Reid had hoped. Instead, its more likely to begin the first week of November, one senior Senate Democratic aide said. Reid met with White House officials and the relevant committee chairmen last night to craft the bill that will come to the floor, and he still aims to have that process finished by the end of this week.
But Reid has promised to wait for a cost estimate on the package from the Congressional Budget Office before beginning work on the floor, and that may postpone action into November, the senior aide said.
That tentative timeline will make it difficult for Democrats to get the health care bill off the floor by Turkey Day, despite the fact that holidays and recesses often serve as the perfect deadlines to force Congress to act. If debate does not start until the week of Nov. 2, the Senate is looking at a little over two weeks for debate, given Members are expected to take a short break Wednesday, Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and not return until the next Monday or Tuesday. Thanksgiving is the following week.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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