December 4 , 2007
In this issue:
Both the House and Senate return this week from their lengthy Thanksgiving recesses and begin the frantic race to leave town again by Christmas. The Senate might resume debate on the farm bill and House leaders are planning to bring up their long-awaited compromise energy package and the FY08 defense authorization bill. The SCHIP bill likely will resurface as part of a continuing resolution (the current CR expires December 14), and the Finance Committee is putting together a Medicare package that will include some temporary halt to a proposed physician payment cut.
Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet Thursday to fill at least two leadership vacancies created by last week's announcement by Minority Whip Lott that he will resign before the end of the year. Jon Kyl of Arizona is unopposed to replace Lott as whip, but Republican Policy Committee Chairwoman Kay Bailey Hutchison and Senators Richard Burr of North Carolina and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee are all seeking to become the Republican Conference Chairman. If Hutchison wins the Conference chairmanship, then another race would ensue for her Policy Committee chairmanship. At that point, Republican Senators Jim DeMint of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota and John Cornyn, who already serves as Secretary of the Republican Conference, might enter the picture.
HEARINGS OF NOTE
- House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on HR 1343,
Health Centers Renewal Act of 2007 (introduced by Gene Green (D-TX)). HR 1343 amends the Public Health Service Act to authorize appropriations for FY2008-FY2012 for health centers to meet the health care needs of medically underserved populations.
- House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing on HR 2915, National Health Service Corps Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs Reauthorization Act of 2007 (introduced by Bruce Bailey (D-IA). HR 2915 amends the Public Health Service Act to reauthorize appropriations for FY2007-FY2011 for National Health Service Corps Scholarship and Loan Repayment programs and requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to reserve a portion of such funds for scholarships to individuals who are enrolled in a course of study or program that leads to a degree in medicine or osteopathic medicine.
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The Senate Finance Committee is tentatively scheduled to mark up a Medicare package later this week, even though staffers say there is no agreement on its main components. One of the remaining issues is whether a scheduled 10-percent physicians' fee cut under Medicare will be halted for one year or two.
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House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-MA) plans to introduce legislation this month to set the stage for debate next year on the ability of telecommunications companies to restrict content carried over their high-speed Internet networks. Markey's network neutrality measure would be part of a multi-pronged effort to shift the issue back into the spotlight after attention has shifter elsewhere this year. Mandatory net-neutrality restrictions are strongly opposed by the telecom and cable industries, which have long maintained that regulations are unnecessary and could interfere with their ability to manage Internet traffic flow. The FCC already has voluntary neutrality guidelines in place for companies to follow and has a pending notice of inquiry exploring allegations of discriminatory practices by Internet providers.
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From today’s National Journal:
Open Records Measure Advances In Pennsylvania
A bill to expand the public's access to government records overwhelmingly passed Pennsylvania's state Senate last week, although a clash might be looming with a competing House bill that is considered stronger, the Associated Press reported.
The Senate bill's sponsor, Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, a Republican, rejected criticism that it does not go far enough, saying it compares favorably with the strongest laws in other states. The bill heads to the House, where a panel has approved a measure that is modeled on the Senate version.
Both would make numerous changes to the Right-to-Know Law, including expanding it to cover the financial records of the legislative and judicial branches, as well as those of the state's college-loan agency, community colleges and state-related universities.
The bills diverge on a major point highlighted by open-records advocates. In disputes over whether a record should be made public, the House bill would favor a person requesting a record by removing their burden of proof. Under the bill, the state's executive branch, the Legislature and local government agencies would have to show why a record should not be made public.
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