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Congress' to-do list when it's back from August recess

When it reconvenes Sept. 8, healthcare reform is likely to dominate most of the fall. But don't forget climate change, financial services regulation, appropriations and defense policy.

August 09, 2009

What's on Congress' to-do list

The Senate left town Friday for its August recess, a week after the House. Both chambers are scheduled to reconvene Sept. 8. When the lawmakers return, a proposed overhaul of the nation's healthcare system will be just one of the weighty matters on their agenda. Here is a look at the status of several measures before Congress.

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Healthcare reform

President Obama's effort to expand and improve insurance coverage is likely to dominate Capitol Hill for most of the fall. The House, where three committees have drafted legislation, is aiming to bring a blended version of the bill to the floor soon after lawmakers return to Washington. In the Senate, where the pivotal Finance Committee has not yet agreed on a bill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is working toward a Sept. 15 deadline imposed by Democrats for coming to terms on the panel's version of the legislation. Obama and congressional leaders hope for final action before the end of this year.

Climate change

The House has passed energy legislation that includes provisions to limit greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. It is not clear when the companion bill will come to the Senate floor. For the Senate bill, Obama will face pressure to make concessions to energy interests, such as demands to open the nation's coastlines to oil and gas drilling.

Financial services regulation

Obama wants Congress to act by the end of the year on legislation to impose new regulations on the financial services industry. But key elements of his proposal, including the creation of a consumer protection agency, have run into stiff opposition from industry interests.

Appropriations

Congress faces a backlog of bills needed to fund the federal government in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Democratic leaders hope to project an image of competence by passing the appropriations bills on time, avoiding the need for a stopgap financing bill known as a continuing resolution. Appropriations bills are expected to take up much of the lawmakers' time in September.

Defense policy

The House and Senate will have to reconcile differences over the annual bill setting defense policy. A conflict with the White House was defused when both chambers agreed to drop funding for the F-22 jet fighter, as the administration wanted. The jet program traditionally had won wide support in Congress.

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Source: Janet Hook, Times staff writer

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