Their dreams may have been their ticket out, but after a nice five-week visit back home, Congress has returned to the same old Washington we sometimes laugh about. Our Representatives have returned to full plates too, with the crisis in Syria, the potential for a government shutdown if Congress doesn’t pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) by the end of the month and the looming debt-ceiling debate. It’s almost enough to make one forget that the health exchanges are opening in just 18 days!
The House of Representatives was only supposed to be in town for nine full working days this month, but the way their first four days back on the job went, it looks like they may be sticking around a little longer than expected. The House was originally scheduled to vote on Syria, but that vote got pulled from the floor before many members of Congress even landed back in the district. They were also scheduled to vote on some type of a CR deal, but with House Republicans sharply divided on the best CR approach, that bill was pulled as well.
Republican leadership is currently struggling to appease GOP members who have stated that they will only accept a CR that includes a plan to defund PPACA, while at the same time addressing the reality that many in the GOP caucus do not want to go to that extreme and believe that a defunding strategy is ineffective from both a policy and political perspective. The CR released this week by House Republican leaders would fund the government through December 15 at $986 billion, the current post-sequester spending level for fiscal year 2013. House Republican leaders have proposed moving the CR alongside a separate measure that would defund implementation of PPACA. However, more conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are speaking out sharply against this proposed strategy, arguing that the Senate would easily reject the defund measure. Of course, the Senate would also easily reject a linked measure too. Hopefully the House will come to some sort of agreement and vote next week.
Even if they don’t, we know they will be talking about exchanges on the Hill next week as the head of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at CMS Gary Cohen (aka the guy in charge of the exchanges) will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee next Thursday about how prepared his agency is for open enrollment. Also on the schedule for next week is the release of the Congressional Budget Office’s Long-Term Budget Outlook and the Census Bureau is scheduled to release its annual report on the uninsured.
Finally, we know many of you met with your members of Congress during August recess and we want to hear about it! Please fill out this feedback form and let us know how your meetings went.