July 1, 2009
As I reported last week, the House is in the midst of a district work period. This gives me an opportunity to catch up with constituents and spend some extended time in Massachusetts. I will return to Washington, D.C., on July 7th for what we all expect will be an extremely busy legislative session.
In addition to the annual appropriations bills, Congress is in the midst of addressing climate change, health care reform and transportation reauthorization. The House has passed four of the twelve FY 2010 appropriations bills but a significant amount of work remains before the end of the fiscal year.
The House took a major step toward climate change last week with the passage of H.R. 2454: the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The main focus of this bill establishes a "cap and trade" program. It sets a series of caps on greenhouse gas emissions, targeting 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 83% below 2005 levels by 2050. I think the time frame for reaching 83% is too long and I would have liked to see quicker action. I am also concerned that the legislation's market-based approach could result in Wall Street manipulation to increase energy prices without actually improving the environment. I voted for this bill even with these serious reservations because I am a realist and understand that a stronger bill would not have passed the House at this time. The final vote (219 - 212) for this weakened version proves this point to be accurate.
Now, I am concerned about what the Senate will do as they consider this legislation. If changes are made that I think weaken this bill even further, then I will strongly consider voting against the conference report. I have attached a summary of the bill for your review. I am interested in your thoughts on this legislation as passed by the House and any amendments proposed and adopted by the Senate. As always, I appreciate hearing from you and this is particularly important for this complicated bill as it undergoes various changes.
Health care reform is also a priority. Democratic leadership hopes to have a bill through the House by the end of July and on President Obama's desk by October. This is an ambitious timetable, given all of the work involved in essentially overhauling our existing system. The most publicized aspect of the debate relates to whether or not a public insurance option should be part of any reform package. I strongly support such an option.
As I am sure you realize there are many strong opinions on both sides of a thousand issues related to health care reform. I hope that we will get a health care reform bill that I can support. I know it won't be perfect and I don't expect it to be. I do, however, insist that any bill increases access to quality health care and is good for my district. The legislation is still being drafted and I won't know until I have a chance to review it whether it is something that I can support.
As with the climate change bill, I ask everyone who cares about this issue to let me know how they feel about various aspects and the overall bill when it comes out. When a bill is finally submitted, I suspect the House will have one vote yes or no. Any and all amendments will already be included or rejected prior to floor debate. When that vote comes, I will be very interested in your opinion on the overall bill.
Finally, it is once again time to reauthorize existing transportation legislation, set to expire at the end of September. The House took a first step toward that goal last week when the Surface Transportation Authorization Act of 2009 passed in subcommittee. However, getting this bill to the President's desk could be a long and difficult process. The Administration has already called for an 18 month extension of the existing law, with Transportation Committee leadership extremely reluctant to consider waiting that long to reauthorize the bill. The main issue is funding everyone wants to fix our infrastructure, the question is how to pay for it. Given all of the priorities competing for floor time and the difficulties of this bill, it seems unlikely that an extension of some length can be avoided.
I will keep you informed as we work through all of this legislation. I hope you have a safe and pleasant Independence Day.
Congressman Mike Capuano