Congress is under the gun to pass more than just health care before year’s end

As the Democratic leadership in Congress is feeling the pressure to pass a health care bill before the start of the 2010 election year, time is also getting tight for other important legislation that Congress has neglected for many months.  Apart from health care, Congress also needs to turn its attention to the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization as well as to the remaining FY2010 spending bills.

Work has stalled out on the PATRIOT Act which is set to expire on December 31.  Both the House and Senate have reported bills from their respected Judiciary Committees but neither body has taken the legislation up to the floor, and it is unlikely that will happen before the end of the year.  House and Senate leadership are working to create short-term extension of the bill giving Congress time to come back and finish up work on it when they reconvene on January 12.  There is no word yet how long that extension may be or what previsions an extension may cover.

Seven of the twelve FY2010 appropriations bills have not yet been enacted including the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill which contain funding for the Institute of Library and Museum Service (IMLS) and federal funding for libraries.  The Continuing Resolution (CR) that was passed last September to fund the federal government at the current FY2009 level after the fiscal year ended on September 30 is set to run out on December 18.

The Washington Office has heard conflicting reports from Capitol Hill about what the leadership is expecting to do.  However, this much is known: Congress will most likely extend that CR until sometime either into February or March and wrap all the unfinished appropriation bills into one big omnibus bill and either pass it the week of Christmas or wait until after the New Year.

With all the time and energy Congress has spent the last six months working on health care, it has neglected many other important library issues.  With time running short, Congress has a lot of work to do before it gets deep into the upcoming mid-term election year.

Jeffrey Kratz
Assistant Director, Office of Government Relations

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