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Health Care, Job Creation; What's Next for Congress?

Aug 09, 2011

A week after Congress and the Obama administration averted default on the nation's credit, the future legislative climate in Washington remains uncertain. It appears that Democrats and Republicans still can't agree on a list of priorities for Congress to pursue once it reconvenes on September 7.

As members of Congress began their traditional series of in-district meetings during the August recess, some learned that health care reform still looms large in the minds of voters. Many tea party freshmen legislators have used their meetings to link their votes for the debt deal to "Obamacare," maintaining that the final debt legislation trimmed roughly the same amount of spending that the president's health care bill incurs.

"So if you think about what's small and what's big, understand that we're going to have erased the same price tag that was on the president's health care bill over 10 years," said freshman Representative Rob Woodall (R-GA) at a Rotary event.

"I hate to keep harping on this health care legislation, but virtually every businessman and woman I talk to brings it up. And they all say the same thing: business right now is just sitting on their hands because they're scared to death," said freshman Representative Joe Walsh (R-IL) last Thursday at an in-district community event.

Democrats, meanwhile, have pivoted from the debt ceiling debate to the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. In a press conference after Congress passed the debt-ceiling deal, President Obama quickly turned away from the $2.1 trillion debt package with a promise to advocate for "new jobs, higher wages and faster economic growth" for the country.

Democrats on Capitol Hill quickly fell in line with the president's post debt-ceiling debate agenda. They are pushing for Congress to reconsider several proposals that were dropped from the deficit reduction compromise. Those initiatives include approving the outstanding free trade deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama; extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance; and funding infrastructure projects and clean energy initiatives.

"There's no reason for Congress not to send me those bills so I can sign them into law right away, as soon as they get back from recess," Obama said. "Both parties share power in Washington, and both parties need to take responsibility for improving this economy. It's not a Democratic responsibility or a Republican responsibility; it is our collective responsibility as Americans. And I'll be discussing additional ideas in the weeks ahead to help companies hire, invest and expand."

In the Senate, Democrats have indicated their desire to focus on proposals put forth by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) that advance numerous tax credits and cuts, increase funding for highway construction projects, reform immigration law to provide visas for highly skilled foreign workers and institute a clean energy program.

During a press conference with Schumer and other Senate leaders, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters that the number one job for Congress was "creating jobs for the American people."

Schumer added, "It's now time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled programming, and that means jobs."

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