Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Quick Hits: Hot Policy Topics for This Week Federal.

U. S. Congress

The Congress returns to work today after a five week summer recess. The returning congressional delegation is facing a huge agenda with very little time to get work completed. Often this can become short session can become a lame duck session. This will be a three week session.

Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations

At best, the Congress may pass only two of the twelve FY 2009 appropriations bills before the start on FY 2009 on October 1. Those two would be the Department of Defense and the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs appropriations bills. The House of Representatives is the only body to have cleared a FY 2009 appropriations bill thus far (Military Construction/VA). The House Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to mark up its version of the FY 2009 Defense bill on Tuesday. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to release its markup schedule. With only three weeks to complete action on these bills, enactment of even these two bills may prove impossible.

Fiscal Year 2009 Continuing Resolution

In order to prevent a shut down of most of the federal government on October 1, the Congress must pass and President Bush must sign a FY 2009 Continuing Resolution (CR). Action on the CR will be very dicey if other policy provisions (e.g. energy policy) are added to the CR. Depending on the politics, a CR could keep the government operating for a short while after the election when a lame duck session would be held or sometime in late winter after the new 110th Congress convenes. Under a CR, most federal programs would remain funded at FY 2008 levels with some exceptions. The White House has indicated that it would allow a few programs to be increased in the CR in accordance to the Administration's FY 2009 funding request. It is hoped that additional funding for the Social Security Administration will be included in this list.

Second Economic Stimulus Package

Congressional Democrats are still plotting to craft a new economic stimulus package that would entice President Bush to sign the measure into law. The price tag has not been set and what new spending (e.g. another tax rebate to individuals, job stimulation, infrastructure and disaster relief, etc) to include must still be decided. With many states in deep financial trouble, one potential item to be included in the package is an increase to the Medicaid state match. The Administration continues to send veto threats on a new stimulus package.


A federal judge in Detroit has ruled the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to airports and to airlines. U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh denied a motion by Northwest Airlines to dismiss a lawsuit brought by five Detroit area residents with physical disabilities. The plaintiffs allege Northwest fails to provide them adequate assistance in the airport and on the plane, causing problems such as missed flights and damaged wheelchairs. Northwest, in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, argued the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to services at airports. But Steeh ruled otherwise and said in a 13-page opinion that to conclude the ADA did not apply to airports "would leave the door open for acts of discrimination that could not be remedied."

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