This week Congress meets for a short session before Republican lawmakers leave Washington for their legislative retreat later in the week. Republican senators and representatives will head to Hershey, Penn., for private meetings – Democrats will hold a similar retreat later this month.
Before Republicans’ departure, the Senate will vote to approve the Keystone Pipeline, which was approved in the House last week. The House will vote this week to pass the final spending bill for fiscal year 2015. The outstanding bill will fund the Department of Homeland Security and is expected to include a provision to defund President Obama’s 2014 executive order granting temporary legal status to approximately five million undocumented immigrants. The administration has issued a veto threat against the provision and House Democrats are fighting to keep the language out of the bill. Also this week, the House will consider H.R 203, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which would provide enhanced mental health and suicide prevention support for veterans.
In committee business, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce announced that it will hold a hearing to address the sustainable growth rate (SGR), the formula that serves as the basis for the Medicare Physician Payment System. Under the SGR, physician payments should be significantly cut, but Congress has repeatedly delayed these cuts through legislation known as the doc fix. The current doc fix is set to expire at the end of March. An agreement for a permanent solution to the looming cuts was proposed in the 113th Congress. But congressional leaders were unable to find a means to pay for the proposal. The two-day hearing will be held January 21-22.