Sunday, June 21, 2009

Considered Forthwith: House Education and Labor Committee (Health Care update)

Welcome to the 13th installment of "Considered Forthwith."

This weekly series looks at the various committees in the House and the Senate. Committees are the workshops of our democracy. This is where bills are considered, revised, and occasionally advance for consideration by the House and Senate. Most committees also have the authority to exercise oversight of related executive branch agencies.


First, I want to note the committee monitoring project that Meteor Blades has announced. I hope to take part and invite anyone else who is participating to see my list of links at the end of this diary for more information about specific committees.

This week, I will look at the House Education and Labor Committee, yet another committee with jurisdiction over health care reform. The big news: we have a public option sighting!

First, here are the members of the committee:

Democrats: George Miller, Chairman (CA-07), Dale E. Kildee (MI-05), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Robert E. Andrews (NJ-01), Robert C. Scott (VA-03), Lynn C. Woolsey (CA-06), Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15), Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04), John F. Tierney (MA-06), Dennis J. Kucinich (OH-10), David Wu (OR-01), Rush D. Holt (NJ-12), Susan A. Davis (CA-53), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Timothy H. Bishop (NY-01), Joe Sestak (PA-07), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), Mazie Hirono (HI-02), Jason Altmire (PA-04), Phil Hare (IL-17), Yvette Clarke (NY-11), Joe Courtney (CT-02), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Marcia Fudge (OH-11), Jared Polis (CO-2), Paul Tonko (NY-21), Pedro Pierluisi (PR), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands), Dina Titus (NV-3), Vacancy

Republicans: John Kline (MN-02), Ranking Member, Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, Ranking Member (CA-25), Thomas E. Petri (WI-06), Peter Hoekstra (MI-02), Michael N. Castle (DE-At Large), Mark E. Souder (IN-03), Vernon J. Ehlers (MI-03), Judy Biggert (IL-13), Todd Russell Platts (PA-19), Joe Wilson (SC-02), John Kline (MN-02), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Tom Price (GA-06), Rob Bishop (UT-01), Brett Guthrie (KY-2), Bill Cassidy (LA-6), Tom McClintock (CA-4), Duncan D. Hunter (CA-52), Phil Roe (TN-1), Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (PA-05), vacancy

Buck McKeon left the committee last week to take a seat on the House Armed Services Committee. The Republicans picked John Kline to be the ranking member, but the member page has not been updated yet.

Notice that delegates from Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands sit on the committee. Delegates from U.S. territories and the District of Columbia do sit on committees (and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton chairs the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Emergency Management, and Public Buildings). They are allowed to vote in committees and when the House resolves into the Committee of the Whole (typically on amendments). However, they do not get to procedural matters or on final passage.

Cooperation on the public option

This might qualify as "breaking." The full committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday at noon to consider the The Tri-Committee Draft Proposal for Health Care Reform. If C-Span does not cover it, a live webcast should be available on the committee's website. (Aside: the expanded use of webcasts for committee hearings is one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's reforms to promote open government.)

The Tri-Committee Draft Proposal includes the ever elusive public option. The key portion of the proposal:

1. If an individual likes their current plan, they would be able to keep it.

2. For individuals who either aren’t currently covered, or wanted to enroll in a new health care plan, the proposal would establishes a health care exchange where consumers can select from a menu of affordable, quality health care options: either a new public health insurance plan or a plan offered by private insurers. People will have similar choices that Members of Congress have.

3. This new marketplace would reduce costs, create competition that leads to better care for every American, and keep private insurers honest. Patients and doctors would have control over decisions about their health care, instead of insurance companies.


The proposal also includes a number of common sense measure to reduce health care costs and improve the quality of health care. You may want to check it out if you care about the debate.

What is really remarkable about this is that the three committees with jurisdiction, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor Committees worked together on this. The norm in Congress is inter committee rivalry. Instead, the House committees will consider (and hopefully report) similar bills for Floor consideration. I have noted in past diaries that Senators and Chairmen Kennedy (HELP Committee) and Baucus (Finance Committee) agreed to work together on the Senate version as well. However, Baucus may be wavering on the public option.

So what would a committee called "Education and Labor" be doing with a health care bill? Let's look at the...

Jurisdiction
From the committee website:

Education. The Committee on Education and Labor oversees federal programs and initiatives dealing with education at all levels -- from preschool through high school to higher education and continuing education. These include:

* Elementary and secondary education initiatives, including the No Child Left Behind Act, school choice for low-income families, special education (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), teacher quality & teacher training, scientifically-based reading instruction, and vocational and technical education;
* Higher education programs (the Higher Education Act), to support college access for low and middle-income students and help families pay for college;
* Early childhood & preschool education programs including Head Start;
* School lunch and child nutrition programs;
* Financial oversight of the U.S. Department of Education;
* Programs and services for the care and treatment of at-risk youth, child abuse prevention, and child adoption;
* Educational research and improvement;
* Adult education; and
* Anti-poverty programs, including the Community Services Block Grant Act and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Labor. The Committee on Education and Labor also holds jurisdiction over workforce initiatives aimed at strengthening health care, job training, and retirement security for workers. Workforce issues in the jurisdiction of the Education and the Labor Committee include:

* Pension and retirement security for U.S. workers;
* Access to quality health care for working families and other employee benefits;
* Job training, adult education, and workforce development initiatives, including those under the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), to help local communities train and retrain workers;
* Continuing the successful welfare reforms of 1996;
* Protecting the democratic rights of individual union members;
* Worker health and safety, including occupational safety and health;
* Providing greater choices and flexibility (including "comp time" or family time options) to working women and men;
* Equal employment opportunity and civil rights in employment;
* Wages and hours of labor, including the Fair Labor Standards Act;
* Workers' compensation, and family and medical leave;
* All matters dealing with relationships between employers and employees.


Since health care is the gold standard for employment benefits, the labor side of the committee certainly has a claim to this legislation. The rest of the jurisdiction is fairly self explanatory. The committee's turf includes the (fairly limited) federal role in education as well as labor relations and worker safety.

It is also important to keep in mind that this is an authorizing committee. They can deal with policy changes and authorize new programs with spending proposals. It is up to the Appropriations committees to actually fund those programs, however.

A little history

The committee was established in 1867 as industry started to grow after the Civil War. In 1883, it was split into separate panels and handled education and labor separately. Following the Second World War, Congress passed the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. This reduced the number of committees (at the time there were 48 committees in the House and 33 in the Senate) and more clearly defined committee jurisdictions. Under the act, the Education and Labor Committees were once again merged.

When the Republicans took over Congress in 1995, the committee was renamed the "Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities." In the next Congress (1997), it was again renamed to the "Committee on Education and the Workforce." When the Democrats won back Congress, the name reverted back to its current name.

For more, click here.

Other current issues

401(k) fee disclosure. The committee is scheduled to mark up the 401(k) Fair Disclosure and Pension Security Act of 2009. This bill would increase disclosures about fee associated with 401(k) plans. This would allow workers and employers to better decide which 401(k) plans to select. More information is here.

Conflicts of interest in investing advice
. Remember all of those last minute regulations that George W. Bush issued? One of them loosened regulations regarding conflicts of interest in the investment industry:

These actions opened the door for financial services companies to provide advice to employees where they had a direct or indirect financial interest.

The Conflicted Investment Advice Prohibition Act will restore workers’ protections by laying out clear rules to ensure that workers receive investment advice at work that is based solely on interests of the account holder’s needs, not investment firms’ bottom line.


Source

The subcommittee voted 13-8 (presumably along party lines) last week to report the bill to the full committee.

OSHA oversight
. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report says that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) invested too much time and energy in the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) under the Bush Administration. VPP was established in 1982 recognizes businesses that voluntarily comply with safety regulations. Critics, including Congressional and Committee Democrats, contend that voluntary programs risked worker safety by relying on asking for compliance rather than enforcing it. Expect greater oversight and probably some hearings by the committee.

Student loan reform. Last month, the committee held a hearing about the need for reforms in the student loan system. Take it from this professional student, college is not cheap and the best education is really not cheap. In order for poor and middle class students to afford a higher education, there is agreement that the government programs that offer student loans needs reform. Read more here.

Check out the committee's website for other related news.

Subcommittees

There are five subcommittees under the full committee. The full membership lists are available here. Note that the these lists have not been updated to reflect Buck McKeon's change of committee. All jurisdiction descriptions are posted and taken from here.

Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education: Dale Kildee is the chair and Michael N. Castle is the ranking member.

Including education from early learning through the high school level including, but not limited to, elementary and secondary education, education of the disabled, the homeless and migrant and agricultural labor. Also including school construction, overseas dependent schools, career and technical training, school safety and alcohol and drug abuse prevention, educational research and improvement, including the Institute of Education Sciences; and early care and education programs and early learning programs, including the Head Start Act and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.


Subcommittee on Healthy Families and Communities: Carolyn McCarthy is the chair and Todd "Russell" Platts is the ranking member.

Adolescent development and training programs, including but not limited to those providing for the care and treatment of certain at risk youth, including the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act; all matters dealing with child abuse and domestic violence, including the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and child adoption; school lunch and child nutrition, poverty programs including the Community Services Block Grant Act, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); all matters dealing with programs and services for the elderly, including nutrition programs and the Older Americans Act; environmental education; all domestic volunteer programs; ; library services and construction, and programs related to the arts and humanities, museum services, and arts and artifacts indemnity.


Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness: Rubén Hinojosa is the chair and Brett Guthrie is the ranking member.

Education and training beyond the high school level including, but not limited to higher education generally, postsecondary student assistance and employment services, the Higher Education Act; postsecondary career and technical education, training and apprenticeship including the Workforce Investment Act, displaced homemakers, adult basic education (family literacy), rehabilitation, professional development, and training programs from immigration funding; pre-service and in-service teacher training, including Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and Title II of the Higher Education Act; science and technology programs; affirmative action in higher education; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; all welfare reform programs including, work incentive programs, welfare-to-work requirements; the Native American Programs Act, the Robert A. Taft Institute, and Institute for Peace.


Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions: Robert Andrews is the chair and John Kline is the ranking member. Note: since Kline is now the ranking member of the full committee, he may have to give up this position.

All matters dealing with relationships between employers and workers generally including, but not limited to, the National Labor Relations Act, Labor Management Relations Act, Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment-related retirement security, including pension, health and other employee benefits, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA); all matters related to equal employment opportunity and civil rights in employment, including affirmative action.


Subcommittee on Workforce Protections: Lynn Woolsey is the chair and Tom Price is the ranking member.

Wages and hours of labor including, but not limited to, Davis-Bacon Act, Walsh-Healey Act, Fair Labor Standards Act , workers’ compensation including, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, Service Contract Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, including training for dislocated workers, Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988, trade and immigration issues as they impact employers and workers, and workers’ health and safety including, but not limited to, occupational safety and health, mine health and safety, youth camp safety, and migrant and agricultural labor health and safety.


That's it for this week. Next, I am planning a general discussion about committee rules, procedures, assignments, etc. If there is a demand, I will get it up before next Sunday.

Also, if you are interested in the U.S. Congressional response to the situation in Iran, monitor the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Past Considered Forthwith entries:
Senate Finance Committee
Senate HELP Committee
Senate Judiciary Committee
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
House and Senate Appropriations Committees
House Intelligence Committee
House Judiciary Committee
House and Senate Ethics Committees
House Science and Technology Committee
House Financial Services Committee
House Rules Committee
The Role of Committees

Crossposted at Congress Matters and Daily Kos.

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