Posted by Conor Kenny on September 15, 2008

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Heavy criticism from Republican House members and high gas prices appear to have made an impact on Democratic leaders in the House, as they are now preparing to debate legislation this week to allow some offshore drilling. In addition, the bipartisan group of senators pushing its own compromise legislation has grown to include 20 members. Also on the Hill's agenda this week is discussion of a second stimulus package amid growing concern about the deterioration of the country’s private financial system.

House Democrats on Tuesday are expected to begin debate on energy legislation that would allow some coastal states to determine whether drilling should be allowed off their shores. The bill would end a congressional moratorium – in place for more than 25 years – preventing drilling within 200 miles offshore. President Bush rescinded an executive moratorium earlier this summer.

The legislation proposed by the House Democratic leadership does not go as far as plans put forward by Republican lawmakers, as it would only authorize some states to approve drilling projects 50 miles out (drilling would be allowed off all coastal areas 100 miles out). It also differs significantly from legislation being prepared in the Senate.

More on this week's legislation and committee schedules after the break.

In that chamber, a group of 20 senators (including 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats) is pushing a compromise bill that would extend a series of renewable energy tax credits in addition to lifting the ban on offshore drilling. The "Gang of 20" has doubled in size since the August recess, but there remains no clue as to when or if their bill will be brought to the floor for a vote. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may use an oil-speculation bill as a vehicle for other energy legislation.

Finally, with the Dow Industrial Average dropping 500 points today, many in Congress are calling for a second stimulus package to buttress the economy and help those most hurt by high unemployment rates. The legislation would likely contain extended unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending projects that would help create jobs and pour money into local economies. Fiscal conservatives, including members of the Blue Dog caucus of Democratic House members.

Hearings Schedules:
September 15, 2008

House

  • Committee on Rules to consider H.R. 6842, National Capital Security and Safety Act, 5 p.m., H-313 Capitol.

September 16, 2008

Senate

House

September 17, 2008

Senate

  • Special Committee on Aging to hold hearings to examine direct-to-consumer medical device advertising, focusing on marketing and medicine, 10:30 a.m., SD-562.
  • Committee on Veterans’’ Affairs to hold hearings to examine the nomination of Patrick W. Dunne, of New York, to be Under Secretary for Benefits of the Department of Veterans Affairs, 9:30 a.m., SR-418.
  • Committee on the Judiciary to hold oversight hearings to examine the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9:30 a.m., SH-216.
  • Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation to hold hearings to examine pending Corporation for Public Broadcasting nominations, 10:30 a.m., SR-253.
  • Committee on Foreign Relations to hold hearings to examine Russia's aggression against Georgia, focusing on the consequences and responses, 10 a.m., SD-419.
  • Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to hold hearings to examine 401(k) plan fee disclosure, focusing on helping workers save for retirement, 10 a.m., SD-430.
  • Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to hold a business meeting to consider S. 3474, to amend title 44, United States Code, to enhance information security of the Federal Government, S. 3384, to amend section 11317 of title 40, United States Code, to require greater accountability for cost overruns on Federal IT investment projects, H.R. 2631, to strengthen efforts in the Department of Homeland Security to develop nuclear forensics capabilities to permit attribution of the source of nuclear material, H.R. 6098, to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to improve the financial assistance provided to State, local, and tribal governments for information sharing activities, H.R. 3815, to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require the Secretary of Homeland Security to make full and efficient use of open source information to develop and disseminate open source homeland security information products, S. 3176, to amend the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to authorize the President to provide mental health and substance abuse services, an original bill to establish a controlled unclassified information framework, H.R. 6073, to provide that Federal employees receiving their pay by electronic funds transfer shall be given the option of receiving their pay stubs electronically, S. 3350, to provide that claims of the United States to certain documents relating to Franklin D1081Delano Roosevelt shall be treated as waived and relinquished in certain circumstances, S. 3477, to amend title 44, United States Code, to authorize grants for Presidential Centers of Historical Excellence, H.R. 5975 and S. 3317, bills to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 West Main Street in Waterville, New York, as the ``Cpl. John P. Sigsbee Post Office'', H.R. 6092, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 101 Tallapoosa Street in Bremen, Georgia, as the ``Sergeant Paul Saylor Post Office Building'', S. 3309, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2523 7th Avenue East in North Saint Paul, Minnesota, as the Mayor William ``Bill'' Sandberg Post Office Building, H.R. 6437, to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 200 North Texas Avenue in Odessa, Texas, as the ``Corporal Alfred Mac Wilson Post Office'', and the nominations of Ruth Y. Goldway, of California, to be a Commissioner of the Postal Regulatory Commission, and Carol Waller Pope, of the District of Columbia, and Thomas M. Beck, of Virginia, both to be a Member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, 10 a.m., SD-342.

House

September 18, 2008

Senate

House

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.