By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas
Congress is finally returning to work this week, after members took time off to focus on their re-election campaigns (some unsuccessful — see the lame duck list). Incoming freshman will be playing a role as well, when the respective parties in each chamber caucus and vote for leadership positions. There will, however, be legislative action, at least in the Senate, where Democratic leaders are pushing for an extension of unemployment benefits and a possible $25 billion bailout for domestic automakers. While the House is waiting until the Senate makes a decision on the two bills, some of its members will be grilling Treasury officials over the $700 billion financial industry bailout.
Stimulus and automaker bailout
With wider majorities for the Democrats coming in the 111th Congress (profile), Republicans there and in the White House are trying to fight off whatever legislation they can during this final “lameduck” session of the 110th. Many Democrats have already balked at attempting another massive stimulus package this session and measures to extend unemployment benefits have failed several votes this year. Democratic leaders have decided this time to try for the benefits extension again and carve a $25 billion aid package for the American auto industry out of the previous $700 billion package.
The first hurdle for the auto-industry bailout will be overcoming a potential Republican filibuster in the Senate on Wednesday. Democrats, who currently hold a slim majority, will need to find some Republicans willing to play ball, especially since President-Elect Barack Obama resigned his Senate seat on Sunday, giving them one less vote.
Several prominent Republicans have already voiced opposition to the automaker bailout, including Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who said the failing businesses should not be propped up. Sen Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has not yet weighed in on the plan, but did criticize Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for not disclosing the costs of the plan early enough for members to consider it thoroughly.