Posted by Conor Kenny on October 03, 2008

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Following the Senate’s vote to approve a financial recovery package earlier this week, the House held an historic second vote on the measure Friday. To sweeten the deal for Senators and Representatives, the $700 billion bailout was packaged with other measures, including a series of popular tax credits and rebates that had recently expired.

Aside from the tax extenders package, the bill also has a number of earmarks targeted at lawmakers who voted against the original bailout legislation. Our friend Donny Shaw at OpenCongress.org has more information on those lawmakers and earmarks.

Another provision upped the amount for accounts insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to $250,000. The increase is only temporary, and will revert to the traditional $100,000 limit on January 1, 2010.

The bill also contained a mental health parity provision, designed to prevent insurers from charging more for mental-health benefits than they do for traditional insurance. The Senate easily approved the bailout package on Wednesday by a 74-21 margin. Both Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) voted “aye” on the measure.

Posted by Conor Kenny on September 30, 2008

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Monday was supposed to be the day the House approved a $700 billion rescue/bailout plan for the U.S. financial services sector. With Congress set to adjourn after approving the rescue and a few other bills, the week was shaping up to be a quick one.

However, with the House’s defeat of the bailout measure Monday, the legislative calendar has been thrown into upheaval. Rather than vote on tax package, it appears the House will reconvene Thursday in order to give the rescue bill another try.

Confusion seems to be running the day. Democratic leaders in the Senate, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) have signaled they still want to work towards a vote on the measure. There is no agreement, however, as to what changes should or could be made to the bill, or whether the House or Senate should take up the revised legislation first.

Posted by Conor Kenny on September 22, 2008

Coming off of the August recess, most expected the 2009 fiscal year budget and energy legislation to dominate the Congressional agenda for the five weeks until the scheduled October adjournment. However, with the recent shocks in the U.S. financial markets and the resulting calls for government action, Congress and President Bush scrambled to figure out their gameplans. Plus, Massachusetts had its congressional primaries and Don Young narrowly edged out his primary challenger in Alaska when the final votes were in.

Proposals for the crisis recovery scenario generally involve the government infusing the financial sector with massive funds, either through purchases of rapidly devaluing mortgage-based securities, loans, loan guarantees or purchases of large stakes in the companies, effectively making U.S. taxpayers the largest shareholders in some of the big Wall Street players.

The action to bail out Wall Street would have far-reaching effects. Not only would it supplant other congressional priorities this session, but the amount of money required would handicap domestic spending in the 111th Congress as well. That would leave little discretionary funding heading into the next congressional cycle, and a new president would have few options to pursue on the domestic spending front.

Posted by Conor Kenny on June 27, 2008

This week the Senate and House finally came to agreement with the White House on a bill funding the Iraq war through 2009 that also contains billions in new domestic spending and the House approved a Medicare pay fix for physicians. Several other issues have been pushed to after the July 4th recess after Senate Republicans threw some sand in the gears: a single senator stopped the housing and mortgage crisis legislation and another group stopped the renewal of the global AIDS package. In both cases the Republicans wanted votes or other participation on bills that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was trying to quickly push through. Still, the Senate did manage to confirm five nominations to the currently inactive Federal Election Commission.

Posted by Conor Kenny on June 20, 2008

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

Last week the House capitulated to President Bush on giving immunity for breaking privacy laws to the telecom companies, passed the Farm Bill (again), and Maryland elected its first black woman to Congress.

Posted by Conor Kenny on May 04, 2008

The big action in Congress this week was on bills with big price tags: the $290 billion Farm Bill and a new $300 billion housing crisis bill. It also passed a law banning employers and insurers from using your genes to discriminate against you. And, of course, the race for Democratic superdelegates continues between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, with both picking up several endorsements.

The 2007 Farm Bill looks like it might be ready for a final vote as the House and Senate negotiate between themselves and with President Bush to find a bill that hits all the right political constituencies and has the right price tag. The latest version of the bill, which at $290 billion over ten years is $10 billion over the congressional budget rules and $4.5 billion more than President Bush wants, contains most of the usual subsidies and conversation programs of years past but adds several key provisions. Bush is pressing Congress to lower the income limits on farmers who can receive subsidies from the current $1.95 million to $200,000, well short of Congress' currently proposed $500,000. But Bush also supports keeping $5.2 billion in direct subsidy payments to farmers despite record crop prices, so he's not exactly uniformly thrifty. Also included in the current version of the bill is a $5 billion trust fund for farmers hit by disasters including floods, droughts and fires, a key demand of farm state Democrats and Republicans alike.

However, Bush has taken a hard line on the total price tag for the bill, and has raised a veto threat that Democrats say may be designed to bolster Sen. John McCain's anti-spending credentials. While it remains to see who will blink first, the extension that funds the farm programs is running out and some type of vote is imminent in the next week or two.

For more on this week's legislation and an update on Superdelegate endorsements, click through

Posted by Conor Kenny on February 01, 2008

This week, we saw Democrats in the Senate becoming more assertive in their second year as the majority party, as the chamber continued its fracas over electronic intelligence reform and prepared to vote on its own economic stimulus package.

The House on Tuesday passed its version of an economic stimulus bill. Backed by President Bush, the legislation includes tax incentives for business investment and rebate checks for working Americans. However, also on Tuesday, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), rained on the stimulus parade, signaling his committee would vote on an expanded economic package.

The Senate’s plan for stimulus varies from one drafted in the House. The Senate version would offer tax rebates check to more Americans, including seniors and the wealthy. However, those rebates would be worth less compared to the House proposal: $500 vs. $600 for individuals, and $1,000 vs. $1,200 for couples. It also raises the ceiling for who can get checks: for individuals, $150,000 and, for couples, $300,000. The House ceilings are half as high.

The Senate will take up the House version of the bill on Monday, and will then offer provisions of its plan as amendments. It’s unclear whether Democrats will have enough votes to include a long-term unemployment benefits extension or 5.6 billion in renewable energy and efficiency tax credits. There does appear to be support for funding low-income heating assistance.

There’s more on FISA below the fold including details on a deal reached in the Senate.

Posted by Conor Kenny on December 13, 2007

Following special elections in Ohio and Virginia this week, the U.S. House of Representatives welcomed Reps. Bob Latta and Robert Wittman today. Latta won the race to replace deceased Rep. Paul Gillmor, while Wittman was elected to fill the seat opened when Rep.

Posted by Conor Kenny on August 09, 2007
  • In anticipation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's upcoming appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) sent Gonzales a letter detailing questions the chairman planned to ask, in order to help avoid so many "I don't recall" responses. (TPM Muckraker story)
Posted by Conor Kenny on July 23, 2007

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