Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (Jan. 22 - 25, 2008)

Markets overseas on Monday reacted to a potential US recession with near panic, and American stocks saw a sharp drop today when they reopened, providing further incentive to Congressional leaders hoping to develop an economic stimulus plan this week.

Stocks later erased their losses, after the Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate by 3/4 of a point. Lawmakers are meeting with President Bush today to talk about a package of tax rebates, incentives and other measures meant to stave off a recession. They hope to have a plan developed by the State of the Union speech next Monday. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he thinks Congress can pass a stimulus plan by March 1.

Several high profile issues may be pushed to the wings as the economy takes over the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean we’re not keeping an eye on things for you here at Congresspedia. FISA reform, defense appropriations and children’s health care will all see votes this week. There’s more below the fold, including committee schedules for the week.

The Senate will again take up reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act this week. A stop gap reform measure expires next week, so the Senate’s time is running out. Reid is advancing one version of the bill, approved by the Intelligence Committee, that includes immunity for telecom companies who helped the administration spy on Americans without warrants.

Several Democrats remain opposed to the bill, and are pushing for a version passed by the Judiciary Committee that lacks the immunity provision. Bush has threatened a veto of any legislation that doesn’t include immunity, and Republicans in the Senate will likely push for the Intelligence version. There’s been some discussion of a month-long extension of the current stop-gap, which would push the debate past the politically volatile Super Tuesday primary elections on February 5.

On Wednesday, the House will again attempt to override Bush’s veto of an State Children’s Health Insurance Program expansion, though the vote is expected to fail. Democrats are planning to turn the issue into an election year fight over the economy and children’s health care, as some states will begin to cut back on benefits provided by SCHIP.

The 2008 Defense spending bill, which Bush vetoed in December, was approved by the House last week, and the Senate will likely vote on the measure with little contention.

Several other issues to look for in the coming weeks:

  • Mortgage Lending Crisis: The Senate and House may finally compromise on a reform bill that would provide some relief to borrowers. One obstacle is oversight, since some lawmakers want to tighten lending standards.
  • Food Safety: administration officials are talking about potential impacts of several legislative proposals, including an expansion of FDA power to collect import user fees at the border. The fees would pay for the inspection of food and drug shipments.
  • Climate Change: The House Energy Committee in the coming weeks may introduce a mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill.
  • Military Spending: Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to unveil his budget priorities for FY 2009
  • Oversight: The House will examine the destruction of CIA tapes, which depicted the interrogation of several terrorism suspects following the 9/11 attacks.
  • Consumer Protection: The Senate will move forward with its own version of a House bill that limits the amount of lead in children’s toys.
  • Fired US Attorneys: Investigations by the House and Senate ethics committees and the Department of Justice continue into the forced resignation of nine US attorneys.

The House is not in session Thursday or Friday, as Republicans conduct policy retreats, but here are the committee schedules we were able to find for the rest of the week:

Hearings Schedules:

January 23, 2007



January 24, 2007