Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (March 31 - Apr. 4, 2008)

Senators and representatives return to work today following a two-week recess to once again find the struggling economy dictating their schedules. The mortgage crisis is continuing, and home foreclosures are on the rise. In addition, cities across the country are bracing for an oversupply of housing units as construction of new homes and condos—began while the housing bubble was at its peak—is completed. Meanwhile, taxpayers are waiting for rebate checks that were part of a stimulus package approved last month.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to vote on a second stimulus package meant to relieve pressure on the housing market and on homeowners. Under the Senate measure, municipalities would share $4 billion in grants for the restoration of foreclosed homes. The bill would also provide $200 million for loan counselors, and would amend bankruptcy law to allow judges to modify mortgages for individuals on the verge of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy provision is a bitter pill for the banking industry, which has lobbied for its removal from the legislation. In addition, Senate Republicans are striving to insert their own amendments: a limit on plaintiff attorneys’ fees and an extension of President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts.

While there’s plenty to get done on the economic front, Congress will also take up legislation regarding the Iraq war in April. House leaders are drafting an “emergency” supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, since Pentagon officials have refused to include the wars in their normal budget requests. Democrats are saddling the legislation with a slew of domestic priorities, hoping to force tough votes for GOP members.

There's more—including committee meeting schedules—after the break.

In other Iraq news, General David Patraeus will testify before several Congressional committees next week. Patraeus is expected to give a progress report on the situation in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is also scheduled to give testimony.

President Bush has also weighed in on the Congressional calendar, asking Congress to take action on a number of his priorities. Bush, who departed for a NATO summit in Europe today, said the legislative branch should adopt a reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, approve a free trade agreement with Colombia, and change the Federal Housing Authority to help more homeowners.

The FISA reform bill, the RESTORE Act, is something we’ve mentioned quite often in the past. While checking on the differences between the House and Senate version, I came across this great RESTORE Act summary over at Think Progress—it basically describes the House version of the bill.

Aside from the question of immunity for telephone companies (who helped the Bush administration eavesdrop on Americans’ phone conversations without a warrant), the House would place greater oversight on the nation’s electronic surveillance activities and require that agencies obtain warrants prior to conducting surveillance (though the requirement could be obtained after-the-fact in an emergency).

Congressional Democrats will likely stall progress on a Colombian trade pact until President Bush agrees to move forward on Trade Adjustment Assistance for displaced workers.

UPDATE—Congressional committee hearing schedules below:

April 1-4 Senate and House Hearings
April 1, 2008



April 2, 2008
Joint Meeting



April 3, 2008

Joint Meeting


  • Senate Committee on Armed Services
    To hold hearings to examine the nominations of Gen. David D. McKiernan, to be General, and Commander, International Security Assistance Force, Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, to be General, and Vice Chief of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Walter L. Sharp, to be General, and Commander, United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea, all of the United States Army. 9:30 a.m. [SD-106]
  • Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
    To hold hearings to examine the current price of oil, focusing on non-commercial institutional investors.9:30 a.m. [SD-366]
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
    To hold hearings to examine the conditions and developments of Iraq in 2012.. 9:30 a.m. [SD-419]
  • House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
    To hold hearings to examine the status of the Surface Transportation Trust Funds and impact on federal spending. 9:30 a.m., [SD-138]
  • Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine legislative presentations from sundry Veteran Affairs organizations. 9:30 a.m., [SH-216]
  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine turmoil in U.S. credit markets, focusing on the recent actions of federal financing regulators. 10 a.m. [SD-538]
  • Senate Committee on Appropriations, Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee
    To hold hearings to examine proposed budget estimates for fiscal year 2009 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Fiscal Year. 10:00 a.m. [SD-192]
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
    To hold hearings to examine international fisheries, focusing on management and enforcement. 10:00 a.m. [SR-253]
  • Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
    To hold hearings to examine strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at United States colleges and universities. 10 a.m. [SD-406]
  • Senate Finance Committee
    To hold hearings to examine outside the box on estate tax reform, focusing on reviewing ideas to simplify planning.
    10 a.m. [SD-215]
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine Federal Emergency Management Agency, focusing on if the agency is better prepared for a catastrophe now than it was in 2005. 10:00 a.m. [SD-342]
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    Business meeting to consider S.2136, to address the treatment of primary mortgages in bankruptcy, S.2133, to authorize bankruptcy courts to take certain actions with respect to mortgage loans in bankruptcy, S.2041, to amend the False Claims Act, S.2533, to enact a safe, fair, and responsible state secrets privilege Act, S.702, to authorize the Attorney General to award grants to State courts to develop and implement State courts interpreter programs, S.Res.468, designating April 2008 as "National 9-1-1 Education Month", and the nominations of Catharina Haynes, of Texas, to be Circuit Judge for the Fifth Circuit, and Rebecca A. Gregory, to be United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Texas. [SD-226]
  • Senate Special Committee on Aging
    To hold hearings to examine scrambling for health insurance coverage, focusing on health security for people in late middle age. 10:30 a.m.[SD-608]
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    To hold hearings to examine the nominations of Mark S. Davis, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, David Gregory Kays, to be United States District Judge for the Western District of Missouri, David J. Novak, to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Elisebeth C. Cook, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Attorney General.2:15 p.m. [SD-226]
  • Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
    Closed business meeting to consider pending calendar business.2:30 p.m. [SH-219]
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces
    To hold hearings to examine the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2009 on Army modernization, and the future years defense program. 3:00 p.m. [SR-222]