Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (May 9 - 16, 2008)

Several big votes are expected this week, as the farm bill finally leaves conference negotiations and hits the floors of the House and Senate for possibly final votes, amendments to the latest Iraq War funding bill wind through the House, and congressional elections are held in Mississippi, West Virginia and Nebraska.

Farm bill
The Farm bill is finally hitting the floor in the Senate and House this week. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the bill, and White House actually posted a list of its objections on its Web site this afternoon. They include:

  • $20 billion over Bush’s recommendations
  • insufficient cuts to subsidy levels for individual farmers
  • more farm subsidies even while food prices hit record levels

Iraq War funding
In addition to action on the Farm bill, expect votes on three separate amendments related to the Iraq supplemental. House Democrats have decided to push the amendments to give different factions within their caucus an opportunity to vote on the war and on troop withdrawal, all while forcing a slate of domestic funding options into a must-pass defense bill.

The first amendment includes $166 billion for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through early 2009. That would give the incoming president several months of time before the controversial question of Iraq hits the 111th Congress. A second amendment would set a non-binding goal for taking American troops out of Iraq.

The third amendment contains measures designed to ram several domestic concessions through Congress and outside the normal budget process. The amendment will fund extended unemployment benefits and an expansion of veterans education benefits. Since the bill is considered “emergency” legislation it doesn’t comply with “pay as you go” rules (which requires new spending to be offset by reductions elsewhere). That doesn’t sit well with conservative Democrats (the so-called Blue Dogs) and might violate a campaign pledge made my Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The domestic amendment would cost $10 billion over 10 years.

Congressional elections
The perceived shift in support away from Republicans has been a constant theme since the 2006 mid-term elections, when Democrats were able to hold every one of their seats in the House and Senate. In turn, they were also able to defeat numerous Republican incumbents, wresting control of both chambers of Congress in the process.

Recent events have indicated additional problems for the GOP this election cycle: in two previously stalwart Republican districts, Democrats wrought surprising victories during special elections. First came Bill Foster (D) in Illinois, where he defeated Republican Jim Oberweis in a March contest to fill the remaining term of retired House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Then, just last week, Democratic candidate Don Cazayoux defeated Woody Jenkins, a Republican, to replace former Rep. Richard Baker (R) in Louisiana.

Both districts voted for President Bush in 2004, and Hastert and Baker were both elected to office in 1987: their district had voted Republican for at least 20 years. The dramatic reversal of fortunes for the GOP in those districts begs the question: are they a bellwether of things to come or aberrations rooted in local politics?

Another special election tomorrow might hold at least part of the answer: Mississippi’s 1st congressional district is another long-time Republican stronghold, most recently represented by Roger Wicker. Wicker served seven terms in the House of Representatives before taking over former Sen. Trent Lott’s term.

Democrat Travis Childers earned the most votes in a recent special election – though not a majority – among a field of candidates, including Republican Greg Davis. Tomorrow Childers and Davis are in a runoff that might have implications outside the district. If Childers can secure another Democratic win, it will lend more credence to the argument that GOP candidates face greater obstacles in the fall.

Finally, Nebraska and West Virginia hold their congressional primaries on Tuesday.

Hearings Schedules:
May 13, 2008


May 14, 2008



May 15, 2008


  • Senate Committee on Appropriations
    Business meeting to mark up the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2008, 2 p.m., SD-106.
  • Senate Committee on Armed Services
    Business meeting to consider pending military nominations, 9:30 a.m., SR-222.
  • Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine the condition of our nation's infrastructure, focusing on perspectives from our nation's mayors, 10 a.m., SD-538.
  • Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
    To hold hearings to examine development of oil shale resources, 2:30 p.m., SD-366.
  • Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
    To hold hearings to examine United States-China relations in the era of globalization, 2 p.m., SD-419.
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine nuclear terrorism, focusing on providing medical care and meeting basic needs in an aftermath, 10 a.m., SD-342.
  • Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia
    To hold hearings to examine the organizational structures of the State Department responsible for arms control, counterproliferation, and nonproliferation, focusing on the processes they have in place for optimizing national efforts, and how responsive those structures and processes are to the Executive Branch's nonproliferation and counterproliferation polices, 2 p.m., SD-342.
  • Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
    To hold hearings to examine S. 1080, to develop a program to acquire interests in land from eligible individuals within the Crow Reservation in the State of Montana, H.R. 2120, to direct the Secretary of the Interior to proclaim as reservation for the benefit of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians a parcel of land now held in trust by the United States for that Indian tribe, S. 2494, to provide for equitable compensation to the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation for the use of tribal land for the production of hydropower by the Grand Coulee Dam, H.R. 2963, to transfer certain land in Riverside County, California, and San Diego County, California, from the Bureau of Land Management to the United States to be held in trust for the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Mission Indians, and S. 531, to repeal section 10(f) of Public Law 93-531, commonly known as the ``Bennett Freeze'', 9:30 a.m., SD-562.
  • Senate Committee on the Judiciary
    To hold hearings to examine S. 2913, to provide a limitation on judicial remedies in copyright infringement cases involving orphan works, S. 2511, to amend the grant program for law enforcement armor vests to provide for a waiver of or reduction in the matching funds requirement in the case of fiscal hardship, S. 2565, to establish an awards mechanism to honor exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty by Federal law enforcement officers, H.R. 4056, to establish an awards mechanism to honor Federal law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty, S. 2774, to provide for the appointment of additional Federal circuit and district judges, S. 1738, to establish a Special Counsel for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction within the Office of the Deputy Attorney General, to improve the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, to increase resources for regional computer forensic labs, and to make other improvements to increase the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute predators, S. 2756, to amend the National Child Protection Act of 1993 to establish a permanent background check system, D582S. 1515, to establish a domestic violence volunteer attorney network to represent domestic violence victims, S. 2942, to authorize funding for the National Advocacy Center, S. 2982, to amend the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act to authorize appropriations, and the nomination of G. Steven Agee, of Virginia, to be United States Circuit Judge for the Fourth Circuit, 3:30 p.m., SD-226.
  • Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
    To hold closed hearings to examine certain intelligence matters, 2:30 p.m., SH-219.