This Week In Congress

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (June 6-13, 2008)

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

The House and Senate have yet to reconcile their versions of an Iraq/Afghanistan war spending supplemental, though the House should take up the measure again this week. The level of domestic spending in the bill is the sticking point, so look for debate on offsets and unemployment insurance. Meanwhile, the Senate will consider a package of energy legislation, and might get to tax legislation already approved by the House.

Extended unemployment insurance has been a priority for majority Democrats all year, especially in the Senate: it was originally in that chamber’s economic stimulus package. Though the benefits were not included in the measure signed by President Bush in February, the Senate majority leadership has continued to promote them.

When time came to debate a new spending supplemental for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saw an opportunity to include domestic priorities in what the White House has traditionally called must-pass legislation. Extended unemployment insurance was one such measure attached to the defense spending.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (May 30 - June 5, 2008)

The major action on Capitol Hill this week will be centered around around climate change legislation: the Senate should spend most of the week debating one of the competing proposals, America’s Climate Security Act. The House, meanwhile, will likely vote on an Iraq War supplemental, and both chambers still have to approve a 2009 fical year budget resolution that establishes the framework for next year's spending bills. In election news, the final Democratic presidential primaries happen tomorrow, as well as congressional primaries in seven states.

The America's Climate Security Act is bipartisan legislation that aims to reduce the amount of carbon emissions in the country by 70 percent by 2050. It would establish a “cap-and-trade” program: emissions would be "capped" at a certain level (with the ceiling dropping further every few years) through a permit system for polluters, with the holders of those permits allowed to reduce their emissions and then "trade" (read: sell) the permits for the remainder. This creates a financial incentive for polluters to reduce emissions that will increase over time as the lowering cap makes the permits more precious.

It's unlikely the bill will become law this year, however: it faces an uphill battle in the Senate and a likely veto from President Bush. Still, the the battle lines formed in the debate this weak will auger the the fate of the inevitable resurfacing of the issue in next year's Congress.

More on this week's legislation, committee schedules and an update on superdelegates after the break.

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.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (April. 12 - 18, 2008)

By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas

As Americans rush to finish their tax returns on Tuesday, Congress is also hustling to finish the Farm Bill and a housing crisis package while gearing up for fights over Iraq War funding.

The 2002 Farm bill is set to expire on April 18th, and members of both chambers are scrambling to work out an extension. Substantial debate remains, however, over the bill's overall price tag: the $10 billion increase initially floated has been countered by House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who, with the support of House Republicans, wants to limit the increase to $5.5 billion.

Peterson’s proposal would also strip out a disaster relief program championed by Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Peterson cited "pay as you go" rules as his reason for opposing the program. On the flip side, Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) was upset that his proposed food stamps increase, coupled with tax breaks for farmers, was left out of the Senate version.

(More on this weeks' legislation and a complete list of this week's committee hearings after the jump.)

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.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (Feb. 29 - March 7, 2008)

The House and Senate will begin laying the groundwork for the 2009 federal budget this week, with proposals coming from the Senate Finance Committee and from the House and Senate budget and appropriations committees. Also this week, a compromise might be reached on electronic surveillance, with some saying a bill could head to the President by the end of next week.

The budget proposals — to be unveiled on Wednesday — are produced with two separate frameworks: each resolution is non-binding, but includes policy priorities in “reserve funds” and “reconciliation” instructions. Reconciliation instructions are provided to authorizing committees, which then produce a set dollar amount to fund policy priorities based on spending and taxation. The reserve funds, on the other hand, must follow “paygo” rules, and be offset by revenue increases or spending cuts.

Bush Administration officials have already threatened a veto for any budget proposals that exceeds the president' spending goals.

More on FISA, ethics reform, consumer protection and the week's committee schedules below...

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (Feb. 9 - 15, 2008)

With the Senate approving an economic package last week, it looks like Congress can now return to some issues that were put on hold while the stimulus plan was crafted.

For example, while both the House and Senate approved a Farm bill last year, the chambers never met to iron out their differences. Earlier his month, the Senate announced conferees, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to do the same tomorrow.

One possible snag may be subsidies for farmers: President Bush has threatened a veto if subsidies are included for individuals making more than $200,000 per year. Another might be the Sen. Finance Committee: Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) wants to check the bill for tax loopholes that can be closed.

A quick update on FISA, the FARM bill and the budget are after the break, along with committee schedules.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (Feb. 2 - 8, 2008)

The same fears of recession that are fueling quick Congressional action on an economic stimulus package are also forcing President Bush to submit a budget that trims spending on popular programs. However, despite any belt-tightening, the stimulus package will likely push the budget deficit to $400 billion, the highest since 2004 (though lower in real terms due to inflation) and a figure that will tie lawmakers’ hands heading into the 2008 elections.

The FY 2009 Federal Budget is the first to break the $3 trillion threshold. In it, Bush aims to increase defense spending by five percent, but will propose reductions in Medicaid and some education programs. Others, like the Early Start reading program, would be eliminated entirely.

The Senate will resume its review of the stimulus bill today, including amendments that would extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks and would provide tax rebates for seniors and disabled veterans. Also up for consideration: food stamp extensions, low-income heating assistance, and home investment incentives.

For more on the budget, the FISA debate in the Senate, and committee schedules for the week, check after the break.

Congresspedia Preview: This Week in Congress (Jan. 26 - Feb. 1, 2008)

By Congresspedia Assistant Editor Avelino Maestas

With the State of the Union address out of the way, all eyes should return to Congress’ most pressing issues: FISA reform and an economic stimulus package.

It looks like Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), is going to spoil the stimulus party, introducing his own economic stimulus bill to rival the compromise version reached by President Bush and the House of Representatives. Baucus — the Senate Finance Committee chairman — said rebates for seniors, extended benefits for the long-term unemployed, and tax relief for businesses were the key components of the Senate plan, which is backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The Senate bill would issue rebate checks for most Americans: in this case $500 for just about everybody or $1,000 for couples, rather than the tiered system favored by Bush and the House. That bill would begin phasing out rebates for individuals making more than $75,000, and for couples making more than $150,000.

The House is expected to vote on their version of the package this afternoon, meaning a conference committee will have to sort out the differences before the bill can move on to the White House. Bush urged quick passage of a stimulus bill during his State of the Union address on Monday.

Prior to the president’s speech, Senators continued their legislative tug-of-war over electronic intelligence reform. More on the debate, and the history of FISA legislation, after the break.

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.


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