Election 2008

Coming this week in Congress: Housing, Medicare cuts and FISA (July 6-12, 2008)

Coming up this week in the Senate are Harry Reid's latest attempts to pass the main bill containing Congress' response to the housing and mortgage crisis and a rollback of a cut in doctors' payments for Medicare services. A vote on the FISA (warrantless wiretapping) bill is also possible. The House won't be doing much.

Details and this week's committee schedules after the jump.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will take up the main bill containing Congress' response to the housing and mortgage crisis. The central provision of the package is a massive program to offer a federal guarantee to banks on mortgages if the lender agrees to reduce the outstanding principal on the mortgage to 85% of the current value of the house and reduce high, variable interest rates to a lower fixed rate. A version of the bill has passed the House but just before Congress adjourned for the 4th of July recess, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) derailed a final vote by demanding a vote on an amendment of his containing renewable energy tax changes. Once the bill passes the Senate, however, it still faces a veto threat for President Bush, who has objected to the price of a $4 billion grant program contained in the bill for local governments to buy, fix up and sell abandoned homes.

Reid is also likely to bring up for a second vote the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, which reverses a 10.6% cut in payments to doctors for Medicare services that went into effect on July 1. Supporters of the bill say the cuts will cause more doctors to stop participating in Medicare while detractors cite the cost of the bill or say more comprehensive changes to Medicare need to be made. The bill has passed the House with a veto-proof margin and was only stopped in the Senate by a single vote vote before Congress broke for recess. (See how your senators and representative voted here.)

Finally, the controversial bill to change the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act may also be brought up for a vote. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has caused a ruckus among many of his supporters by indicating that he will vote for a final bill even if it contains a provision to give retroactive immunity from lawsuits (and possibly criminal prosecutions) to the major telecom companies that broke federal privacy laws by turning over phone records without court authorization when cooperating with President Bush's warrantless surveillance program. He had previously stated that if the bill contained the provision he would support a filibuster, which is exactly what Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) have announced they will do.

While the Senate plays catch-up on bills passed by the House, the lower chamber is largely concerned with more mudane business this week; the one exception being a bill to require the White House to preserve emails.

This week's committee hearings:

(The House is not in session on Monday and hasn't posted their schedules yet - I'll try to update the post when they do.)

Meet the Candidates: Winners in the Utah congressional primaries

For the third time this election cycle, an incumbent member of the U.S. House of Representatives will be looking for work at the end of the 110th Congress. Republican Rep. Chris Cannon yesterday lost a primary race to Jason Chaffetz in Utah’s 3rd district. Chaffetz ran on a platform of cracking down on illegal immigration, and contrasted his stance to Cannon's support of comprehensive immigration reform.

Chaffetz succeeded in 2008 where others had failed: in 2004 and 2006, Cannon also faced challengers from within his party. Like fellow Republican Andy Harris and Democrat Donna Edwards in Maryland, Chaffetz was able to coalesce his support among his party's base, in a year when "Change" has been a successful theme for candidates of all stripes.

As part of Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project, citizen journalists from around the country (and even some candidates!) have been logging information about the candidates' positions, biographies and records. A full list of the candidates and their professions are below, but you can also find them at their respective state portals via the Wiki the Vote project homepage. We need your help to find out more about these candidates, so if you know something about them please add it to their profile. (You can always contact one of the staff editors for help.)

The Swift Boating Begins in August

Saying "we believe the media whitewashed the candidate," the president of Regnery Publishing announced an August release for a book titled "The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate." The PR firm Creative Response Concepts (CRC) is promoting the book.


Maryland Special Election for U.S. House Seat Tuesday

Voters in Maryland's 4th congressional district are heading to the polls today in a special election to choose their representative to the U.S. House. The seat is open because former Rep. Al Wynn resigned at the end of May following his loss in February's primary election. Maryland's governor, Martin O'Malley (D), has called a special election to fill the remainder of Wynn's term.

Don't feel too bad for Wynn. When he left Congress last month he took advantage of a loophole in congressional ethics laws that bar exiting representatives from becoming lobbyists for one year. Wynn, following the example of others before him, has taken a job merely "advising" clients at the huge federal lobbying firm he has gone to work for, but will not directly "lobby" the federal government. It's nice work if you can get it.

More information on the candidates running for Wynn's seat after the jump.


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