This week the Senate and House finally came to agreement with the White House on a bill funding the Iraq war through 2009 that also contains billions in new domestic spending and the House approved a Medicare pay fix for physicians. Several other issues have been pushed to after the July 4th recess after Senate Republicans threw some sand in the gears: a single senator stopped the housing and mortgage crisis legislation and another group stopped the renewal of the global AIDS package. In both cases the Republicans wanted votes or other participation on bills that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was trying to quickly push through. Still, the Senate did manage to confirm five nominations to the currently inactive Federal Election Commission.
By Congresspedia assistant editor Avelino Maestas
Last week the House capitulated to President Bush on giving immunity for breaking privacy laws to the telecom companies, passed the Farm Bill (again), and Maryland elected its first black woman to Congress.
The big events this week were the House, after two tries, approving an unemployment benefits extension Thursday, while Senate Republicans filibustered and blocked two bills: a an energy package that cut tax breaks for oil companies while encouraging more renewable energy alternatives and a reversal of scheduled cuts in Medicare services payments to doctors. President Bush also announced another nominee to the Federal Election Commission and three states held congressional primary elections.
After failing to reach a 2/3 majority required for “fast track” passage on Wednesday, House Democrats pushed an extension of unemployment benefits through with a simple majority vote on Thursday. Originally slated for inclusion in an Iraq War supplemental spending bill, the legislation includes an additional 13 weeks of benefits beyond the 26 already allowed. States with high rates of unemployment would be eligible for an additional 13 weeks.
As far back as January, Democratic leaders in the Senate wanted to expand jobless benefits and were lately looking to the Iraq supplemental funding package as the conduit, despite repeated veto threats from President Bush. Statistics released this week showed that the unemployment rate jumped .5 percent, the largest increase in 20 years, and Democratic leaders cited the worsening situation as the impetus behind the “fast track” option.
Seven states held congressional primaries for a total of six Senate and 70 House seats this Tuesday. We've got the results of the congressional primaries in Alabama, Iowa, Montana, New Mexico, New Jersey and South Dakota, thanks to the citizen journalists posting information to the candidate profiles in Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project.
New Mexico definitely had the most interesting race as two current Republican representatives and one Democratic representative vie for the seat of retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, but this is an especially turbulent election and nearly every seat is being contested, so they're all worth a look.
You can find full listings of all the candidates and profiles at the Wiki the Vote project homepage or through the listings below. 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 Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) "has been leading an 'aggressive' public relations campaign ... in an effort to roll back ethanol mandates that passed in last year's energy bill," reports Anna Palmer.
By a voice vote, the U.S. Congress passed an amendment last week to the Defense Authorization Act for FY2009, forbidding the U.S. Department of Defense to engage in "propaganda purposes within the United States not otherwise specifically authorized by law." Probably more important is that the amendment requires an investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study and report back to Congress on "the extent to which the Department of Defense has violated the prohibition on propaganda" already established in previous laws passed by Congress. The amendment was prompted by an April 20 report in the New York Times exposing the Pentagon military analyst program through which the Pentagon lobbied for war by cultivating former military officers who became regulars on Fox News, CNN and the broadcast networks. As Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton have argued previously, the Pentagon pundit program broke existing laws which forbid government officials from engaging in "publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress."
When Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) allegedly ran a stoplight in Virginia earlier this month, he hit the brakes on his career in the U.S. House of Representatives, which has now ended with his retirement. While he resisted calls for his resignation for a while, his drunk driving arrest and the ensuing scandal proved to be too much for his Republican colleagues, who kept up the pressure on Fossella to vacate his Staten Island seat in the hopes of fielding a candidate not under investigation.
Kentucky, Oregon and Arkansas had their congressional primaries on Tuesday and, as usual, Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project is on the case with which candidates made the cut for the November ballot.
Well, Arkansas sort of had congressional primaries - as best we can tell, every member of its incumbent congressional delegation faced no challenge from within their own party or from the other major party, so each will face only Green and Libertarian challengers in the fall. Oregon and Kentucky, which both have a Republican senator up for reelection and at least one House member retiring, had vigorous primaries.
Each candidate and incumbent has a profile within Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project, which you can find at the Oregon, Arkansas and Kentucky portals, or through the full listing of the primary victors below. 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.)