Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)was recently hospitalized after suffering an apparent seizure. Paramedics responded to his home on Saturday, and the senator was then airlifted to a Cape Cod hospital. Doctors have since diagnosed the Democratic fixture with a malignant brain tumor. His physicians have said a normal prescription would include radiation and chemotherapy, but said a specific treatment would be worked out with Kennedy when his condition is further analyzed.
The big action last week in Congress was the passage of the Farm Bill and continuing negotiations over the next round of funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which this week included votes on torture, troop pullout timetables and veterans' benefits.
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.
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.
It was a busy last week in Congress, as major deals were reached on the Farm Bill and Congress' response to the mortgage crisis. The stalled nominations process for the Federal Elections Commission received a new twist with big ramifications for the 2008 presidential election, the Senate Ethics Committee cleared Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Rep. Vito Fossella (R-N.Y.) got into trouble with the law, Barack Obama picked up 24 superdelegates, Hillary Clinton picked up 7, and North Carolina and Indiana had their congressional primaries.
On Thursday the House passed a new, catch-all housing bill that combines several bills already passed by the House and Senate by a 265-153 vote. The House bill's most remarkable feature is a program championed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), the powerful head of the House Financial Services Committee. Under the program, the government would offer banks a deal: taxpayer-backed insurance on the mortgages of homeowners likely to default in exchange for making the terms significantly easier for the homeowners to make. While this would cost banks substantial amounts of money versus what they would receive if the mortgages were all paid off, it would also reduce the number of homeowners who default on their mortgages, keeping them in their homes and theoretically saving the banks money in the long run.
Homeowners who are behind in their payments and whose home values have fallen below the amount of their mortgage (thus creating an incentive for them to walk away from the loan) would be eligible for the program. The FHA would offer to insure their mortgages if the bank lowered the amount of the loan to no more than 90 percent of the current market value of the home (thus giving the homeowner positive equity in the home) and reducing the monthly payments. If the value of the insured homes rise and the homeowners sell or refinance at a profit, a portion of that profit goes back to the FHA. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that up to 500,000 homeowners would qualify for the program.
For more on the week's legislation and other developments, click through.
Bruce Falconer is calling out the mainstream media for ignoring the disturbing testimony that dominated recent U.S. Senate hearings into corruption by private contractors in Iraq.
While the presidential race is getting all the attention, voters in Indiana and North Carolina also selected their parties' nominees for their 22 House of Representatives seats and one Senate slot on Tuesday. Each seat's incumbent is running for reelection, but this is a turbulent election year, and the three high-school teachers, three attorneys, several small business owners and elected officials, and one TV weatherman challenging them could give them a run for their money. The Democrats are defending twelve House seats to the Republicans ten, plus Elizabeth Dole's seat in the Senate.
Each candidate and incumbent has a profile within Congresspedia's Wiki the Vote project, which you can find at the Indiana and North Carolina portals, or through the full listing of the primary victors below. We need your help to find out more about these candidates, so remember that these profiles are editable by anyone and jump right in. You can always contact one of the staff editors for help.