Bills, bills bills: The big order of business for Congress this week is to continue passing the federal budget for the 2008 fiscal year (which started on Oct. 30), including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The big farm bill and legislation aimed at the mortgage crisis are also on the front burner.
Last week Congress sent the first two 2008 appropriation bills, on domestic and defense spending, to President Bush (twelve must eventually be passed). Congressional Democratic leaders abandoned plans several weeks ago to attach $50 billion in "bridge" funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (about 1/4 of the $196 billion Bush requested for 2008) to the Defense appropriation bill. They now plan to offer the same $50 billion in the Senate this week with language being tied to the money that would require the draw-down of combat forces within 2 weeks of passage, with a complete withdrawal complete by Dec. 15, 2008. If Republicans block that bill, Democratic leaders have vowed to make Bush pay for the wars out of the regular budget until they are allowed to pass such language.
On the domestic side, the $151 billion budget for the departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services was vetoed, so Democrats will be working their Republican colleagues this week looking for enough votes to override. The House will be the battleground, since the roll-call there was several votes shy of a veto-proof majority.
The $51 billion Transportation-HUD spending bill faces a similar fate: Bush has promised to veto it as well. Debate is expected to continue this week on the nine other remaining measures.
Partisan differences over amendments offered on the 2007 farm bill will likely keep the measure off the Senate calendar again this week. Work on a new energy bill might relieve some of the pressure on the farm bill, since Sen. Energy Committee ranking member Pete Domenici wants to include alternate fuels language in whichever bill moves forward.
Finally, with the stock market still feeling the effects of the housing credit crisis, lawmakers are working on a bill to place new regulations on lenders. The Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007 would require lenders to prove borrowers could repay adjustable-rate mortgages, and increase the oversight responsibility of federal banking regulators.
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Click through the jump to a full listing of this week's committee schedules.