The big two issues in the 2008 elections - health care and the war - dominated the news out of the Capitol dome this week while (of course) more federal investigations into members of Congress slowly moved forward and yet another senate Republican announced his retirement.
This Week In Congress
The big issues this week include whether President Bush will carry through on his threat to veto the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) expansion, which had broad support from Republicans in addition to all Democrats. Congressional Democrats are also likely this week to respond to Bush's request last week for an additional $42 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which brings 2008's total to $190 billion.
For information on what's happening in the committees, see below for a full listing of committee hearings, courtesy of GovTrack.us.
In the coming week the Senate will continue to debate the Fiscal Year 2008 defense budget after last week's testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and Amb. Ryan Crocker, which will provide a platform for general debate on the Iraq War and measures to begin withdrawing troops. It will also look at a bill to provide a congressional seat for Washington, D.C. The House will take on the Federal Aviation Administration section of the federal budget and, through the Financial Services Committee, will take up legislation to increase federal backing of low and middle income mortgages.
Know anything about these issues? Click the links to the articles above and add what you find. A complete list of the week's congressional hearings are below, courtesy of Govtrack.
The marquee events in Congress this week will be the hearings in both chambers of Congress with testimony from General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the Iraq War. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will also hear testimony from Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FBI Director Robert Mueller on the July National Intelligence Estimate, which claimed that Al-Quaeda had largely rebuilt itself to pre-Afghanistan War levels. Most of these hearings, whose schedules are listed below, are available for live viewing via C-SPAN.
Also on the Senate's agenda is the $104.7 billion Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Fiscal Year 2008 funding bill, which currently exceeds President Bush's budget request by $3.1 billion and may receive a veto threat from him. With the beginning of Rosh Hashana on Wednesday evening, business in the Capitol will largely cease for the week.
Congress is back in session after their August break and are diving headfirst into a passel of spending bills, many of which are due by September 30th, the end of the 2007 fiscal year. Iraq will also be a huge issue this month as the "Petraeus report" (which we have learned is actually being written by the White House) is to be delivered to Congress on September 10th - 11th and a Government Accountability Office report on Iraq is published in the next few days. While plenty of debate on Iraq is expected this week, it is unclear if anyone will try to move any bills ahead of Petraeus' testimony next week.
The issue of Iraq is also, of course, intertwined with the debate over the budget for the next fiscal year year, which starts October 1st. This week the Senate will take up spending bills for military construction and veterans affairs and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also reportedly wants to start work on funding bills for the Defense Department, transportation and foreign operations. Authorization bills for the Federal Aviation Administration, Food and Drug Administration, State Children's Health Insurance Program and the massive 2007 Farm Bill also due by the end of the month. Congressional Democrats are additionally looking to pass legislation passed by the House earlier this year on student loans and financial aid.
As the September 30th deadline approaches it is unclear if all the funding bills, possibly including funding for the Iraq War, will be passed individually or passed as an omnibus bill. President Bush, meanwhile, is threatening to veto any bill that exceeds the budget he sent to Congress.
On the personnel front, Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) announced his resignation on Saturday, effective September 30th. The Republican governor of Idaho is expected to appoint current Lieutenant Governor Jim Risch to serve until the end of Craig's term next year. Sen. Tim P. Johnson (D-S.D.) is back after recovering from his stroke and says he'll be serving through the end of his term next year when he expects to run for reelection.
Each of the links in this post go to articles on the Congresspedia/SourceWatch wiki and are fully editable, so if you've seen some relevant information around, help spread truth and facts by going to the wiki article, clicking "edit this page" and adding it.
The House has not yet posted their hearing schedule for the week, but the Congresspedia staff put together the Senate schedule for the week:
There's only one more workweek before the Congressional August recess (Aug. 3 - 31) and Democratic leaders are scrambling to pass a number of important bills before leaving Washington. They will try to pass the long-delayed ethics reform bill and an expansion of health insurance for poor children. The House will also debate a number of Iraq-related budget and withdrawal timeline provisions as well as energy and farm legislation. A full listing of the committee schedules for the week is after the jump.
- Ethics and transparency legislation - After Senate Republicans including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) stalled the main ethics reform bill after Democrats refused to guarantee the inclusion of earmark reforms (S.1), Democrats are moving to pass a new version out of the House, allowing them to give it an up-or-down vote in the Senate without going through the committee process. Provisions include requirements for lobbyists to disclose campaign fundraising and changes to revolving door lobbing regulations. It is unclear whether the bill will include earmark provisions requiring the disclosure of earmark sponsors and the easy striking of earmarks that originate in conference committees.
- 2008 Defense budget - The House will debate the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense appropriations bill this week and several Iraq-related amendments are expected. Bush has requested $141.7 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan. An amendment is expected from Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) that would require a reduction in troop levels beginning 60 days after the budget is passed but does not include a deadline for a withdrawal to be completed. Another Democratic amendment to require the closure of Guantanamo bill within 180 days.
- More Iraq bills - The House may debate and vote on two Democratic bills approved by the House Armed Services Committee on Friday. H.R.3159, by Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), would require that soldiers receive leave equal to the time they are deployed in Iraq and H.R.3087, by Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), would require the Pentagon to make reports on war planning.
- State Children's Health Insurance Plan - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are expected to try and pass a reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP), which provides funding to states to provide health insurance to the children of families which have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but too little to afford private health insurance. The Senate Finance Committee has sent a bipartisan bill to the full body that expands SCHIP by $35 billion over five years from its current level of about $25 billion. Amendments are expected from senate Republicans to reduce the increase to $9 billion and add small business health plans and health savings accounts, but have said they won't filibuster the bill. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) is expected to offer an amendment expanding the increase to $50 billion over five years. In the House, the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees have sent a Democratic bill to the floor that expands the program by $50 billion over five years and prevents planned cuts in Medicare physician fees for two years. It would be paid for by a 45 cent-per-pack tax hike on cigarettes, and cuts or freezes on fees paid to Medicare health plans and some healthcare providers. Pelosi said last week she will bring the bill, which faced strong opposition from some Republicans when it was in committee, up for a floor vote this week.
- Employment discrimination - The House is expected to vote this week on a bill that would nullify a recent Supreme Court ruling on employment discrimination in pay by extending the statute of limitations on claims each time an employee received discriminatory pay or compensation. The Supreme Court had recently ruled against a plaintiff based on the fact that the 180 statute of limitations started when the discriminatory decision was made, not each time the employee was paid. House Republicans have complained of being shut out of the process and President Bush has issued a veto threat.
- Budgets - The Senate votes to confirm former Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) as the new OMB Director may be delayed by Democrats if Bush indicates he will veto the domestic spending bills, which exceed his overall proposal (not including Iraq War funding) by $23 billion. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has scheduled a vote in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) is waiting to see what Bush says.
- Farm bill - The House will debate the $90.7 billion 2007 farm bill (H.R.2419).
- Energy - The House is expected to debate several energy bills this week, many of which are related to bills already filed to combat climate change.
The House and Senate are in session this week, with both chambers expected to debate and consider several important bills and resolutions. Highlights include: