Thursday, May 17, 2007

More News From The Hill

A lot going on today...

Key senators in both parties and the White House announced agreement on an immigration overhaul that would grant quick legal status to millions of illegal immigrants already in the U.S. and fortify the border. The Senate has started floor debate on immigration, and may vote next week. However, it is unclear if this proposal can survive in the House.

As more Republicans call on Gonzales to resign, Democrats in the Senate renewed calls for a no-confidence vote. It is hoped to be voted on next week and looks to gain at least the 60 senators required to beat a filibuster with a significant number of Republicans joining Democrats to invoke cloture. Gonzales may join Wolfowitz in the unemployment line soon...

The House and Senate both passed a 2.9 trillion budget plan that increases spending for education and health care and promises federal surplus in five years, letting expire tax cuts that have greatly benefited upper-bracket taxpayers. The nonbinding measure is not sent to Bush for his signature or veto. Rather, it sets parameters for Congress to follow when writing tax and spending legislation later this year. However, President Bush has pledged to veto spending bills that break his budget goals.

Separately, the House voted 397-27 to pass legislation authorizing $646 billion in defense spending for the 2008 budget year. The policy bill requires reports on progress made in Iraq. Amazingly, the White House has issued a veto threat against the National Defense Authorization Act, opposed to two things: Increased survivor benefits of $40 a month to spouses of those who lost someone in military service, and a pay increase to all personnel, across the board, just half a percent higher than what the President has already endorsed. Supporting the troops, eh?

On Tuesday, Democratic House leaders introduced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007, a companion lobbying and ethics reform bill to the one the Senate passed as their first bill back in January. However, there seems to be a fight brewing between freshman lawmakers who want real reform and entrenched conservative lawmakers who don't.

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation that would force the CIA release an inspector general's report on the 9/11 attacks. The CIA has spent more than 20 months weighing requests under the Freedom of Information Act for its internal investigation of the attacks but has yet to release any portion of it.

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