Monday, July 23, 2007

Legislative Update V

Today, Chairman John Conyers announced that the House Judiciary Committee will vote Wednesday on contempt citations for White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet E. Miers, both of whom refused congressional demands for information on the dismissals after President Bush invoked executive privilege. This will almost certainly provoke a constitutional showdown if the citations are agreed to, as we have detailed.

Under a measure approved by voice vote in the House, federal candidate’s spouses would be barred from being paid by the candidate’s campaign or leadership political action committee. The ban would also apply to companies or firms in which the spouse was an officer or director. Furthermore, the measure would require disclosure of payments from campaigns of PACs to other immediate members of a candidate’s family.

Also, the Senate is moving toward swift passage of a five-year re-authorization of the primary law governing federal aid for higher education. A final vote should happen tomorrow. The Higher Education Act re-authorization bill has not yet moved in the House, but will, of course.

House Democrats plan a $50 billion expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers about 6 million children from low-income families not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee are both expected to vote on their bill this week, according to Congressional Quarterly. Bush has already threatened to veto a $35 billion expansion approved by the Senate Finance Committee last week. The full Senate is expected to vote on that measure before starting its August recess.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have asked for a meeting with President Bush to see if they can work out an agreement on spending bills for the fiscal year that begins in 10 weeks, according to the New York Times. The Senate, which has not passed any of the 12 bills, plans to begin considering the first one, for the Department of Homeland Security tomorrow. The House has passed 8 of the 12 regular appropriations bills for 2008, and Mr. Bush threatened to veto 5 of them, including the HUD bill the House took up today. However, substantial numbers of Republicans have joined Democrats in passing the appropriations bills approved by the House: "One of the largest spending bills, for the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services, was approved last week in the House by a vote of 276 to 140, with 53 Republicans joining 223 Democrats in defying the president’s veto threat. A separate bill providing money for energy and water projects, including the Army Corps of Engineers, was passed with a veto-proof majority, 312 to 112." Another report indicates GOP support for sustaining spending vetoes by President Bush is weakening.

The Washington Post reports that "Democrats are preparing legislation that would significantly expand federal aid to the most obvious victims of the global economy: workers whose jobs move offshore or are lost to foreign imports." In a Senate bill under consideration, "computer programmers, call-center staffers and other service-sector workers who make up the vast majority of the nation's workforce would for the first time be eligible for a generous package of income, health and retraining benefits currently reserved for manufacturing workers who lose their jobs to international trade." A similar bill is nearing completion in the House, and Democrats hope to approve the expansion before the program expires Sept. 30. Trade Adjustment Assistance typically gets strong bipartisan support, but "rancorous politics have developed around broader trade issues, threatening the proposed expansion and, potentially, the program's survival."

Finally, Speaker Pelosi is looking for the House to chip away at President Bush’s Iraq policy with incremental measures now that a withdrawal deadline like that approved by the House has stalled in the Senate. For instance, they are looking at a bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee that would effectively extend a ban on permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. This "would do little or nothing to force the president’s hand. But it would buy time to build support for another redeployment proposal by Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John P. Murtha, D-Pa., to be offered on the floor as an amendment to the fiscal 2008 Defense appropriations bill." Consideration of a proposal to de-authorize the war also appears to have dropped for the time being until the Senate takes action on it.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

Contempt! Bravo!