Saturday, October 13, 2007

Legislative Week in Review III

According to The Politico, House Democrats have set a record for the number of roll call votes they've held.

Senate Republicans' demand an Ethics Committee inquiry into Larry Craig has backfired. The GOP had hoped it would force Craig to resign, but he called their bluff by reversing his decision to resign Sept. 30 unless a court let him drop his guilty plea. "Now Republicans are powerless to stop a process almost certain to do more political damage to the party in general than to a retiring senator," according to the AP.

Key members of Congress vowed Friday to defend the independence of the CIA's inspector general and put an end to the agency's probe of its own internal investigator. And four congressional committee chairmen also accused the State Department of suppressing information about corruption inside Iraq's government. A non-binding measure on the issue will be debated on Tuesday.

The House of Representatives voted 389-30 on Tuesday to make it easier to convict private contractors of defrauding the U.S. government during wartime by creating a new federal criminal statute banning contracting abuse associated with military operations and reconstruction efforts. It also would ensure federal courts have jurisdiction in all cases. A similar measure was approved in April by the Senate Judiciary Committee but Republican objections have prevented it from getting a quick floor vote. Other House bills passed this week include one to ensure durable infant products will be sold with a postage-paid registration card so consumers would be informed quickly of recalls, a call for an end to worldwide genital mutilation which passed 378-0, and legislation that would end the use of private tax collectors by the IRS, 232-173 (it faces a veto threat and a Republican filibuster in the Senate, however).

As Xanthippas has followed, the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee voted 27 to 21 to recognize the WWI massacre of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire as genocide, and can now be sent on to the full House for a possible vote. President Bush opposed the measure because an enraged present-day Turkey says it will harm diplomatic relations with the U.S., but Bush himself labeled it genocide in the 2000 presidential campaign.

As I've followed, the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees both approved the FISA bill. President Bush is threatening a veto because it lacks immunity for telecom companies and sunsets after 2 years. Most Republicans have fallen in line, of course.

On their plate in the coming weeks, the House will consider a reporter shield law, an extension on an Internet tax moratorium, informal negotiations with the Senate on energy legislation, paid parental leave for federal employees, more subprime loan proposals, NFL pensions, and a veto override attempt for SCHIP this coming Thursday. Senate confirmation hearings for Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey begin on October 17th, Sens. Lieberman and Warner will introduce a bill to create a carbon auction system with mandatory emissions caps ("cap and trade") to help combat global warming, the Ag committee may or may not take up the farm bill soon after intense battles over it, and some Senators are considering making wealthy private colleges spend more of their endowments to lower the cost of tuition.

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