Friday, December 14, 2007

Legislative Week in Review X

President Bush vetoed for the second time a re-authorization and expansion of SCHIP. Democrats will likely just fund the program at this year's levels. In fact, Democrats are likely to cave on Bush's spending limits for most appropriation bills they have yet to pass because of Bush veto threats. The House accordingly approved another "stopgap" spending measure to avoid a government shutdown.

The House of Representatives and Senate both passed the defense authorization bill that will be signed by President Bush. Stripped out were provisions dealing with Iraq and hate crimes. The House passed yet another version of a bill to continue the TIRA program as well as one addressing the AMT, but both still must be worked out with the Senate. The House also passed a law banning waterboarding as an acceptable interrogation method, but Senate Republicans filibustered it.

The Senate passed an energy bill similar to the House one, but without tax cuts that Republicans filibustered. The White House has said Bush would not veto this version, so it will likely be the one that comes out of conference. It would be the fifth of the Democrats' "6 for '06" election promises to become law. The farm bill, a version of which passed today by the Senate and another earlier in the House, may not fare so well. The Senate also voted to make it easier for thousands of homeowners with ballooning interest rates to refinance into federally insured loans and to let U.S. state and local governments, as well as mutual funds and private pension funds, divest their investments in companies involved in four Sudanese business sectors, including its oil industry.

Lastly, the Senate Judiciary Commitee voted along party-lines to hold White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and former Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate in its probe of fired federal prosecutors. It is now sent to the full Senate, but as always, Republicans will likely block the move. And the Senate confirmed James Peake, a former Army Surgeon General, as the new Veterans Affairs secretary.

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