Greg Kaufmann’s got the preview:
This Week on the Hill
It’s like the movie Groundhog Day — only with Harry Reid trying to woo Republicans so he can finally get cloture — as the Senate tries yet again to pass the $410 billion FY09 omnibus spending bill this week.
This bill is leftover from last year’s business when Congress and Bush couldn’t agree on the division of assets before parting ways. It’s taken far longer than anticipated to gain Senate approval and according to Politico that led to a nasty fight between Democratic leaders last week. Until the bill passes, funding for most agencies is frozen at 2008 levels. As a price for the needed 60 votes Reid is letting the GOP offer 12 more amendments this week — in addition to the 12 that have already been shot down. Look for more ranting about earmarks. According to CongressDaily, the vote is expected to be so close that Sen. Ted Kennedy will be in town for it.
Today Pres. Obama will continue to free science from the Bush Dark Ages as he signs an executive order lifting the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland — home to NIH and Johns Hopkins University — campaigned on the issue with Michael J. Fox in 2006 and will attend the signing ceremony.
Also this week, Obama, Vice Pres. Biden, and other administration officials have invited every state to send a representative to discuss implementing the Recovery Act to stimulate the economy.
OMB Director Peter Orszag and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner continue to make their rounds on Capitol Hill…. Orszag is talking Obama’s FY10 Budget and FY10 Health Care Proposals to the Senate Budget and Senate Finance Committees, respectively. Geithner will also speak on Thursday with the Senate Budget Committee on “FY10 Budget and Revenue Proposals”, and also on “Treasury Actions Relating to the Financial Crisis” with the House Appropriations Committee. Cabinet members Steven Chu (Energy), Arne Duncan (Education), and Eric Shinseki (VA), will all be making the case for their respective department’s budget.
Two House hearings will look at health care reform: Making Healthcare Work for American Families and Expanding Coverage, Controlling Costs…. and Ways And Means also looks at a “Review of Veterans Affairs Department Challenges” — including healthcare.
The House Appropriations Committee will take a hard look at incarceration issues this week with at least five or six hearings, including: drug treatment, innovative reentry programs, and major challenges facing federal prisons.
At least four — count ’em — four hearings on violence in Mexico and on the border: House Homeland Security looks at combating Mexican border violence; Rep. John Tierney’s House Oversight subcommittee holds a hearing on “Money, Guns, and Drugs: Are U.S. Inputs Fueling Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border?“; House Appropriations examines “The Merida Initiative” to train military and law enforcement in Mexico and Central America, as well as the “Department of Homeland Security Response to Violence on the Border with Mexico“.
As Congress prepares an energy bill and new climate policy, one issue that will come up again and again is whether consumers will be too burdened by the transition. Two house hearings will delve into that issue: Energy and Commerce explores “Consumer Protection Policies in Climate Legislation” on Thursday; and Ways and Means hears testimony on protecting low- and moderate-income families while curbing global warming.
Other interesting hearings going on that are worth checking out: The Nuclear Weapons Complex with the brilliant and progressive Philip Coyle; Problems/Potential with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR); Circuit City, Chapter 11, and Failing to Save 34,000 Jobs; current and future worldwide threats to US national security; and the Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan rocks the House regarding royalty exemptions for AM and FM radio.
One other item of note: Tuesday is International Women’s Day. Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota will keynote USAID’s Women: A Driving Force for Economic Recovery.