Greg Kaufmann gives a run-down of a busy upcoming week on Capitol Hill:
The Rest of the Week
The House and Senate negotiated a final budget resolution Monday night and will vote on it this week. It includes “reconciliation instructions” which would allow healthcare and education legislation to pass the Senate with a simple majority rather than the filibuster-proof 60 votes. It should be fun to watch the histrionics of Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as he does a 180 from his days in the Majority and claims that reconciliation will basically bring down the Republic. (Jon Stewart had a blast with this earlier this month — worth checking out at the 05:05 mark.)
President Obama’s $83 billion war supplemental will also be taken up in Senate Appropriations when Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates testify on Thursday. The bill includes nearly $76 billion for the military and approximately $7 billion for diplomatic efforts and foreign aid.
The supplemental is sure to be a topic that comes up when the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) and its 77 members meet with President Obama today — many members oppose the escalation. Another focus likely will be on the Caucus’ determination to only support a healthcare reform bill that includes a public plan option (like Medicare). CPC Co-Chairs — Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey — recently wrote a letter to Obama outlining that commitment along with the chairs of the Black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific American Caucuses.
In other CPC news… the fourth forum in a six-part series on Af-Pak policy will be held this morning at 10:00. It’s good to see the Caucus ahead of the curve in its commitment to hearings and exploring alternatives.
On credit card reform, the House will take up a bill that — like the Dodd bill in the Senate — seems largely designed to allow legislators to tell constituents they took action while avoiding real reform that takes on the banks. I think Senator Bernie Sanders has it exactly right as he continues to fight for an interest rate cap of 15 percent — the same limit that has applied to credit unions for decades. Last week Sanders asked people to write him about their dealings with the credit card companies — he’s posting some responses online and will read others on the Senate floor. He’s received over 1,000 emails and wants more from people all over the country. Fellow-Vermonter and CPC member — Rep. Peter Welch — along with CPC members John Tierney and Maurice Hinchey will introduce an amendment to the House bill to cap rates at 18 percent.