From Greg Kaufmann:
Before Congress can leave town for a week-long Memorial Day recess, members will take up credit card reform, the war supplemental, energy and climate change legislation, and hold a gazillion hearings on the FY10 budget.
The Senate takes up its version of the $90 billion-plus war supplemental approved last week in the House, 368-60. There will be debate on $80 million in funding to close Guantanamo -- funds not included in the House bill. Unfortunately, there probably won't be enough debate about the lack of an Afghanistan exit strategy, or the fact that 90 percent of the war funding is for military purposes -- which contradicts the counterinsurgency strategy that requires 80 percent to go towards non-military needs.
The Senate will also probably pass its credit card reform bill. It would require a 45-day notice on rate increases, but it wouldn't cap usurious rates as Senator Bernie Sanders and others have urged. Sanders is expected to introduce an amendment to set a 15 percent cap -- the same limit used by credit unions. Dodd said there is a "growing appetite" for such a cap in the Senate.
House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin mark up of its energy/climate bill today and hopes to vote on it this week. CongressDaily reports that it is nearly 1000 pages long and Republicans might delay action by requiring the clerk to read the entire thing and by offering "hundreds of amendments."
In contrast to Waxman's Committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee seems to be proceeding at a glacial pace on its energy bill. Tuesday it will mark up energy legislation on nuclear waste issues, cybersecurity, and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Thursday it will reportedly consider legislation that includes a renewable energy standard for utilities.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen will appear before House Appropriations to discuss the Pentagon budget on Wednesday. The Missile Defense Agency will try to protect the lunacy of its $10 billion a year spending on Thursday before Senate Appropriations and House Armed Services. And the House and Senate will negotiate a final bill for Pentagon weapons procurement reform -- Obama hopes to sign it prior to Memorial Day.
Congress continues hearings on the escalation in Afghanistan. Rep. John Tierney -- who voted against the war supplemental -- holds a hearing on "Afghanistan and Pakistan: Resourcing the Civilian Surge". Sen. John Kerry will chair the Senate Foreign Relations hearing on "A New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan" with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen. Senate Foreign Relations will also receive a closed briefing on "Developments on the Ground in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Other notable happenings… President Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee marks up the "Foreign Relations Authorization Act for FY 2010 and 20ll". The bill authorizes the hiring of 1500 additional Foreign Service Officers and would "support the plan" to double the size of Peace Corps. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify in the Senate on her department's budget before Appropriations and Foreign Relations on Wednesday.
House Financial Services will look into doing something about regulating the credit rating agencies that are paid by the very companies whose bonds they rate -- a ridiculous conflict of interest that led to AAA-ratings for mortgage-backed securities….
Checking up on the levees -- the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee holds a hearing tomorrow on "Recommendations of the National Committee on Levee Safety". (Meanwhile, Senate Appropriations looks at funding of the Army Corps of Engineers, which should also give some indication of whether levees are still getting short shrift.)
Finally, House Veterans Affairs has two notable hearings this week -- one looking at "Gulf War Illness Research", and the other at "The Growing Needs of Women Veterans: Is the VA Ready?"