This week, election-season fireworks are expected as Sen. Harry Reid tries to shepherd through a series of House-backed votes on the $250-billion war supplemental bill, including a $52-billion new GI education benefit, unemployment aid and possible Dec. 2009 withdrawal mandate. The Senate will also consider a handful of other tucked-in proposals, such as a measure to lift the cap on seasonal agriculture workers’ visas, and another to block White House-proposed administrative changes that would cut federal Medicaid support by $15 billion.
Meanwhile, defense and finance issues share top billing in the House, as members take up the FY09 defense authorization bill and a $57-billion tax bill to extend and expand incentives for renewable energy development, as well as business and individual tax breaks. Also this week, a conference committee meets to hash out the final FY2009 federal budget resolution, with both sides hoping to secure a joint agreement before Congress heads home for Memorial Day.
On Tuesday, Senate committees will mark up mortgage legislation and discuss the Pentagon’s FY09 budget requests with Defense Secretary Gates. On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee considers three FEC nominees, a task made easier since Hans von Spakovsky withdrew his name from consideration on Friday. (Von Spakovsky’s past involvement in the DOJ’s politicization and voter suppression had deadlocked nominations for months, rendering the FEC short four commissioners and toothless.) On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee host David Petraeus and Ray Odierno to confirm their new commissions to head U.S. Central Command and Multinational Force Iraq, respectively.
Also this week, Congress holds hearings on the use of credit scores in setting insurance rates, gas prices, trade enforcement issues and border security.