I decided to bike to work on Capitol Hill yesterday because I wanted to survey the city, now playing host to the President-elect, and I have to say (maybe I’m projecting) there was an undeniable electricity in the air. With the brief exception of the week of the TARP bailout, Washington, the attention of the political world was on the election and the process of politicking rather than governing. But now, all eyes are on the District.
One of my New Year’s pledges is to increase my blogging in this space, and I’ll be writing more frequently in the print edition of The Nation about what’s going down here in the capital. A recurring feature I want to get back to are preview and review posts about Congress at the beginning and end of every week it’s in session. I’ve farmed this feature out to our very capable correspondent Greg Kaufmann, who filed the following:
What’s Up with the 111th?
We’ve still got a bit longer until we can put the Bushies behind us (if not the Bush legacy), but the 111th Congress kicks off this Tuesday at noon with the swearing in of all House members and those Senators who were up for election in November.
While the media will probably focus on the daytime dramas surrounding the potential seats of Burris-Coleman-Franken-Kennedy, the size and timing of the economic recovery plan, and the confirmation hearings of Rep. Hilda Solis (Labor) and former Sen. Tom Daschle (HHS) — there are some other things going on that deserve attention.
As far as the recovery plan goes, a senior staffer for Senator Bernie Sanders told me that the Senator is working hard behind the scenes to increase support for community health centers — which are often the only facilities besides hospitals where low-income individuals and those living in rural areas can obtain basic health care services.
Barbara Boxer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, will hold a hearing on Wednesday on “investing in green technology as a strategy for economic recovery.” The witnesses are New York Times columnist Tom Friedman and John Doerr (who is a big Dem donor). Would have been good to see Nation contributor and founder of Green for All,Van Jones, on that witness list for a more progressive take, but still good that Boxer is pushing this aspect of the recovery at a moment when Senate Republican Filibuster Leader Mitch McConnell is already expressing “reservations” and “caution” about “big systemic changes.”
In the House, the first bills scheduled for the floor are the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act — both of which passed the in the last Congress only to die along with a lot of other good legislation in the Senate. Both bills would make a real difference in women’s working lives when it comes to equal pay and ability to fight discrimination–at a moment when women are being disproportionately affected by the economic crisis.
With the House possibly voting on an Economic Recovery Plan as early as next week, Congressman George Miller’s House Education and Labor Committee will get the hearings started on Wednesday with “Forum: An Economic Recovery and Job Creation Plan.” That will be the bill to watch.