From Greg Kaufmann:
President Obama meets with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan on Wednesday, while the Senate, House, and Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) all look into Pakistan strategy.
The Administration’s Pakistan-Afghanistan envoy Richard Holbrooke will testify before both Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. Also Tuesday, the CPC holds its fifth forum on the Afghanistan War, examining how US policy in Pakistan is impacting Afghanistan. On Thursday, House Armed Services will hold a hearing on “Counterinsurgency… Issues and Lessons Learned”, witnesses include counterinsurgency specialist David Kilcullen who recently called for drone attacks in Pakistan to be halted. Also on Thursday morning, House Appropriations will mark-up the Administration’s $83 billion war supplemental.
Regarding the supplemental, last week the CPC met with Obama and took issue with the fact that it doesn’t come anywhere close to an allocation of 80 percent non-military and 20 percent military that the counterinsurgency strategy calls for. ($75 billion — or about 90 percent — is for military operations.) Obama said the supplemental reflects the mess he inherited from Bush and that the Caucus should instead examine his FY10 budget. Congress will get a chance to do just that this week as the details of Obama’s budget are expected to be released. There are also a host of appropriations hearings scheduled, including on funding for Justice, Army, Navy, and the Marine Corps.
In other defense spending news, the House Armed Services Committee will markup its bill on Pentagon procurement reform — Senate Armed Services already approved its version.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Administration will also release its plan for cracking down on offshore tax havens used by corporations and the wealthy. Aspects of this will lead to dire predictions from lobbyists on massive job losses and the inability of US companies to compete.
Last week — after months of negotiations with banks failed to drum up the Senate support necessary for legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify home mortgages — Majority Whip Dick Durbin declared that banks “are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.” Now the Senate will take up consumer protections for credit cards and the smart money is on some watered down piece of legislation — especially since it’s spearheaded by Senate Banking Chair Sen. Chris Dodd. What we really need are caps to prevent usurious interest rates — along the lines of what Sen. Bernie Sanders is fighting for.
The House — which has been more successful with its mortgage reform efforts — will look at more reforms this week, including a bill which would require lenders to retain 5 percent of any loan they repackage and sell, and ban bonuses for steering borrowers into higher-priced loans. According to CongressDaily, Dodd hasn’t decided whether he’ll take up a companion bill — you can bet if he does it will be much more favorable to the bankers.
It’s a big week for energy legislation…. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will markup legislation on the “siting of interstate electric transmission facilities, energy finance, and nuclear energy.” The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on auctioning emissions credits in a cap-and-trade system. And, according to CongressDaily, House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman hopes this week to begin the markup on legislation establishing cap-and-trade, a renewable electricity mandate, and the energy grid.
The big battle over healthcare reform that includes a public plan option will be on display this week when Senate Finance holds another “roundtable” (which seems heavily skewed to business interests — with the notable exception of Ron Pollack, director of Families USA) and House Ways and Means discusses reformwith HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Other notable hearings: House Science and Technology Committee holds a hearing on Recovery Act oversight and witnesses include Gary Bass, founder and executive director of the excellent OMB Watch. Want to know how the stimulus is faring in terms of transportation infrastructure jobs? Check out the House Transportation hearing tomorrow. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will also testify tomorrow before the Joint Economic Committee on the economic outlook. House Education and Labor will offer the latest hearing on the swine flu with a focus on preparedness at school and work (hint: If sick, don’t go. Also wash hands for 20 seconds.). Finally, I hope this one isn’t a case of wishful thinking, but I fear it is: House Foreign Affairs hold a hearing titled “Zimbabwe: Opportunities for a New Way Forward”.