From Greg Kaufmann, our weekly preview:
The war supplemental, FY10 budget hearings, and credit card reform — those are the big-ticket items this week.
The House is expected to pass the $96.7 billion war supplemental. Senate Appropriations will take it up on Thursday. $84.5 billion is devoted to military and intelligence ops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $10 billion for the State Department and USAID — a split that flies in the face of the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy which calls for 80% non-military and 20% military expenditures. (Today, participants in a National Call-In Day will ask their Representatives to fund alternatives to escalation and co-sponsor a bill demanding that President Obama provide an exit plan by the end of this year.)
It looks like a credit card reform bill will pass the Senate this week. It would keep companies from raising rates on people unless the borrower is 60 days late in making a minimum payment. That’s a good change, although Senator Bernie Sanders continues to push a cap of 15 percent — the same cap Congress has placed on credit union interest rates. He keeps hammering the point that the same banks taking bailout money are turning around and charging taxpayers exorbitant rates. Is anyone listening?
The House and Senate begin hearings on the FY10 budget — 14 hearings in the House, 7 in the Senate. Defense Secretary Gates and Joint Chiefs Chair Adm. Michael Mullen will appear before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Wednesday and Thursday to defend the Pentagon’s $534 billion budget request, and an additional $130 billion for Iraq/Afghanistan next year.
The Congressional Progressive Caucus has a lot going on this week. On Wednesday it holds its sixth forum on Afghanistan, this one on "Forging an International Diplomatic Strategy". This morning the CPC held a briefing on "Voices from the Frontlines of the Economic Crisis — A Bold Agenda for Change". Thursday evening the Caucus holds a reception for Darcy Burner, the newly hired and first Executive Director of the American Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation. CPC Co-Chair Raúl Grijalva will testify at the House Education and Labor Committee hearing — "America’s Competitiveness through High School Reform" — on the needs of Latino students and English Language Learners.
House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman hopes to mark up his energy and climate bill this week… still working out deals on free emissions credits and the renewable energy portfolio standard with fellow-Dems on the committee. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee continues its work on figuring on the siting intricacies for the national energy grid.
On Thursday the Senate Finance Committee looks at "Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform". Yesterday, senators Baucus and Grassley released a report on policy options that includes a section on a public plan.
Other hearings: AIG and its CEO will surface for more abuse on Wednesday at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s hearing "AIG: Where is the Taxpayer’s Money Going?"
Sen. Sherrod Brown will chair a hearing Wednesday on "Manufacturing and the Credit Crisis". United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard is among the witnesses.
Senate Judiciary holds a hearing tomorrow on torture and the torture memos. Former FBI special agent Ali Soufan — who interrogated Abu Zubaydah — will testify.
Jimmy Carter and Tony Blair are in town to testify before John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Carter’s testifying today on "Energy Security" and Blair this Thursday on Middle East peace. Kerry will also hear from Obama’s Af-Pak envoy, Richard Holbrooke, this morning. Last month he chaired a compelling hearing with veterans from Afghanistan during which he promised to ask the tough questions — now is his chance.