Yet another very busy week on the Hill. Greg Kaufmann has the goods:
The House delayed its vote on the DC Voting Rights Bill due to the Senate’s draconian gun amendment. Advocates are still hopeful a less extreme alternative can be agreed to in the House-version so that 600,000 DC residents will finally get a little voting representation to go along with their taxation.
In brighter news, the House passed Rep. John Conyers’ “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act”. The legislation allows bankruptcy judges to reduce the principal on mortgages. According to CongressDaily, Sen. Richard Durbin hopes to bring the bill to the floor before the April recess.
The Obama Administration also began implementation of its $75 billion anti-foreclosure plan. While the plan will help an estimated 4 million borrowers reduce monthly payments through lower rates, it doesn’t include as strong a provision for principal reduction as the Conyers legislation so we need the Senate to move on the bill and not water it down.
The Senate took up the $410 billion omnibus spending bill for FY09 this week. The government has been operating under a Continuing Resolution (CR) — spending at FY08 levels — since Congress declared enough with the Bush budgets and took a pass on his last one. A vote was expected this week but the Senate hasn’t been able to get the 60 votes needed for cloture, so they have been busy defeating GOP amendments like Sen. McCain’s “don’t increase any spending amendment” and Sen. Murkowski’s “keep Bush’s last gasp rule to limit protection of polar bears amendment.” They now need a new CR since this one expires at midnight tonight and voting on the omnibus isn’t expected until Monday or Tuesday.
The Obama Administration held its Health Care Summit with key players across the spectrum. The President seemed to be extending his trademark olive branch to the GOP when he said, “If people think we can simply take everybody who is not insured and load them up in a system where costs are out of control … we will run out of money…. I’m talking to you liberal bleeding hearts out there. Don’t think we can solve this problem without tackling costs. And that may make some in the progressive community uncomfortable. But it’s got to be dealt with.” I’m wondering which progressives he’s spoken with who don’t know cost containment is key to universal access to healthcare? One big highlight of the summit: Sen. Ted Kennedy was there, getting back to work.