Talk of the Iraq War will dominate business on the Hill this week, as Gen. David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker offer their latest post-surge Congressional updates. It’s been four months since their last report, and this time as the war slogs on, all eyes are likely to be on the presidential candidates, who return to Washington this week to question the witnesses.
Meanwhile in the Senate, members will resume consideration the bipartisan housing legislation (HR3221) introduced last Wednesday. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has filed cloture to limit debate and speed the package’s passage; a vote on that motion is scheduled for Tuesday. The most contentious proposal–an attempt by Sen. Durbin (D-Il.) adjust bankruptcy law to aid struggling homeowners–failed last week by a 58-36 vote. “The provision I offered was narrowly tailored and provided real help to more than half a million American homeowners facing foreclosure,” said Durbin. “Unfortunately, my amendment was strenuously opposed by the banking lobby and their powerful friends in the Bush Administration and in the Senate.”
Given last month’s grim 80,000 job loss, Speaker Pelosi received the Senate bill–which the Joint Tax Committee reports offers businesses $25 billion in tax relief, but just $3 billion to homeowners–fairly coolly. House Democrats are pushing a more ambitious plan to aid up to 1.5 million homeowners by expanding the availability of federally insured loans; hearings on the proposal begin Wednesday.
Also this week, the Senate holds hearings on appropriations, Iran sanctions, last August’s SCHIP directive and field hearings on the foreclosure crisis. The House votes on the Beach Protection Act and the National Landscape Conservation System Act, and additionally holds hearings on greenhouse gas emissions, the Family Medical Leave Act, war powers and FEMA’s response capabilities. Despite Democratic opposition, the White House is likely to send the Colombia free trade agreement to Congress, setting into motion a 90-day timeline for a vote on the pact.