This week to break the impasse over the Senate-passed FISA bill, House Dems may split the legislation into two titles for separate votes–one that authorizes surveillance activities, and the other granting retroactive telecom immunity. After the votes, assuming mutual passage, the two would be recombined. By offering such a compromise, House Dems believe they can placate lawmakers that oppose retroative immunity and simultaneously move ahead to renew the law. Meanwhile the GOP is backing the plan, because on the second vote, it’s likely enough Democrats will defect to provide the Bush administration–that is, the telecom companies–with Congressional cover. A FISA vote is expected before representatives leave for spring break on Mar. 17. This week, the House will also take up Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)’s mental health parity legislation (which would make it easier for mental health patients and addicts to get coverage) and the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, which would extend and reform national service laws.
On the Senate side, following the past year’s slew of health and safety hazards posed by toys and other imported goods, members will take up legislation to increase the power of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Also this week, both the House and Senate will begin writing spending plans in separate committee sessions. The Senate will host hearings on disabled American veterans, mental health in the armed services, Kosovo, voter fraud and an FBI oversight hearing. The House will host a joint oversight hearing on future US commitments to Iraq, as well as hearings on CEO pay and the mortgage crisis, Cuba’s future and a Department of Homeland Security oversight hearing.