From correspondent Greg Kaufmann a look back at last week on the Hill:
Here are the big items this week: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that reverses the terrible anti-equal pay decision by the Supreme Court became the first bill President Obama signed into law. Just 5 Republican Senators supported it and 3 House Republicans.
The House also passed its version of the Recovery (stimulus) bill with ZERO Republican support. Former Vice President Gore warned that the “outstanding” green provisions in the House bill were muscled out in the Senate Finance Committee version, so we’ll have to stay tuned on that front.
The Senate passed its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) bill expanding health care to cover 11 million children. It targets kids in families earning too much to qualify for Medicaid but who can’t afford private insurance. The House had already approved its version and the President is expected to sign the final bill soon. (Again, Republicans haven’t seemed to have gotten the memo about the new “post-partisan” era. Only 9 Republican Senators supported it.) Congressional Progressive Caucus members will continue to push for an additional $15 billion to cover the remaining 4-5 million kids who still will not be covered.
One thing about CHIP you probably don’t know is that Senator Ben Cardin succeeded in a fight he’s taken on since the death of a twelve year old from a brain infection caused by a tooth abscess a couple years ago. Yesterday Cardin got the guaranteed dental benefit he’s been working for. (Katrina vanden Heuvel has also written about this issue here and here.)
The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to give bankruptcy judges the power to modify mortgages. Chairman John Conyers included provisions Citigroup had agreed to, but he refused to limit the measure to subprime mortgages like the Republicans and their surviving base — the banking industry — wanted.
In the confirmation hearings arena, Tim Geithner was confirmed. Eric Holder made it out of committee and will soon be confirmed. But, of course the nominee progressives are perhaps most excited about — Congresswoman Hilda Solis for Labor Secretary — is being held up by an anonymous Republican hold.
Under the radar… Senator Byron Dorgan, who chaired a hearing this summer examining the deaths of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth and 12 other US soldiers electrocuted on Army bases in Iraq, asked Defense Secretary Gates to meet with him, Senator Bob Casey and Maseth’s mother to discuss the process the DoD intends to follow to guarantee accountability for any contractor misconduct. KBR faces possible negligent homicide charges.
Finally, Senator Bernie Sanders wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding an investigation into the fiscal crisis — how it started, who is responsible, and how to make sure it never happens again. Sanders wants the TARP Oversight Panel that oversees how monies are spent to expand its charge and have subpoena power.
Check here on Monday for news about the week ahead in Congress.