Monday, January 26, 2009

The Weekly Strike-1/26 to 2/1

Good Monday morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where I'll give you the rundown of what to expect this week in politics.

BIG VOTES: This week, there will be some very key votes in both the House and Senate. Tonight the Senate votes on the confirmation of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at 6pm. This will follow the swearing-in of New York's newest Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand. (EDIT-THIS WILL ACTUALLY BE TOMORROW) Analysis of the Roll Call will be available here tonight. I expect him to pass relatively easily. He got a few no-votes in the committee due to his tax problems, and I expect those votes to transfer to the full Senate. I would guess he gets about 70-75 votes and will take office tomorrow. The Senate then moves to consider the SCHIP (State Children's Health Insurance Program) bill. This is a bill to expand a popular state sponsored health insurance program for children whose parents make too much to be covered by Medicaid. Congress twice passed versions of it in the previous Congress, and President Bush twice vetoed it. The latest version passed the House a couple of weeks ago by a strong majority. I expect that the Senate will follow suit, although some of the Republicans who supported it in the past have some objections to language allowing children of legal immigrants to covered immediately. Majority Leader Reid is open to Republican amendments, so I expect the Senate version to come out slightly different from the House version, meaning it will be a little while before this ends up on President Obama's desk for a signature. Either way, passage would be a huge accomplishment for the Democrats and an early victory for the President. A final vote on the bill probably won't happen until tomorrow or Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the House, nothing important today (some Suspension Bills...definition to come). Tomorrow, the House will vote on the Senate version of the Lilly Ledbetter Bill, a bill which makes it easier for people to sue their previous employer for wage discrimination. The bill reverses a Supreme Court decision handed down last year. The bill's passage is a formality. The original bill passed the House in early January. The Senate altered it a bit, and passed it's own version last week, and that version now goes back to the House, and most likely, on to the President, who will have his first big legislative accomplishment.

The Super Bowl of votes will happen on Wednesday when the House takes up the first version of the economic stimulus bill, in what will be a huge test for the new President. I expect most Democrats to support it (you haven't heard much grumbling amont Democrats on this bill for a week or two) and most Republicans to oppose it, meaning it will pass with 240-260 votes if I had to guess. It will be interesting to note the crossover votes and I will make sure I do that on Wednesday night. Prior to the vote on final passage, there will most likely be a Republican motion to recommit the bill (definition coming!!), meaning they will offer their alternative, which will most likely be rejected loosely on party lines. I expect some more conservative Democrats will vote for their alternative, since it is probably more geared toward marginal income tax cuts and corporate tax cuts. Shall we say 190-200 votes? The Republicans will hold their policy retreat Thursday and Friday, so Congress will have a four day weekend to digest the stimulus vote.

THE WHITE HOUSE: Today, the White House is expected to announce new rules permitting states to set their own targets for emission standards. This represents a sharp break from the Bush administration which denied waivers to states looking to lower greenhouse gasses. This is another chance for Obama to use Executive Orders to establish some early victories. The announcement comes this morning.

Tomorrow, he heads to Capital Hill to meet with House Republicans on the stimulus. This seems like a meeting to show off his bipartisan credentials. Don't expect him to make any major concessions in the bill to the diminished House minority.

The rest of the week will probably be a giant sales pitch for the stimulus package, and we'll keep you posted on that.

NOMINATION UPDATE: All cabinet nominees are confirmed except for:

-Geithner, who should be confirmed today

-Eric Holder, Attorney General, whose committee vote was stalled last week by Senate Republicans. He will be voted on in committee most likely this Wednesday.

-Hilda Solis, Labor. Republicans are holding up her nomination to get more information on her stance on the Employee Free Choice Act, which she supports. They want her to be on record supporting it before they vote on her nomination.

-Tom Daschle, Health and Human Services...What's the holdup here? I have no idea. Maybe something to do with his wife's lobbying? We'll keep you posted.

EDIT-U.S. Trade Rep nominee Ron Kirk still has to be confirmed, as does the yet-to-be-named Commerce Secretary.

There's also the question of undersecretaries, the most notable being William Lynn at Defense, who has been under fire for lobbying on behalf of Raytheon. He will probably be confirmed, but the Ranking Republican on the Armed Services committee happens to be John McCain, so there could be some interesting confrontation there.

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