Monday, May 18, 2009

The Weekly Strike-5/18-5/24

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike, where we preview the week in politics. The action on Capital Hill is expected to heat up in advance of the Memorial Day recess. Let's get to it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President, fresh off reconciliation with Notre Dame Catholics over abortion, the President wades into another seemingly irreconcilable conflict today when he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu has been Prime Minister (his second go-around) for only a few months, and this is his first sit-down with the President. I'm most interested in their one-on-one meeting from 10:30-11:30 this morning. Will Obama push hard for concessions from Netanyahu to help foster a renewed peace effort with the Palestinians? Netanyahu is a center-right politician who hasn't exactly shown affinity for U.S.-led peace efforts in the past. He, unlike other Israeli politicians, has never committed to a two state solution. My fantasy would be an LBJ-style stare down in which Obama intimidates Netanyahu into accepting a new road map for peace. I can dream.

The President has a quiet rest of the day, and week for that matter. The other known major event on the President's calendar is a speech on Thursday on the subject of Guantanamo Bay, torture, the memos, the photos etc. This speech, according to is designed to "elevate the coverage/conversation." It looks like this speech is following the pattern of several past Obama speeches. After an acute scandal breaks out, Obama, after letting the American people digest it a little bit, gives a speech explaining the key issues in context, and talks to the American people like adults. This type of speech has done wonders for him in the past. In the wake of the Jeremiah Wright scandal last year, Obama gave one of his best speech on race relations. Last month, Obama gave a speech at Georgetown on the "five pillars" of the economy. If Obama did not give speeches like this, issues like torture would get down in the weeds of "who knew what, when." The President wants the American people to understand the broader context. I will be anxious to see what he says.

THE SENATE: Congress enters the last week in session before the Memorial Day recess, and both chambers have a lot of work to do. The Senate tomorrow will vote on cloture on the Credit Card Bill of Rights. If the motion gets the required 60 votes (which it almost certainly will), Senators will vote on a series of germane (relevant) amendments (a list agreed to by the two party leaders) prior to a vote on final passage. The Senate will then move on to consider the war funding bill, which passed the House last week. It seems like the Senate always waits until the last minute to debate important funding bills, and the House, under strict time constraints, is usually forced to accept the Senate version. The main difference between the Senate bill is that it includes funding for the International Monetary Fund. Republicans have objected to this spending as unnecessary in an emergency war supplemental spending bill. If the IMF provisions are included, House Republicans may not vote for it like they did the original House version. It's possible that the IMF funding will be taken out during the amendment process, but if not, there could be some intense House-Senate negotiations by the end of the week. I expect the Senate to pass some version of the bill by a wide margin. I hope that some of the most anti-war Democrats, like Russ Feingold (WI) and Barbara Boxer (CA), are forceful in their insistence that we don't commit to a never-ending quagmire in Afghanistan.

Congressional leaders want to get this bill to the President's desk before this Friday, because otherwise the Pentagon will have to wait a couple more weeks to get funding.

THE HOUSE: The House also has a packed week on tap. After considering suspension bills today and tomorrow, the House will take up four significant bills starting on Wednesday. First, the House will take up the Senate version of the "Helping Families Save Their Homes" Act. This bill originally had the "cramdown" provision, allowing bankruptcy judges to renegotiate the terms of mortgages. That provision was taken out by the Senate. The House will send vote on a revised version on Wednesday (I'm not sure what they're adding) and will send it back to the Senate, so they upper chamber can vote on changes by the end of the week.

The House then moves on to a bill authored by conservative Democrat, and former NFL-bust, Heath Shuler (NC), entitled " Job Creation Through Entrepreneurship Act of 2009." The bill expands small business development programs under the Small Business Administration, and includes new programs to help entrepreneurial veterans, women, and Native Americans. The bill is co-sponsored by a number of Republicans, so I expect it to pass pretty easily.

Finally, the House will vote on two authorization bills. The first reauthorizes funding for the FAA through 2012. It makes some substantive changes to FAA policy, which I would probably understand more if I was a pilot. One of the proposed changes is increased funding for the NextGen navigation system. If you're REALLY interested, you can read this. The second authorizes funding for the Transportation Security Administration. I'm not sure what policy changes, if any, are included in this bill, because they have not released the summary.

Both chambers also might vote on conference reports on a few other bills, including military procurement. As I said last week, it's very possible that Obama gets a big pile of legislation on his desk to sign by week's end.

That's it for now. Join us tonight for the Daily Strike, and leave your comments!

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