Monday, July 6, 2009

The Weekly Strike-7/6-7/12

Good Sunday evening. A slight schedule adjustment for this week, due to my vacation on the West Coast. I will be writing my Weekly Strike tonight instead of tomorrow, and The Big Picture will be filling in tomorrow to grade the week. The Big Picture will also fill in with some Daily Strikes in my absence. I will return to regular business on Thursday. Let's get to the week in politics.

THE WHITE HOUSE: It's travel time again for President Obama. The first leg of the journey is in Moscow, Russia. Obama meets privately with Russian President Demitri Medvedev in the morning, and holds a press conference in the afternoon. The two will most likely talk about North Korea (the Russians have been surprisingly strong in opposition to Kim Jong Il's nuclear program), Iran and U.S./Russia relations. It seems like Obama's message, as it usually is, will be one of willing cooperation. He wants to send a message to Putin and Medvedev that the Cold War is really over. The two are also likely to discuss a new agreement to decrease each country's nuclear arsenal.

The President will then move on to Italy to meet with the leaders of the G8 (the U.S., Canada, Russia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Japan). The topics will be the usual suspects (Iran and North Korea). G8 leaders will also discuss efforts to combat global climate change. Europe has been skeptical of the U.S's commitment to climate change legislation, so I expect Obama to tout House passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which for the first time, sets overall targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

The last part of the trip will be to Ghana. It will be the first visit to sub-saharan Africa during the Obama presidency. The President will not give a major speech in public. President Clinton made a visit to the country in 1998 and gave a speech in front of 500,000 awe-struck Ghana natives. I can only imagine their reaction seeing our first black President. Instead, the President will hold some meetings with the parliament to herald Ghana's commitment to democracy.

I'm glad that the President is continuing his aggressive outreach overseas. I certainly understand the importance of rebuilding America's image and re-strengthening ties with our allies. I'm just worried that any week spent abroad right now is a week not devoted to fighting hard for health care reform or energy legislation. With the battles heating up on Capital Hill, the President's voice is more important than ever.

THE HOUSE: Speaking of Capital Hill, your United States Congress returns to work this week for a 5 week session ahead of the August recess. I expect this to be a packed legislative session, especially with health reform legislation looming in both chambers. The House gavels in on Tuesday, and will handle 18 suspension bills. On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will consider 4 bills. First, the House takes up a bill that will give grants to small business for research and development. The bill is sponsored by Pennsylvania's second-term Democrat Jason Altmire. Speaker Pelosi loves to give her vulnerable members (like Altmire) the chance to sponsor relatively popular and non-controversial legislation. The bill should pass easily; it has several Republican co-sponsors.

Next, the House takes up another authorization bill, this one authorizing spending on intelligence activities. Congress usually authorizes intelligence spending annually. It seems like this bill, too, will pass easily. There doesn't seem to be much substantive policy change in the bill. However, I'm slightly intrigued by this sentence in the bill's summary:
Prohibits the authorization of appropriations by this Act from being deemed to constitute authority to conduct any intelligence activity not otherwise authorized by the Constitution or laws of the United States. What's that supposed to mean?

Next, it's on to appropriations bills number 6 and 7 out of 12 (13 if you include appropriations for the District of Columbia). This week, the House will vote to fund the Departments of
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and the Departments of Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Program. If the Democrats limit the number of amendments to these bills, Republicans might slow down the process in protest. Otherwise, I think these bills will pass pretty easily. A lot of Republicans vote against every single appropriations bill because they object to high levels of government spending.

THE SENATE: The world's most deliberative body, coming off a very unproductive session in June, gavels back in tomorrow. There will be votes tomorrow night on a McCain amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill (which already passed the House) and a vote on final passage of that bill. The Senate will then move to consider a House-passed bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. I expect the Senate to make some changes to the bill, forcing the two bodies to reconcile in a conference committee.

That's the upcoming week in politics. Please continue leaving us your comments. I will see you again on Thursday, but remember to keep up with the Big Picture!

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