Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Weekly Strike-9/29-10/4

Good morning and welcome to the Weekly Strike. Thanks for bearing with us this weekend during our absence. I hope you had a good weekend, and if you're anything like me, a good fast yesterday. On to the week in politics...

THE WHITE HOUSE: The White House is all international affairs all the time this week. Apparently, they are content enough with the progress on health care legislation that they feel they can afford to take a week off. Three subjects appear to be at the forefront of the President's mind this week: Iran, Afghanistan, and...the Olympics.

Today, the President will meet with NATO Secretary General Rogh Rasmussen (no relation to the Republican-leaning pollster). The subject will be Afghanistan. Obama is still weighing recommendations from General McChrystal to raise troop levels. Rasmussen has so far expressed some warranted skepticism about our future mission in Afghanistan, and whether our current path is sustainable. I expect the President to weigh Rasmussen's opinion against the diverse views of his closest advisers. Secretary of Defense Gates, Secretary of State Clinton and Vice President Biden will also be at today's meeting. According to unofficial reports, it seems like the big divide in the White House right now is between General McChrystal's desire to continue the current mission with more troops and Vice President Biden's desire to scale back military operations and focus on more limited counter-terrorism operations. Count me in the Biden camp.

The President later this week will travel to Copenhagen, where delegates of the International Olympic Committee are deciding where to hold the 2016 games. Obama will be lobbying hard for his hometown Chicago. Joining him there will be First Lady Michelle Obama, and adviser Valerie Jarrett. I'm not a big fan of Obama taking this trip. If Chicago is not chosen, there's a risk that his diplomatic acumen will be undermined. Plus, I think he has enough to worry about over here.

On Thursday, the U.S. and six other countries will hold multi-lateral talks with Iran. Iran has not exactly been in the diplomatic, touchy-feely mood lately. Last week, the U.S. discussed the discovery of a secret nuclear facility 100 miles away from Tehran. Over the weekend, Iran tested several short-range missiles. Apparently, Iran will refuse to discuss their nuclear ambitions. If they do not allow international inspectors, I expect the other countries to push for strict sanctions, which I think would be a good idea.

Hopefully the President will return to his domestic agenda next week. There is little time to waste.

THE SENATE: The Senate has a lot of unfinished business that it has to finish by tomorrow afternoon. If the Senate doesn't act, unemployment insurance will run out for millions of Americans, and the Federal government will shut down. I hate relying on the world's most deliberative body. I expect the Senate to take up the House-passed unemployment extension and continuing resolution by tomorrow afternoon. Even the Senate wouldn't be dumb enough not to get these measures to the President. The Senate will also move to consideration of appropriation bill number 7 out of 12 (that were supposed to be done by tomorrow), this one funding the Department of Defense. The bill funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (unlike in previous years, when Congress was forced to pass special funding bills for the wars). It also includes more earmarks than John McCain could complain about in a 3 hour speech. I expect it to pass relatively easily by week's end. The Senate will also vote today on a District Court judge nomination.

The real Senate action this week takes place on the committee level. Chairman Max Baucus leads his Finance committee into week 2 of consideration of his health reform plan. The committee will consider crucial amendments in the coming days. As early as today, the committee might vote on whether to include a public option in the bill. It looks like 2 or 3 Democrats (Conrad and Lincoln, maybe?) will join with Republicans in defeating the public option at the committee level. It will be interesting to see whether the committee adopts Senator Snowe's idea for a public option trigger. I also expect many other important amendments to come up this week, including those dealing with subsidy levels, the free-rider provision, and strengthening the Health Insurance Exchange. We will have full coverage of the committee's deliberations in the Daily Strike.

THE HOUSE: The House has a quiet week. Today and tomorrow, the House will consider a slew of suspension bills. On Thursday, the House will vote on the conference report for the Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill. Assuming the Senate approves this conference report by the end of the week (not a safe assumption), this will be the 2nd of 12 appropriations bills that make it to the President's desk. It's possible that more of these bills will go through conference by the end of the week.

That's it for this week. Leave some comments! And stick with us this week as we give you comprehensive coverage of the world of politics!

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