Monday, May 24, 2010

The Weekly Strike-5/24-5/29

Good morning and welcome to the Daily Strike. Lady Strike and I are pretty much all moved in, so I can report back for blog duty.

BUSY WEEK IN CONGRESS: This is going to be a busy week in Congress, and the issues debated will be contentious, and at points, bitterly ideological. Before next week's Memorial Day recess, Congress must deal with two spending bills. The first will fund continuing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Liberal Democrats, in the House especially, do not want to vote for this (rightly, of course). This means that Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid will need to get some significant Republican support. This could be difficult though, because the administration has requested funding for laid off teachers to be attached to the war spending bill. I'm not entirely sure where the votes would be for both of those items, quite frankly. The bill will start in the United States Senate, where the teacher funding will be debated as an amendment. Sources say that the amendment has no chance of passing. Of COURSE it is ok to funnel billions of dollars a year to never-ending wars, but not ok to prevent massive layoffs to teachers that will destroy this country's future.

There's also the question of whether to pay for the war funding. Most members think it is acceptable to pay for wars through deficit spending, though fiscal hawks like Senator Coburn (R-OK) will try to find ways to pay for the bill. I don't anticipate any of his ideas passing muster with the full Senate, but he could be successful at delaying the process to the end of the week. When all is said and done, I expect the war funding to be approved by both Houses in the Friday/Saturday range.

Before the Senate takes up the war funding bill, they'll vote on some non-binding motions to instruct conferees on the recently passed financial reform measure. We'll have more details on those motions this evening.

The House will have its busiest work week in months, even before they get to the war funding measure. After suspension bills today and tomorrow, the House will take up amendments to a Senate-passed bill that extends expiring tax breaks and unemployment/COBRA benefits through the end of the year. The bill also includes a 5 year "doc fix" that will fix payment rates to Medicare physicians. The bill will probably pass by a very narrow margin, because many House Democrats have deficit-itis and don't want to vote even for crucial safety net measures if it is not paid for. Only part of the bill is paid for, most of it is designated as "emergency spending." I'm fairly certain that every Republican will oppose this measure. If Democrats had any political courage, they would chastise Republicans for cutting off your unemployment insurance during a recession. But I bet most of the conversation this week instead will be about how much this bill adds to the deficit. I hope and pray that the Senate takes up the bill before the end of the week, but I'm afraid it might wait to weigh in until after the Memorial Day recess.

Next up for the House will be the Defense Authorization bill, which will set policies for the Pentagon in Fiscal Year 2011. Isn't there some defense policy that is particularly controversial? Oh yes, the gays! Democrat Patrick Murphy (D-PA) will try to include an amendment to repeal the 1993 Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when this bill comes up for a vote. I'm not sure whether Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, will have the votes, but I sure hope he does. It would help if the administration was more supportive of the effort to repeal DADT, but instead they've been sending mixed signals.

The House will also try go vote on a stalled bill that authorizes funding for science and math education. The bill has been held up because Republicans have tried to include an unrelated "porn" amendment. If the House is waiting around for the Senate to finish its work, it may even take up the DISCLOSE Act, which would put new regulations on campaign spending. The DISCLOSE Act is a response to this year's Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

We'll keep you up-to-date on these important pieces of legislation. The House will also swear in its newest member this week. Charles Djou, a Republican, was elected to finish the term of Rep. Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii's 1st District. Djou only got 39% of the vote, but because there was no primary election, he was up against two opponents who split the Democratic vote. There are now 432 members of the House, with vacancies in New York (Massa, the tickler), Georgia (where Nathan Deal is running for Governor) and Indiana (Souder, the philanderer). With Djou's victory, the Republicans now control 177 seats, the Democrats 255.

The President will be keeping an eye on this legislative action, though today he is holding a series of meetings relating to the aftermath of the BP oil spill.

That's it for now, see you tonight!

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