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The Week in Congress

March 10, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

(Cross-posted from Congresspedia, The citizen’s encyclopedia on Congress.)

There’s five days remaining before a two-week spring recess, and Congress will probably remain bitterly divided as it continues work on the 2009 federal budget. Also this week, a March 15 deadline is fast approaching for some type of agreement on the long-delayed Farm bill, while lawmakers will question the Air Force over a recent contract for airborne fuel-tankers, and discuss proposed cuts to a popular community revitalization program.

The tax cuts pushed by President Bush earlier in this term aren’t set to expire for another two years, but they’re figuring heavily into discussions in the 2009 federal budget (on congresspedia). The cuts extend to some middle-income brackets and were approved with bipartisan support. However, they automatically sunset in 2010.

While Democrats haven’t signaled whether they would let the cuts expire at that time, the budget resolutions working their way through the House and Senate are based on Congressional Budget Office guidelines. Since the CBO relies on current law for projections, the House and Senate resolutions assume some additional revenue would be generated when the cuts expire.

Republicans will be quick to jump at an opportunity to blame the majority for any spending supported by new taxes. That presents a problem for House and Senate Democrats, who respectively have included $12 billion and $18 billion in increases for domestic programs.

President Bush has vowed to veto any budget bills that exceed his proposal, setting up a repeat of the 2008 budget (on congresspedia), when continuing resolutions were used to keep the government running while Congress and the White House battled over appropriations bills.

For more, including committee schedules, keep reading after the break:

Last year, the Defense appropriations bill was the first spending legislation to be approved in Congress and by the White House. Right now, it will take center stage again, when a House committee on Armed Services oversight examines a statement issued by President Bush when he signed the bill. At the time, the president said he would ignore four provisions of the legislation.

In other defense-related news, a $40 billion contract for new Air Force aerial refueling tankers is in jeopardy due to congressional concerns. The contract – awarded to Northrop Grumman and European Aeronautic Defense and Space – is for 179 new tankers, and was the subject of two hearings on Capitol Hill last week. Reps. John Murtha (D-PA) and Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) were among the members to question the contract, which many expected to be awarded to Boeing. Murtha, chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, called for a closed-door hearing on the contract tomorrow.

A six-month continuance of the 2002 Farm bill extension expires on Saturday, and senators and representatives are still trying to work out their differences on the 2007 Farm bill (on congresspedia). And while jurisdiction of the legislation is causing a tiff between the Senate Finance Committee and the House and Senate Agriculture committees, the White House has also weighed in on a measure to increase spending by $10 billion, further complicating the process.

Returning to the budget, the House Financial Services Committee will call on Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson Tuesday. He’ll likely be grilled on President Bush’s budget proposal, which calls for $900 million in spending cuts for the Community Development Block Grant program.

Finally, Illinois Democrat <a href=“http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Bil_Foster>Bil Foster was elected to fill the remaining term of former House Speaker ”http://www.opencongress.org/people/show/400169_j_dennis_hastert">Dennis Hastert®. Foster defeated Republican Jim Oberweis, though the two will square off again during the November general election.

Another special election will be held Tuesday for Julia Carson’s seat. Carson passed away last year. Her grandson, Indianapolis council member Andre Carson, will face Republican Jonathan Elrod, an Indiana state representative.

For a combined list of all Senate and House Committee Meetings for the week of 3/10 to 3/14, click here and scroll down.

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