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This Week in Congress

March 31, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

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

Senators and representatives return to work today following a two-week recess to once again find the struggling economy dictating their schedules. The mortgage crisis is continuing, and home foreclosures are on the rise. In addition, cities across the country are bracing for an oversupply of housing units as construction of new homes and condos—began while the housing bubble was at its peak—is completed. Meanwhile, taxpayers are waiting for rebate checks that were part of a stimulus package (on OpenCongress) approved last month.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to vote on a second stimulus package meant to relieve pressure on the housing market and on homeowners. Under the Senate measure, municipalities would share $4 billion in grants for the restoration of foreclosed homes. The bill would also provide $200 million for loan counselors, and would amend bankruptcy law to allow judges to modify mortgages for individuals on the verge of bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy provision is a bitter pill for the banking industry, which has lobbied for its removal from the legislation. In addition, Senate Republicans are striving to insert their own amendments: a limit on plaintiff attorneys’ fees and an extension of President George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts.

While there’s plenty to get done on the economic front, Congress will also take up legislation regarding the Iraq war in April. House leaders are drafting an “emergency” supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, since Pentagon officials have refused to include the wars in their normal budget requests. Democrats are saddling the legislation with a slew of domestic priorities, hoping to force tough votes for GOP members.

In other Iraq news, General David Patraeus will testify before several Congressional committees next week. Patraeus is expected to give a progress report on the situation in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is also scheduled to give testimony.

President Bush has also weighed in on the Congressional calendar, asking Congress to take action on a number of his priorities. Bush, who departed for a NATO summit in Europe today, said the legislative branch should adopt a reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, approve a free trade agreement with Colombia, and change the Federal Housing Authority to help more homeowners.

The FISA reform bill, the RESTORE Act, is something we’ve mentioned quite often in the past. While checking on the differences between the House and Senate version, I came across this great RESTORE Act summary over at Think Progress—it basically describes the House version of the bill.

Aside from the question of immunity for telephone companies (who helped the Bush administration eavesdrop on Americans’ phone conversations without a warrant), the House would place greater oversight on the nation’s electronic surveillance activities and require that agencies obtain warrants prior to conducting surveillance (though the requirement could be obtained after-the-fact in an emergency).

Congressional Democrats will likely stall progress on a Colombian trade pact until President Bush agrees to move forward on Trade Adjustment Assistance for displaced workers.

Nighttime pic of cherry blossoms and Capitol building by aakaak, used under a Creative Commons license.

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  • Anonymous 04/09/2008 12:21pm

    No, I wasn’t talking about coke in NY or Farr’s or Obama’s drug use and votes on marijuana.

    Doesn’t Bush have to write something down and give it to Congress or do they just run with the original free trade agreements and say it’s Colombia? Does the President write down the agreement in a bill or something?

    Maybe we could have a thing for when the President sends something to Congress with what he sent, what Congress chose to change and Congress’ bill that they wrote up after the President asked for a bill ‘cause Congress codifies the President’s deals and cuts all the money off or triples the funding requested?

    We could have a thing saying ‘from the President’ then another thing saying ‘What Congress did to the thing from the President’ and ‘the bill from the House,’ then ‘to the Senate,’ then ‘to the President’ who vetoed ‘cause they were nuts with our money tripling the money and then ’sent back again to Congress by the President ’cause of incompetence and then what the House and Senate sent back again to the President showing they were right about the money,but cause he’s cheap with agencies, unless it’s his own like PEPFAR, financing agencies and NGOs that he wished he could have created like his dad did; so, it’s okay Congress went insane with our cash to prove the President really doesn’t care unless it says ‘war’ or ‘bomb’ on it or ‘created by Bush family.’

    A from President thing might help.

  • Anonymous 11/20/2008 10:53pm

    The staff of Obama should be well-equipped in all aspect with this regard to the term that he/she may qualified for the position she/he may applied for that how it works of being an staff of Obama.
    Obama wants to know all about you if you plan to work in his Cabinet or staff. Makes sense, doesn’t it? If a person is going to hold a high-responsibility position in America’s federal government, it is in the best interests of the nation and its people that the employee meets the qualifications and not be a security risk. However, it seems to me that there are limits to what is reasonable. With as much information as Obama asks for in his seven-page, 63-question application, you’d think the administration would have enough to perform credit repair for everyone who applies. CNN leaked a copy of the questionnaire, which requires applicants not only to talk in detail about nearly everything they’ve done over the past 10 years or more, but also to do the same for their spouse. Here are a few of my favorite questions. I hope applicants do indeed get free credit repair as part of the deal… (1) Writings: Please list and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other Web sites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or “handles” you have used to communicate over the Internet. (2) Electronic communications: If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an E-mail, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe. (3) Please provide the URL address of any Web sites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g., Facebook, MySpace, etc.) This only scratches the surface of how deep the application goes. If you’re going to serve under the “change” president and you don’t have all your ducks in a row, you’ll have to change that right away! Click to read more on Credit Repair.

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