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This Week in Congress

July 22, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

(Cross-posted from Congresspedia, the citizens’ encyclopedia on Congress).

With three weeks left before the August recess, both parties are scrambling to pass something – anything – addressing the two issues at the fore of everyone’s minds and evening newscasts: the housing/mortgage crisis and high gas prices. The former seems to be a broad-based, serious effort that may help the situation, but the latter has devolved into the usual kabuki political theater.

The major housing/mortgage crisis relief bill (CP) may receive final votes in both the House and Senate this week. The Bush administration asked Congress last week to include help for government-sponsored mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the form of a higher credit limit with the U.S. Treasury and the possibility of a government buy-up of their stock. In exchange, congressional Democrats reiterated their support for a $4 billion program to provide funding to local governments to buy up, refurbish and sell foreclosed homes, which President Bush had previously threatened to veto the bill over. Now it’s a question of who blinks first.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are also each trying to pass their own legislation to address high gas prices. Democrats have decided to target oil speculators through bills like the Energy Markets Emergency Act of 2008 (CP) while also trying to freeze out efforts by Republicans to open the Outer Continental Shelf and Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. Neither approach is likely to have much effect on gas prices in either the long or short run, however, so at this point both parties are just trying to avoid the wrath of voters and head into the August recess having passed something (or at least have a good story about the obstructionism of the other side).

The House will also likely take up the global aids funding bill (CP) passed by the Senate last week and consider a $1 billion, 10-year plan to systematically inspect and repair the nation’s bridges and tunnels.

For a full list of this week’s committee hearings, see the original post on Congresspedia.

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