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This Week in Congress

September 15, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

<img src=“—”align=“right” width=“320” height"220">(Cross-posted from Congresspedia)

Heavy criticism from Republican House members and high gas prices appear to have made an impact on Democratic leaders in the House, as they are now preparing to debate legislation this week to allow some offshore drilling. In addition, the bipartisan group of senators pushing its own compromise legislation has grown to include 20 members. Also on the Hill’s agenda this week is discussion of a second stimulus package amid growing concern about the deterioration of the country’s private financial system.

House Democrats on Tuesday are expected to begin debate on energy legislation that would allow some coastal states to determine whether drilling should be allowed off their shores. The bill would end a congressional moratorium – in place for more than 25 years – preventing drilling within 200 miles offshore. President Bush rescinded an executive moratorium earlier this summer.

The legislation proposed by the House Democratic leadership does not go as far as plans put forward by Republican lawmakers, as it would only authorize some states to approve drilling projects 50 miles out (drilling would be allowed off all coastal areas 100 miles out). It also differs significantly from legislation being prepared in the Senate.

In that chamber, a group of 20 senators (including 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats) is pushing a compromise bill that would extend a series of renewable energy tax credits in addition to lifting the ban on offshore drilling. The “”">Gang of 20" has doubled in size since the August recess, but there remains no clue as to when or if their bill will be brought to the floor for a vote. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may use an oil-speculation bill (CP) as a vehicle for other energy legislation.

Finally, with the Dow Industrial Average dropping 500 points today, many in Congress are calling for a second stimulus package to buttress the economy and help those most hurt by high unemployment rates. The legislation would likely contain extended unemployment benefits and infrastructure spending projects that would help create jobs and pour money into local economies. Fiscal conservatives, including members of the Blue Dog caucus of Democratic House members.

See Congresspedia for a complete list of committee meetings scheduled to take place this week.

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