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The Week in Congress: February 23 – 27, 2009

Congress and the administration work on the budget, plus action on the economy, voting rights, and global warming. Get the materials you need to stay ahead.

Rush hour traffic on Independence Avenue makes its way past the U.S. Capitol Building. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Rush hour traffic on Independence Avenue makes its way past the U.S. Capitol Building. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Appropriations

The House will consider a consolidated appropriations bill funding the regular operations of the federal government for fiscal year 2009. Last year, Congress passed three individual appropriations bills: Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, as well as a continuing resolution funding the remaining federal government programs until March 6. This consolidated bill completes the FY09 funding for the remaining nine appropriations bills.

On Thursday, the Obama administration will also release its blueprint for the fiscal year 2010 budget.

Information and analysis:

Goldilocks and the Recovery Act, by Will Straw and Michael Ettlinger

Housing and finance

The House may consider a package of committee-approved bills addressing the mortgage crisis later this week. The package is expected to include bills that would improve the Hope for Homeowners program, allow bankruptcy judges to modify troubled mortgages, and increase the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s borrowing authority.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will address monetary policy in a pair of hearings this week, in the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday.

Also on Tuesday, the Financial Services Committee will hold another hearing on oversight of the Troubled Assets Relief Program, as well as a hearing on mortgage modifications. The Joint Economic Committee will hold a Thursday hearing on short- and long-term economic restoration strategy with Economic Advisory Board Chairman Paul Volcker testifying.

Information and analysis:

At Last, Help for Homeowners, by Andrew Jakabovics and David Abromowitz

Before the Bush Recession, by Joshua Picker

D.C voting rights

The Senate begins debate today on S. 160, a bill that would expand the House of Representatives to 437 members, giving the District of Columbia delegate full floor voting rights and adding a congressional seat in Utah. Washington, D.C is currently represented by a delegate who participates in the committee process but cannot cast floor votes. A cloture vote is expected on Tuesday morning; if successful, the Senate will continue debate on the measure for the remainder of the week.

Labor

The Senate will vote on the nomination of Representative Hilda Solis (D-CA) as Secretary of Labor on Tuesday. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved Solis’ nomination by voice vote on February 11.

The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on strengthening worker retirement security.

Information and analysis:

Robbing Tomorrow to Pay for Today, by Christian E. Weller and Jeffrey Wenger

An Oldie But Goodie: The Importance of Social Security as Source of Retirement Income, by Ilana Boivie and Christian E. Weller

Energy and environment

Several committees will address climate change issues this week. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a pair of hearings on climate legislation: Tuesday’s hearing will focus on energy efficiency policies, and a Thursday hearing will address renewable energy. The House Science and Technology Committee holds a Tuesday hearing on monitoring greenhouse gas emissions, and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the latest global warming science.

Information and analysis:

Green Recovery: A New Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy

Wired for Progress: Building a National Clean-Energy Smart Grid, by Bracken Hendricks