This Week in Congress: August 2 – 6, 2010

The House has begun its August recess period, and the Senate is attempting to wrap up several measures before adjourning by the end of the week.

Appropriations

The Senate will hold a cloture vote Monday afternoon on a $26.1 billion domestic spending bill. The bill includes funds dropped from the House-passed war supplemental and provides $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs along with $16.1 billion in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage reimbursements. Although the bill is fully cost offset, Republican support for the measure has not yet materialized and it is unclear if the cloture vote will be successful.

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Supreme Court nomination

On Wednesday the Senate is expected to begin debate on Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court. A confirmation vote for Kagan will likely take place Thursday evening or Friday morning based on the amount of time spent on Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination in 2009. Kagan is expected to easily win confirmation, as she has the support thus far of five Republican senators—Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Lugar (R-IN), and Judd Gregg (R-NH).

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Energy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will likely file for cloture today on an energy package comprised of new drilling regulations, investments in natural gas and electric vehicles, the HOME STAR home energy retrofit program, and disclosure requirements for hydraulic fracturing shale gas production. The cloture vote will take place on Wednesday, but it is not expected to be successful, and full consideration of the energy package will likely take place when the Senate returns in September.

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Small businesses and banking

The Senate may continue debating a small business jobs package for the fourth consecutive week. The bill provides $12 billion in targeted tax incentives for small businesses as well as a $30 billion lending fund for banks to provide capital for small businesses. Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have not yet reached an agreement on amendments to be offered. Should an agreement be reached, final passage is possible by midweek.

Arms control

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has scheduled a Wednesday meeting during which the New START treaty could be voted on. Republican members of the committee have expressed concerns that other committees have not yet fully vetted the agreement. The Senate Armed Services Committee is also scheduled to hold a Thursday hearing on Russian force structure in support of New START.

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