Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What's up with Congress?

By Carol Gee

On the hot seat -- President Obama will hold a prime time news conference tonight. And Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke are testifying before Congress today. It looks as if the Senate may put off dealing with the AIG bonus situation. Key Senator, Chris Dodd picked up some vulnerability due to his handling of the AIG controversy, according to Fox News. Due to a sense of potential Obama and Republican reservations about the House clawback bill, action will not take place until after the April 6 recess, according to the Washington Post.

Approval up -- Last week Democrats pointed to a new Gallup poll showing congressional approval ratings at the highest point in 4 years, 39%. To quote Glenn Thrush at Politico,

Republicans are trying pry behind those numbers to show that they’re mostly driven by Democrats who are finally content, rather than independents or Republicans. The poll shows 57 percent of self identified Democrats in the poll approve of Congress, up just 14 points
in a month.

Split on the budget -- Regarding President Obama's budget battle in the Senate, Republicans are warning that they intend to play hardball when it comes to using the reconciliation process, that would not require 60 votes to pass. They threaten to "shut down the Senate" through the use of parliamentary procedures. And a few conservative Democrats could join them. Monday, Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Kent Conrad (D-N Dakota), was reported to be pressing to cut up to $28 billion, or almost half, of the increased appropriations sought by President Obama. This leaves a 6% increase intact. The House process generally seems easier than the Senate, but the budget bill faces an uphill battle there, also, due to the increasing tension between Liberals and the Blue Dog coalition.

Winners and losers -- Naturally, my two Texas Senators, Hutchison and Cornyn, voted to confirm former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk to be the U.S Trade Representative. He was confirmed 92-5. They both voted against the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2009. It passed the Senate, 77-20. My Representative, Kay Granger voted against the GIVE Act, a bill to reauthorize and reform national service programs. It passed the House 321-105. Granger also voted against the bill to impost an additional tax on certain TARP recipients. That vote passed 328-93. Despite these losses Republicans can't wait to take advantage in the mid-term elections, of what they see as missteps by the Obama administration as well as Democrats in Congress.

Looking to after the recess -- House Members and Senators will leave town the first week in April. By that time a lot of the AIG mess will have died down and the stock market will have taken the measure of the new plan for removing troubled assets from the books of financial institutions. Congress must still send President Obama's remaining nominations to the floor for approval. And by the time Congress returns to town, a lot more will be know about how the President's 2010 budget will fare with the legislators. It will all be fun to watch.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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