Thursday, August 06, 2009

This week's Senate update

By Carol Gee

Where are they now? The House is out; the Senate is in. Today the Senators will probably cast enough votes to approve Judge Sonia Sotomayor's nomination to the United States Supreme Court, and GOP Rep. John McHugh, nominated as Army Secretary. And it is possible that an additional $2 billion will be added to the wildly popular "Cash for Clunkers" program. The Senate can be very pleased that some things are working out well.

On health care reform -- The Senate Finance Committee has not yet reported out a health care reform bill, but Senators are still hard at work on the issues, this week it regards Medicaid. Predictably Politico reports that top Senate Democrats have decided to move ahead in the fall, with or without Republican support. As background we are reminded, according to CQ Politics, that "Nearly four dozen members of Congress have spouses employed in the health care industry—ties that lawmakers acknowledge are influencing their thinking about how the health system should be overhauled." The only big question seems to be how comprehensive the reform will be, not whether something or other will pass and be signed into law this year.

News of select individual lawmakers -- U.S. Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA) is officially set to take on Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) in the 2010 election. Reports are that he loves being the underdog. And U.S. Senator William Jefferson of Louisiana was finally convicted of 11 of 16 criminal charges of accepting bribes, racketeering and engaging in money laundering. He could get more than 20 years in prison. He will be appealing and is free on bail.

Recess planned next week --
Town Hall meetings marked by organized Republican disruptions may have people from both the far left and right complaining about health care reform by now, according to CQ Politics and Politico. Legislators might adopt virtual town halls as an alternative. And millions of dollars' worth of paid advertising by stakeholders will saturate the airwaves during the recess. Unless you have something to say to your Senator or Representative, you may as well declare a congressional news blackout until they come back into session. It is going to be just awful out there.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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