House Democratic leaders are still unsure how or even whether next
week's anticipated lame-duck session will play out.
A senior Democratic aide outlined a handful of scenarios that could unfold next week.
The House won't need to return to Congress at all if the Senate passes either a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill or a much-discussed $61 billion stimulus package, both of which have already cleared the House, the aide said.
However, House lawmakers may be called into session if the Senate passes a still-developing $25 billion auto loan rescue package, the aide said.
That measure, which currently lacks support from Congressional Republicans and President George W. Bush, could be taken up on its own or be attached to a stand-alone unemployment insurance bill.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), the author of the unemployment insurance bill that passed the House in October, said Thursday it would take Bush just "one telephone call to the Senate Republican leader" to aid hundreds of thousands of people struggling without jobs.
If Senate Republicans refuse to back any of those measures, House Democratic leaders have signaled that there is no point in holding a lame-duck session.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will let Members know by the end of this week whether to expect a lame duck.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) on Thursday rejected the idea of the $25 billion auto loan package because, they said, lawmakers already approved a similar bailout bill over the summer.
"Why are Democratic leaders in Congress discussing an additional taxpayer-funded bailout on top of that $25 billion package instead of
ensuring these loans are made available to the automakers as quickly as possible?" Boehner asked.
Hensarling told Fox News he doesn't know "who's not knocking on my door today asking for some piece of the bailout" and rejected the very idea of government bailouts.
The main reason Democrats want to bail out auto manufacturers is because they "have high-priced lobbyists" in Washington, the RSC chairman said. "If you're going to dole out cash to somebody, dole it out to small businesses. Don't dole it out to a failing Detroit."