Path to Adjournment Unclear Amid Economic Crisis

Posted September 19, 2008 at 8:49am

The path toward recess changed Thursday night, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Congressional leaders on the administration’s plan to pump money into the ailing economy.

Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn) said late Thursday night that he and his staff will be working with administration officials over the weekend to craft legislation needed to implement an emergency plan — legislation that leaders hope to have on the floor next week. The proposal would use federal money to bail out Wall Street businesses with bad debt.

Both Reid and Dodd said they are willing to keep the Senate doors partially open beyond next Friday’s planned adjournment, in order to react to any more instability in the market.

Several fiscal conservative Republicans are sure to raise concerns about more government involvement in the economy, but a GOP aide said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is unlikely to allow his troops to stop a bill that would give a boost to the rickety economy.

Still, Reid has a list of things that he would like to complete besides the administration’s emergency program, especially the tax-extenders bill — and a continuing resolution to fund the government must be passed. The tax-extenders bill cleared its last hurdle Thursday, when Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reached an agreement with Finance Committee members for more assistance after Hurricane Ike hit the southern portion of his state last week.

Democratic leaders have also backed away from maintaining the ban on offshore drilling in the CR, which would allow it to cruise through. However, a leadership aide said Reid is preparing to fund the government through November, which would prompt a lame-duck session.

Without votes on either Friday or Monday, the Senate must still grapple with legislation that will seek to reduce gasoline prices, as well a second stimulus bill that is a priority for Reid.