Congress Wraps Up, but a Busy Summer Awaits

Posted May 21, 2009 at 8:34pm

The Senate Thursday evening approved its version of the supplemental war spending bill, 86-3, but negotiations with the House will wait until after the Memorial Day recess. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and their colleagues face two months of high-profile legislative battles — as well as the annual grunt work of the appropriations process — beginning on June 1.In addition to the war supplemental conference report, the Senate will likely begin work on President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, health care legislation and a handful of other big-ticket items, as well as Reid’s effort to work through the backlog of executive branch nominees that remain pending before the Senate.Across the Capitol, House Democrats on Thursday headed out for the weeklong recess pointing to progress on a global warming package, the passage of several consumer protection bills and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill — and hoping that the flap involving Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the CIA and torture would finally start to fade away.But even as the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrapped up work on landmark climate change legislation, Democratic leaders faced new headaches as Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) threatened to try to kill it unless significant changes were made to benefit rural areas, and Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said he planned to put the bill on the back burner until he finished marking up a health care overhaul.The House faces a packed agenda in the two-month stretch before August. The Appropriations Committee is ready to start cranking out its bills, the health care and energy packages have to be worked out and a major transportation bill is in the works.On the war supplemental, Thursday night’s vote capped a successful week for Senate Republicans, who spearheaded the GOP’s effort to block funding for the Obama administration plan to close the Guantánamo Bay prison.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) led a messaging war centered on the lack of a concrete plan to handle dozens of terrorists held at the facility.Democrats, who acknowledged they were slow to catch on to the mounting public concern over the issue, quickly folded and agreed to strip funding for the closure from the war supplemental bill.But Reid hailed the passage of the bill. “This bill expresses Democrats’ commitment to strengthening our military, rebuilding our standing in the world and reducing key security threat,— he said following the vote.The three no votes came from Sens. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).