Week Ahead: Iraq Hearings and Housing Bill
Who said Congress is out of touch? The House and Senate will focus this week on the two issues consistently identified by voters as their primary concerns -- the housing and economic crises, and the Iraq war.
This week's agenda will be headlined by four hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on Iraq -- two apiece in the House and Senate -- in which Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will give an update on political and military progress in that war-torn country. All three remaining presidential candidates will get their chance to weigh in during the Senate hearings. Democrats fear that Petraeus will make the case for a pause in the drawdown of troops, and they plan to highlight what they see as the failure of the Iraqi government to seize the opportunity to create political stability. Republicans are expected to counter that the "surge" policy is working to stem violence and needs as much time as Petraeus believes is necessary.
The Senate will also continue work on a bipartisan housing stimulus bill that started on the path to passage last week. Supporters of the bill, led by Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Development Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), will try to fend off amendments on controversial and unrelated issues so the measure can retain its bipartisan backing.
On the House side, the Iraq hearings will draw attention but the floor schedule is light. The chamber will tackle a host of uncontroversial bills, including a pair of environmental measures. Members will also begin mulling strategy on the Colombia Free Trade Agreement to Capitol Hill, which President Bush sent to the Hill today, starting a 90-day clock for both chambers to hold up-or-down votes on the bill.
On the campaign front, a special election will be held Tuesday to replace the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D) in California's 12th district, with ex-state Sen. Jackie Speier (D) seen as the likely winner. And there will be a pair of runoff elections in Texas to pick challengers to Reps. Nick Lampson (D) and Pete Sessions (R).
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