The Week Ahead: Scramble Before the Break
With plane tickets at the ready to jet home for the Memorial Day recess, members of Congress will spend this week speeding through a number of high-profile issues, with funding for the military leading the agenda and the partisan debate.
The Senate will begin floor debate tomorrow on a multi-part supplemental package that would fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, put new restrictions on the administration's war policies and give educational benefits to returning veterans. The House moved a similar package last week minus the war funding, which was blocked by Republican maneuvering but is sure to be in any final package negotiated by the two chambers.
Both sides sought to blame each other for the House's stumble on war funding, but the Senate fight will likely center more on the GI benefits and on the withdrawal provisions, torture ban and other elements that Republicans mostly oppose and President Bush will surely veto.
The House, meanwhile, will take up a package of small tax breaks for everyone from energy companies to other businesses and individuals. The chamber will then move on to the Defense authorization bill, which sets priorities and funding levels (but doesn't actually give the funding) for the Pentagon for the coming year. The House will wrap up the week by tacking a budget resolution that the two chambers have agreed on.
Off the Hill, the main non-presidential political event will take place tomorrow in Oregon, where two Democrats are battling it out for the right to challenge Sen. Gordon Smith (R). Democratic leaders have backed state House Speaker Jeff Merkley in the contest, but he has faced a surprisingly spirited challenge from attorney Steve Novick, who has run an unconventional campaign and is running roughly even with Merkley in the polls.
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