The Week Ahead: Housing Talks and Possible Action on Fannie and Freddie
With the Senate having finally passed a major housing package on Friday, the pressure is now on for the two chambers to begin work on a compromise measure that can get to the president's desk quickly. The House appears unlikely to simply accept the legislation passed by the Senate, but it is unclear at this point whether the House will amend the Senate package and send it back, or whether the two chambers will try to work out a compromise.
At the same time, the Bush administration may ask Congress this week to act swiftly on legislation to bolster troubled housing finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Treasury officials said last night they may seek new authority to make government money available to the companies and that congressional leaders expect to be able to pass the new laws by the end of the week. It amounts to a more explicit federal backing of the quasi-government companies than has ever existed before.
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are likely to continue their squabbling over who is to blame for high energy prices, as the Senate is expected to consider a bill cracking down on oil speculation. The GOP is expected to use that debate to push its own energy agenda, which includes a call for opening up new domestic territory on and offshore for oil and gas exploration.
The House, meanwhile, will take up the fiscal 2009 intelligence authorization bill, which lays out a spending blueprint for the entire intelligence community, as well as a bill authorizing roughly $1 billion for bridge repairs around the country. The chamber will also consider a bill to declare portions of the Taunton River in Massachusetts "Wild and Scenic" and thus deserving of federal protection. The measure was briefly caught up in partisan warfare over energy policy last week, when Republicans claimed that it was designed to block the construction of a liquefied natural gas facility on the riverfront. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) strongly disputed that charge.
The House is also expected to pass a bill renaming part of Route 20A, located in Orchard Park, N.Y., as the "Timothy J. Russert Highway." The measure, sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), has already cleared the Senate.
And both chambers could soon vote to override President Bush's expected veto of a bill blocking cuts in doctors' payments under Medicare. The bill has now passed both the House and Senate by veto-proof majorities, though Bush appears intent on vetoing it anyway and forcing the override votes.
Check Capitol Briefing later today to get perspectives on this week's agenda from aides to the top four congressional leaders.
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