The House of Representatives came back off its one week recess to resume the debate on various appropriations bills.
This week saw the House pass the military construction/VA appropriations bill as well as the agriculture appropriations bill. These are the funding bills that were completely ignored by the Harry Reid/Nancy Pelosi-led Congress of last year.
That failure to pass even one of these 12 bills led to the showdown with the president over extending the Bush tax cuts and further cuts to the overall federal spending levels. The House ended up passing the agriculture appropriations bill by a slim margin of 217-203 after the department was cut 23 percent below what the president requested.
Further cuts offered by various House Republicans were individually rejected, with some getting as few as 20 votes. While this writer applauds the commitment by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to individually debate these appropriations bills and their commitment to operate the House under regular order, the fact that the Senate isn’t considering any of these bills will ultimately tee up another showdown at the end of September. That one will be between the Congress and the president over federal government spending levels.
Also last week, the House had to put to rest the controversy involving Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., and insistence that his Twitter account had been hacked, resulting in the release of lewd pictures of the congressman on the Internet.
After a week of the congressman lying to the media and playing the victim card, he finally admitted that he had in fact sent the pictures. By the close of the week, he announced his intention to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives. But when will his resignation actually occur?
As of this writing, the congressman is still on the payroll of the U.S. House, with all of his benefits intact. His resignation must be initiated by his own signed letter to the speaker of the House and the governor of New York. Neither letter had been received.
Meanwhile, the House will continue this week with the appropriations process when members begin debate on the Department of Defense appropriations bill as well as the patent reform bill and possibly a resolution dealing with our military presence in Libya.
The Senate spent last week debating an Economic Development Agency bill which served as a vehicle to debate other issues that have nothing to do with the underlying routine authorization bill. The Senate was successful in ending the ethanol subsidy by a vote of 73-27, when members adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. Most believe this vote was a message to the tax-writing committees in Congress to consider this repeal, all the while the White House, at least as of this writing, has vowed to continue the taxpayer subsidy for the ethanol industry.
By the end of the Senate week, the majority leader set up a procedural vote to end the debate on the underlying EDA bill. That cloture vote, which requires 60 votes, is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The procedural vote will follow immediately after the Senate votes to confirm Leon Panetta to be the new secretary for our Defense Department.
Assuming the Senate isn’t able to muster the needed 60 votes to end debate on the EDA bill, the majority leader has teed up an additional vote which changes gears for the Senate and asks the members to begin debate on the nomination reform bill. This bipartisan bill, supported by both Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Nevada's Sen. Reid, exempts some presidential appointments from the Senate confirmation process. It creates a working group to streamline and review the impact of the appointment process.
The Senate could also see a vote on the military presence in Libya by week’s end, since both the Republican and Democratic sides of the Senate membership are working on dueling resolutions authorizing conditional presence in Libya for our military.
Stay tuned to see when the embattled congressman actually tenders his resignation from the U.S. House and see if both houses of Congress can pass similar authorization language dealing with our troops in Libya.
Elizabeth B. Letchworth is a retired, elected United States Senate secretary for the majority and minority. Currently she is a senior legislative adviser for Covington & Burling, LLC and is the founder of Gradegov.com.