Dispatch from the Front: The Week of February 23

By February 23, 2009General

President Obama hosts a White House summit on fiscal responsibility today, speaks to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, and on Thursday foreshadows the release of the executive budget. In Congress, an omnibus spending bill spends omnibusily and America gets a new Secretary of Labor, probably. The National Governors Association winter meeting continues through Tuesday.

NAM President and CEO John Engler keynotes a Brookings Institution conference Friday, “The Future of Middle-Skill Jobs.”

The House and Senate return from their week between Lincoln and Washington, both convening at 2 p.m. today. (The legislative chambers, that is, not the presidents.) A joint session meets Tuesday evening to hear the President’s address on the nation.

In the House, high on the agenda is the $410 billion FY09 omnibus appropriations bill, combining the nine spending measures that Congress failed to pass last year. The fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2008. Potentially up for a floor vote, the Conyers/Frank bill, “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act.” For the floor schedule, see the Majority Leader’s report.

The Senate opens with Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE) reading Washington’s farewell address, a Senate tradition. After paying this explicit homage to the U.S. Constitution, the Senate then considers S. 160, the D.C. House voting rights bill. On Tuesday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on cloture on the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) to be Secretary of Labor. The omnibus appropriations bill is also on tap.

House Hearings: A big week for the House Financial Services Committee and its subcommittees, with hearings on TARP, loan modifications and monetary policy. The Energy and Commerce Committee, a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, “Energy Efficiency: Complementary Policies for Climate Legislation” and on Thursday, renewable energy, etc. A different subcommittee Thursday, “Revisiting the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976.” With respect, why not revisit the CPSIA while you’re at it? House Judiciary on Wednesday, “Copyright Licensing in a Digital Age: Competition, Compensation and the Need to Update the Cable and Satellite TV Licenses.” On Thursday, the Energy Independence and Global Warming Committee, a hearing on the smart grid. An important Science and Technology hearing Wednesday, “Impacts of U.S. Export Control Policies on Science and Technology Activities and Competitiveness.”

House Natural Resources has two hearings of note.

Senate Hearings: The Senate HELP Committee today, Monday, holds a hearing, “Principles of Integrative Health: A Path to Health Care Reform.” Testifying is Cathy Baase, MD, Global Director Health Services, Dow Chemical Company. (With an integrative follow-up hearing Thursday. Integrative must be the new holistic.) Fed Chairman Bernanke testifies Tuesday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing to receive the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report. Also Tuesday, the HELP Committee considers underinsurance in a national health program. On Wednesday, EPW reviews the “latest global warming science.” The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday sheds light on reducing energy consumption in buildings through federal programs.

Executive Branch: President Obama meets today with the governors at the White House, and in the afternoon hosts a White House Summit on Fiscal Responsibility. (Summit? How about “meeting?”) On Tuesday evening, he addresses a joint session of Congress, giving the first-year version of a State of the Union. On Thursday, he will speak about the budget. (For more, see the press secretary’s briefing from Friday.)

Economic Reports: Tuesday, it’s the Conference Board’s consumer confidence report for February, Wednesday it’s existing home sales for January, and Thursday it’s new home sales. Fourth quarter GDP on Friday. More here.

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