Dispatch from the Front: The Week of March 29

Congress has broken for a two-week recess to rush into the warm embrace of the constituents. The President returns from Afghanistan with health care and the economy still on his agenda. In Washington, D.C., the cherry blossoms should reach their peak later this week when temperatures near 80.

The Senate reconvenes at 2 p.m. Monday, April 12, and debates H.R. 4851, the Continuing Extension Act, which extends unemployment, COBRA benefits and other things through April 30. The House reconvenes at 2 p.m. Tuesday, April 13.

President Obama continues selling the just-passed health care legislation to the public, adding the student loan nationalization to the pitch. On Tuesday, he heads to the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College for a signing ceremony for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act. Later that day he meets with President Sarkozy of France at the White House. On Thursday, the President travels to Maine for a health care event. Friday, he’s jaunts to high-unemployment Charlotte, North Carolina to talk about the economy. Banks to blame.

The President and First Lady hold a Forum on Workplace Flexibility on Wednesday at the White House.

Executive Branch: Secretary of State Hilary Clinton travels to Ottawa, Canada, and Gatineau, Quebec, for the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting today and Tuesday. Before the Ministerial, Secretary Clinton will attend a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the five Arctic Coastal States to ponder a military buildup and resource development along the Northwest Passage. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joins her at the Arctic confab. Treasury Secretary Geithner and a cast of thousands participate in Treasury’s “Women in Finance” educational program today. Joining the President at Northern Virginia Community College on Tuesday will be Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Economic Reports: From The Seattle Times: “On Monday, the Commerce Department releases figures on personal income and spending for February. On Tuesday is the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of January home prices in 20 cities… and The Conference Board releases its consumer confidence index for March. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department releases the report on factory orders for February. On Thursday is the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly report on the manufacturing sector, and the latest figures on consumer debt and auto sales.” The March employment figures come up Friday, when the markets are closed for Good Friday. For more, see Neil Irwin’s weekly column at The Washington Post.

And in case you missed it, President Obama announced plans on Saturday to make recess appointments of 15 officials, including SEIU counsel Craig Becker and Buffalo labor lawyer Mark Pearce to the National Labor Relations Board. Bloomberg follows up, “Labor Agenda May Advance, Business Sees ‘Red Alert’ on Becker.”

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