Dispatch from the Front: The Week of June 7

Congress returns from its Memorial Day recess, with tax extenders, financial regulation, the Deepwater Horizon accident on the agenda. We count nine committee hearings related to the oil spill.

The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. and at 5:30 p.m. moves to the confirmation of three district judges. Major issue of the week is the tax extenders legislation that extends unemployment benefits and COBRA subsidies. (Having ended “welfare as we know it,” Congress replaces it with permanent unemployment benefits.) On Thursday, the Senate will debate S.J.Res. 26, the resolution disapproving EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

The House convenes at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The suspension calendar includes H.R. 5026, the Grid Reliability and Infrastructure Defense Act. Also on the floor this week, H.R. 5072, FHA Reform Act, and possibly H.R. 5297, Small Business Lending Fund Act. Expect conferees to be appointed on the financial regulatory bill and the conference committee to begin meeting.

President Obama delivers the commencement address today at Kalamazoo Central High School. (Do the kids play kazoo at Kalamazoo?) On Tuesday, he participates in what’s billed as a “tele-town hall” at a Wheaton, Md., senior center to promote what’s billed as health care reform, which includes free money — $250 checks to senior citizens. On Wednesday, the President will meet with President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. More on the schedule here.

Tuesday is this year’s biggest primary day, with elections in Arkansas (Lincoln v. Halter), California, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Virginia.

Senate Hearings: Tuesday — The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing, “The Risky Business of Big Oil: Have Recent Court Decisions and Liability Caps Encouraged Irresponsible Corporate Behavior.” Wednesday — Secretary of Interior Salazar testifies before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on increasing safety measures for drilling offshore oil. The Banking Committee holds a hearing, “Local Perspectives on the Livable Communities Act,” to use federal dollars for local urban planning and “sustainability.” More bicycles! EPW holds a hearing on S. 3305, to raise the liability caps for oil spills, retroactively. A Judiciary subcommittee holds an oversight hearing on enforcement of antitrust laws, with FTC Chairman Leibowitz testifying. Senate Commerce marks up bills including S. 3302, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, and S. 3084, the Export Promotion Act. Thursday – A Homeland Security subcommittee considers the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on states, localities and the private sector. Senate Judiciary marks up nominations, including the controversial Rhode Island trial lawyer John “Jack” McConnell to be a U.S. district judge. The HELP Committee holds a subcommittee hearing on process safety management in the oil and gas industry. Senate Finance holds a hearing on the U.S.-China economic relationship, with Treasury Secretary Geithner testifying.

House Hearings: Monday – House Judiciary Committee holds a field hearing in Los Angeles on the Comcast NBC-Universal merger. An Energy and Commerce subcommittee conducts a field hearing in St. Bernard Parish, La., on the local impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Wednesday – An Agriculture subcommittee considers the implementation of the Farm Bill’s energy title. A Science and Technology subcommittee contends the Deepwater Horizon spill highlights the research and technology needs for oil spill cleanups. Energy and Commerce, the health subcommittee, looks at the judicious use in humans of antibiotics. The Budget Committee hears from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the economy. An Appropriations subcommittee on the FCC’s budget request, with Chairman Genachowski testifying. The full Transportation Committee looks at liability and financial responsibility for oil spills. Thursday — A Ways and Means subcommittee contemplates the possible policy responses to long-term unemployment. A Natural Resources subcommittee reviews the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon spill. A Science subcommittee holds a hearing on improving technology transfer. An Energy and Commerce Committee considers H.R. 3101, the Twenty-First Century and Video Accessibility Act. A Transportation subcommittee holds a hearing on “practical design and context-sensitive solutions” in developing surface transportation projects. A Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on H.R. 3721, the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act.

Executive Branch: Vice President Biden meets with Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak today at Sharm el Sheikh, travels to Kenya and then South Africa for the World Cup opening ceremonies. (Details.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is at the Organization of American States today in Lima, Peru. She stops in Ecuador Tuesday, Colombia Wednesday and Barbados Thursday for meetings with Caribbean leaders. (State Dept. briefing.)

Economic Reports: The Federal Reserve releases consumer credit data today, and Fed Chairman Bernanke speaks this evening at the Woodrow Wilson Center. On Wednesday, Commerce releases wholesale trade inventories for April; the Federal Reserve releases the Beige Book. On Thursday, the Commerce Department releases trade figures for April. The May retail sales report is issued by Commerce on Friday, as is the April reading on business inventories. Also, Bernanke speaks Wednesday in Richmond, Va., on workforce development. See also Neil Irwin’s “Week Ahead” column in The Washington Post.

So, a heavy week, but in Washington, D.C., the story that seizes the imagination is Tuesday’s major league debut of the Nationals’ pitching phenom, Stephen Strasburg.

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