Friday, December 17, 2010

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing: It's Laundry-List Time

CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010

 Today In Washington

(Daily Briefing editor David Hawkings is off today.)

THE HOUSE: Convened at 9. Action is almost certain on a defense policy bill stripped of many controversial provisions, such as a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And with the Senate having given up on its omnibus spending bill, the House could vote on a short-term measure to keep the government running until February. The timing is up in the air, but it’s expected that the Senate would vote first on such a bill.

THE SENATE: Convened at 9:30 to continue debate on the New Start arms agreement with Russia. Democratic leaders are waiting for Republicans to offer amendments. The GOP says it merely wants a full debate on the accord; Democrats say Republicans are trying to sink it by running out the clock.
Reid has the power to switch from the treaty to regular legislation, and he might do that to take up a stopgap spending bill. The Senate could also work on the defense bill today if the House finishes with it.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The president will sign the tax cut bill shortly before 4. Prior to that, he’ll spend the afternoon talking to labor leaders including the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka, the American Federation of Teachers’ Randi Weingarten, AFSCME’s Gerald McEntee, SEIU’s Mary Kay Henry and the United Auto Workers’ Bob King.

MOVING ALONG: Senate Democrats can still push some legislative buttons while Republicans essentially slow-walk the New Start treaty. Reid filed for cloture yesterday on a stand-alone repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” as well as the so-called Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for hundreds of thousands of adult children of illegal immigrants.

Votes on those two motions are set for Saturday. “The path is clear to finishing our work relatively soon,” Reid said this morning. But he offered a caveat: “We will work every day until our work is done.”

A repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was hitched to the annual defense policy bill, but that measure was pared this week to its core. It would authorize $725 billion in Pentagon spending for the coming year. One controversial item did stick around: a provision that would allow the U.S. government to pay reparations to the families of Guam residents subjected to atrocities during the Japanese occupation in World War II.

Also in the Senate mix is a bill to boost health services for Sept. 11 first-responders. A few Republicans have hinted that they might support the measure once the tax and spending bills are wrapped up — and a few would be enough for passage.

OMNIBUS DOWN: Beyond all the noise about Republicans rebuffing the $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, Congress still has to think about funding the government in the short term. The money runs out by Monday, and the Democratic leadership is scrambling to put a stopgap funding measure in place. It’ll probably be something that runs into early next year — when the GOP will have more power to tinker with fiscal decisions.

Potential speed bumps for a short-term spending bill, or CR, include the pressure to adorn it with non-appropriations legislation, such as a food safety bill that is a priority of many Democrats. Most CRs continue to fund programs at current levels, but Congress will write in exceptions, including some pitched by the White House. Obama could ask, for example, for more money for Defense Department programs. And if any of those exceptions include Democratic spending priorities, Republicans could balk.

EYES ON ELIJAH: Elijah Cummings of Maryland beat out Carolyn Maloney of New York yesterday for the ranking member job on the House Oversight Committee. That means he’ll be the chief Democratic foil to Darrell Issa, the panel’s incoming chairman. Issa is expected to launch all manner of investigations into the conduct of the Obama administration. “We’ll go toe to toe on everything and hopefully be 10 steps ahead,” said Cummings.

In another tough race, House Democrats selected Adam Smith of Washington to be ranking member on the Armed Services panel. He beat out Loretta Sanchez of California and Silvestre Reyes of Texas. Reyes still could throw his hat into the ring for the ranking member spot on the Intelligence Committee, which also has its share of candidates.

FAMILIAR NAMES: Pelosi is losing one of her longtime aides, communications director Brendan Daly, to the private sector. But moving up to take his place will be Nadeam Elshami, who has been Daly’s deputy. Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s current press secretary, will keep that post while also taking on the job of deputy communications director.

— Joe Warminsky and CQ staff

Become a Facebook fan of David Hawkings at facebook.com/DavidHawkingsDC. Or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/davidhawkings.

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Editor's Picks From The CQ Roll Call Newsroom

Reid Gives Up on Omnibus Spending Bill (Roll Call)

The majority leader sought to shift the blame to nine Republicans. He would not name them. » View full article

Senate Sets Up Action on Dream Act, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal (CQ Today)

Procedural votes on the two Democratic priorities are expected Saturday. » View full article

House Clears Compromise Tax Package (CQ Today)

The vote hands Obama a legislative victory of sorts, although it could cost him support from liberal House Democrats in the future. » View full article

Cummings Secures Top Democratic Spot on Oversight Panel (Roll Call)

The Maryland Democrat says he will make sure that Republicans do not go on "fishing expeditions" to try to embarrass Democrats. » View full article

Idaho's Minnick Says He's Done for Good (Roll Call)

The man who wrote one of the "10 most powerful tweets" of 2010 says Democrats can still win in his state, even though he lost to an underdog Republican this year. » View full article
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Joe Warminsky
jwarminsky@cq.com

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