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Short Week’s Agenda Dominated by Supplemental Mark-up

An absent Senate, having recessed without acting on a supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, leaves the House to set the tone for Congressional action on President Bush’s $87 billion request.

And mark-up of that much-debated bill will dominate an otherwise light day-and-a-half workweek.

The Appropriations Committee will take up the supplemental at 10 a.m. Thursday, working off a proposal circulated Monday by Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.). He envisions a package that differs only slightly from what President Bush requested.

The panel is expected to clear his $86.7 billion measure Thursday, readying it for floor action next week.

Despite having to stay in town, by and large Members are not disappointed that the Senate got a weeklong recess and they didn’t, according to leadership aides.

“We have a supplemental to mark up this week and Members recognize we have to get that done,” said Jonathan Grella, spokesman for Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Stacey Farnen, spokeswoman for Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), said Democrats agree it was important that the House work this week.

“Members are happy to be here, getting things done,” Farnen said.

Besides working on the president’s war and reconstruction supplemental in committee, the House will take up a number of bills on the floor.

The chamber is poised to pass a measure that would effectively boost the number of apartment buildings eligible for Federal Housing Administration insurance today. The bill would increase the mortgage amount the FHA will guarantee in high-cost areas in hopes of encouraging more apartment construction in some of America’s most expensive cities.

On Wednesday, the House will take up a bill that is a top priority for corporate America, especially manufacturers: pension reform.

Since the Ways and Means Committee has failed to move a broader reform bill earlier this year, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) and Education and the Workforce Chairman John Boehner (R-Ohio) have introduced a new measure separately.

In light of the bad economy and pension fund shortfalls, the bill would allow corporations to reduce the amount they contribute to retirees’ pension plans.

The bill is a temporary fix that gives the Treasury Department time to iron out its proposal for long-term pension funding rule changes.

Also on Wednesday the House is expected to pass a measure that would make it easier for banks to clear checks electronically.

The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act is a high priority for commercial banks looking to save money on transporting paper checks back and forth to each other for clearing.

There are no votes scheduled for Thursday or Friday.

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