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House Might Not Be in Session Next Week

House GOP leaders are eyeing a weeklong recess next week if the House passes the energy conference report by Friday, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told his Conference on Wednesday.

Discussions continued late into Wednesday evening with leaders closely monitoring the energy conference committee’s progress, according to a House GOP leadership aide.

If the energy conference report can be wrapped up and approved by the House on Friday, then Members will be allowed to spend the entire week (including Tuesday’s Veterans Day holiday) back in their districts.

If the energy bill is not ready to go, then the House will have to return next Wednesday to await the conference report, the aide said.

Currently, the House is not scheduled for votes Friday but that will change if energy shakes loose, according to aides in both parties.

“[GOP leaders] want energy done [first], they’re making a very hard push” to free the energy legislation from conference this week, said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

But whether that can happen was still up in the air at press time last night.

Conferees have been deadlocked over key tax provisions in the energy legislation for months. Vice President Cheney brokered a deal to bridge the differences between Senate Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) earlier this week.

Thomas and House conferees have accepted that but Senate leaders have yet to sign off, according to one House GOP aide.

“Everything is in place to close this deal,” the aide said. “But every five minutes it’s something different” as to whether the conference can issue a final report this week.

One senior Senate GOP aide said that chamber is hopeful about a deal on energy. “We’re looking at the finish line,” the aide said.

If the House is not in next week, that would stand in contrast to the Senate, where Members were told they are expected to log a full week, with votes likely every day but Veterans Day.

The House, however, is light years ahead of the Senate in terms of completing its must-pass measures for the year. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Senate still had four of its 13 spending measures to pass, while the House has approved all of its appropriations measures.

People might wonder why the House is considering leaving for a week when so much work remains, one GOP aide noted, but leaders think it may be wise to “give their starters a rest” in anticipation of “one very hectic week” before the target adjournment of Nov. 21.

The aide noted that so many measures are on the cusp of completion — and the House is just waiting for the Senate to catch up and various conferences to wrap up — that there isn’t much for the House to do before that final week.

Daly said Democrats, however, would prefer to stay next week — regardless of whether energy is behind them.

“We want to [stay] and finish” all the chamber’s work, Daly said. “We’re here, prepared to get the work done.”

GOP leaders told their Members to prepare to work straight through to adjournment, including weekends, once they return Nov. 17 if they indeed get a respite next week, leadership aides confirmed.

Leaders in both chambers want to adjourn Nov. 21, but they have a host of major initiatives to finish before then.

Besides appropriations and energy, GOP aides said, they want to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare and extend the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among other things.

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