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House to Focus on Approps, ‘Competitiveness’

With just a three-week window for legislative action before the next long recess, House Republicans plan to pack two separate scheduling tracks in July, simultaneously moving appropriations bills while highlighting a different “competitiveness” theme each week.

So far, the House has cleared its versions of four fiscal 2005 appropriations bills, and if leaders expect to get all 13 passed by July 23, the chamber will have to process the remaining measures at breakneck speed.

The measures covering the legislative branch and Commerce, Justice, State and the judiciary are scheduled to hit the floor this week. After that, the House plans to take up the Agriculture, foreign operations, District of Columbia, Labor-Health and Human Services and military construction bills, though not necessarily in that order, a leadership source said.

While the House still plans to move all 13 measures through regular order, the Senate has moved at a slower pace, leaving open the possibility that the two chambers could wrap up the process with an omnibus package earlier than in past years.

Even as they work through the spending bills, House Republicans will also push forward with three more weeks of their eight-week “competitiveness” agenda. As in past weeks, many of the items on tap stand little chance of passing the Senate this year but are deemed symbolically important by the GOP.

This week, the chamber will hew to a research-and-innovation theme, voting on measures related to computing and manufacturing technology.

Next week, the focus will be on trade, as the chamber votes on a free-trade pact with Australia. The week of July 19-23 will emphasize tax simplification, with a schedule that includes a vote to allow more taxpayers to file using the streamlined 1040-EZ form.

Beyond those weekly themes, House Republicans plan to continue publicizing the issues that have been on their agenda since the start of the year: progress in rebuilding Iraq and the introduction of Medicare prescription-drug cards.