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The Week Ahead: War Spending, Al Gore at Center Stage

Correction Appended

Concerns over war spending and timelines for withdrawal of troops from Iraq remain the focus of Congress this week with a massive supplemental appropriations bill due to hit the House floor, while the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up its version of the spending bill that pays for fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on Tuesday.

Senate floor action will be dominated by debate over legislation (S. 214) that would give more independence to U.S. attorneys. The bill could spark a partisan brawl as the legislation has grown out of Democratic charges that the White House and Justice Department dismissed several U.S. attorneys for political reasons.The Senate also is set to debate the fiscal 2008 budget resolution.

House floor action sees Democrats trying to hold together their majority to pass the $124 billion war spending bill that also includes a timeline for withdrawing troops from Iraq by no later than 2008, as well as aid for Midwestern farmers, funding for a state children’s health insurance program and a minimum-wage increase.

The House also is expected to vote on legislation (H.R. 1433) that would give the District of Columbia a full-voting Representative in the House, as well as pro-consumer legislation (H.R. 251) that would crack down on fraudulent telemarketing and a measure (H.R. 1227) that would expand housing benefits for hurricane victims along the Gulf Coast.

House lawmakers also will weigh on a proposal to overhaul treatment programs for wounded troops and hear from former Vice President Al Gore, who will head to Capitol Hill as part of his campaign to combat global warming.

On Wednesday morning, Gore testifies before the House Energy and Commerce and Science and Technology Committee and then that afternoon before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Climate change also will likely come up Thursday, when the House Science and Technology Committee examines the fiscal 2008 budget request for the National Oceanic an Atmospheric Administration. And the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will examine the future of coal — a bountiful domestic resource that is also a leading source of carbon dioxide emissions that have been linked to global warming.

The House Budget Committee will begin the long process of passing the fiscal 2008 budget when it marks up its budget resolution this week.

With the federal income tax deadline less than a month away, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing with Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Mark Everson on Tuesday into agency operations.

Meanwhile the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday will hear from government scientists on allegations of political interference into their work on global warming.

On defense issues, Congress will continue to examine the federal government’s treatment of wounded troops with a Tuesday hearing before House Appropriations subcommittee on military construction, veterans affairs and related agencies. The issue has come to the fore after revelations about inadequate treatment of active-duty military personnel and veterans at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

The House Armed Services Committee will mark up the Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007 on Tuesday. The bill (H.R. 1538) would improve the management of medical care for members of the Armed Forces who are receiving medical care as outpatients.

In addition, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday with Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, who commands the U.S. Strategic Command, and Adm. James Stavridis, the commander of U.S. Southern Command, on the U.S. nuclear strategy and options. Democrats could use the hearing to outline their proposals for making changes in current U.S. nuclear posture.

Meanwhile, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday to examine the problems and challenges of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

On healthcare, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a Wednesday hearing to address the long-term health effects of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The committee will also hold a hearing the next day on safe medicines and medical devices for children. The House gets into the act with the Energy and Commerce Committee holding a Thursday hearing on the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to ensure the safety of the drug supply.

Meanwhile, Congress will take up various entitlement issues. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Medicare fraud March 20. Specifically, the hearing will consider Medicare doctors that cheat on their taxes. There also will be a House Ways and Means Committee hearing March 21 on the Medicare Advantage program. Medicare Advantage plans are health plan options that usually provide all of a Medicare participant’s coverage.

Lawmakers also will continue work on the Bush administration’s landmark education overhaul legislation, No Child Left Behind, with a House Education and Labor Committee hearing on Wednesday. The hearing will look at options to improve the program’s performance measures.

On international matters, the House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on competing legislative proposals over the political future of Puerto Rico; the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear from lawmakers on Tuesday about ideas for strategy shifts in Iraq; and two House Foreign Affairs subcommittees will hold a hearing on Tuesday to unveil polling data on how Europeans perceive the United States.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday into the ongoing fighting in Darfur, while the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee examines threats from Iran and the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions at a Wednesday hearing with State, Commerce and Treasury officials.

In response to a recent fatal bus crash in Atlanta, the House Transportation and Infrastructure highways and transit subcommittee will hold hearing Tuesday on motorcoach safety

— CongressNow Staff

Correction: March 21
The original article incorrectly characterized a hearing on the future of Puerto Rico under the heading “international.”

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