House to Return on Tuesday

Posted December 5, 2008 at 4:12pm

Updated: 5:42 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Friday that the House will return on Tuesday to deal with economic recovery legislation, although it remained unclear precisely what the House might consider.

“We don’t have everybody at the table, No. 1. That’s causing a lot of problems,” a senior House Democratic aide said. “The president has a lot to do with it.”

Another House Democratic leadership aide said, “What, if anything, is on the floor has also not been decided at this point.”

The issue of how to aid the Big Three auto manufacturers has stalled as Democrats continue to call on the Bush administration to use its current authority to draw funds from the $700 billion bailout or issue loans from the Federal Reserve. Alternately, President George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans have called for tapping into $25 billion in already-approved loans for building fuel-efficient cars.

Emerging from an all-day hearing with auto industry leaders, House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Friday that lawmakers are “not at the point of agreement” on a plan.

Still, he signaled that not passing an auto rescue package next week wouldn’t result in mass chaos.

“If we didn’t act next week, would we then say, ‘Oh sorry, the world ends?’” Frank asked. “No. These deadlines are artificial.”

Frank and Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) are expected to work through the weekend to try to hammer out a deal. Asked whether he has been tasked with producing a draft proposal by Sunday night, Frank said, “Not that I know of.”

Democrats appear willing to buy themselves more time to craft an auto rescue package that won’t spark criticism for bailing out a failing industry. And Democratic aides highlighted that there is plenty of work to do next week outside of a lame-duck session, should lawmakers fail to reach a deal.

“It is important for Members to be here … to sit around the table to discuss this further, after gathering the information from these two [House and Senate] hearings,” one aide said. “Members aren’t just going to sit in their offices.”

House Democratic leaders are already scheduled to hold a leadership meeting Monday. On Tuesday, they are holding an “issues forum” with economic and national security experts.

If there is a lame-duck session, the House will wait on the Senate to move first on a possible auto rescue package, the aide said, because the biggest hurdle to clearing the measure is Senate GOP opposition.

The House will come in “if we see movement out of the Senate. That’s where the pressure point is,” the aide said.

Republicans prevented an auto industry bill from advancing during last month’s lame-duck session. Democrats responded by scheduling next week’s session and tasking automakers with submitting plans outlining how they would use federal funds to revamp their businesses.

Another issue that could surface next week is a stimulus measure focused solely on food stamps and state Medicaid assistance. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has upped her rhetoric in recent days on the need for passing these measures.