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Congress Looks to Multi-Task This Week

The Senate this week turns its attention to the $636 billion Defense appropriations bill, while the House looks to pass legislation that would provide $1.5 billion to Pakistan.

The earmark-heavy Defense appropriations measure has drawn the ire of fiscal conservatives, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is among those Senators expected to offer amendments to strip spending from it.

Consideration of the Defense bill will likely fuel the debate over the war in Afghanistan and the closing of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The appropriations bill does not include funding for either, but Republicans could offer amendments relating to those issues.

The Senate will also take up a House-passed $4.65 billion continuing resolution this week to keep the government funded for another month. None of the 12 regular appropriations measures has reached the president’s desk this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee continues marking up a massive health care reform bill. Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.) will introduce an amendment Tuesday that would include a public insurance option in the package. Liberals are strongly in favor of the public insurance option, while moderates tend to oppose it.

Across the dome, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with committee chairmen last week to discuss how to proceed on the House health care measure, which will likely differ from whatever emerges from the Senate. Pelosi will likely push forward on a health care bill next month.

Both chambers, under the gun to pass sweeping health care reform and a host of spending bills, are also expected to forfeit an October recess to complete their work. Congress typically adjourns for a week around the Columbus Day holiday, but neither the House nor the Senate officially added the period to the 2009 recess calendar.

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