In one of the most sweeping overhauls of the country's national service programs since the 1960s, the House passed a bill that will dramatically increase the size and scope of AmeriCorps, the government's largest volunteer organization and the domestic equivalent of the Peace Corps. The $5.7 billion legislation, called the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act after one of its primary sponsors, will triple the size of the service program, originally proposed by President John F. Kennedy. It will increase the number of federally subsidized opportunities for volunteering each year from 75,000 to 250,000, while also expanding the program's mission by creating several new "service corps" devoted to clean energy and health care.
For Obama, whose early work as a community organizer inspired him to make national service "a cause of my presidency," as he put it during the campaign, the bill's passage offers a rare moment to celebrate after a difficult first few months in office. "This is legislation that will usher in a new era of service in America," Obama, who may sign the bill as early as this week, said after the House approved the legislation. "I call on all Americans to stand up and do what they can to serve their communities, shape our history, and enrich both their own lives and the lives of others across this country."
Both Senate and House will go to work -- The Senate started Monday; the House reconvenes on Tuesday afternoon. As the Congressional Quarterly frames it, the "Chairmen's turn in the spotlight arrives." Upcoming important legislation will deal with global warming , health care and immigration. And, of course, Republicans are making their opposition plans already. And some liberal Democrats will oppose escalation of military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan when the President's $83.4 billion supplemental funding bill is discussed. Ambassador designate to Iraq, Christopher Hill's nomination is still pending. Governor Sebelius' nomination for HHS Secretary is further along. Laws dealing with financial/credit card regulations will be debated in hearings, as well as tobacco regulation that will see a vote this week. District of Columbia representation is still snagged by gun regulation. And last, the article includes the issues of embryonic stem cell research and hate crime legislation. Read the full article for leader strategies as well as when things are likely to happen in the upcoming months. Reuters (4/19/09) also had good congressional coverage in its, "Political stakes high as U.S. Congress returns." To summarize, "Barack Obama's presidency has been a wild ride for the U.S. Congress and lawmakers are bracing for more turbulence when they begin returning on Monday to tackle an array of tough issues from healthcare to energy."
Senators in the news--
Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) is bringing back a former chief of staff, Edward Silverman, to help with his work on banking regulation. Senator Dodd, according to Politico, "has spent much of the past year fighting off allegations that he’s grown too close to Wall Street." Positively, however, his legislation to crack down on credit company abuses was endorsed President Obama's chief economic sidekick Lawrence Summers on Sunday, and Dodd continues to have the President's strong political support, the piece added. CQ reports that Senator Dodd has an edge in fund raising for his 2010 election.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is asking President Obama in a letter to let the Congress finish investigating the CIA's enhanced interrogation program, before absolving everyone from responsibility for wrongdoing and law-breaking. Senator Feinstein has announced that the Committee on Intelligence, which she chairs, will hold hearings on the " 'over collection' of surveillance data by federal agencies --following a New York Times report that the Justice Department is looking into possible violations of warrantless wiretapping laws," Politico's Glenn Thrush blogged.
Representatives in the news --
Representative Jane Harman (D Calif.) was denying information provided in an exclusive story by Jeff Stein in Spy Talk at CQ Politics. Congratulated for his scoop, Stein appeared on MSNBC's Keith Olbermann program Monday night. If the leaked story is true, it certainly explains why Rep. Harman has been almost marginalized for several years. To quote from the article:
Rep. Jane Harman , the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington.
Harman was recorded saying she would "waddle into" the AIPAC case "if you think it'll make a difference," according to two former senior national security officials familiar with the NSA transcript.
. . . Seemingly wary of what she had just agreed to, according to an official who read the NSA transcript, Harman hung up after saying, "This conversation doesn't exist."
Harman declined to discuss the wiretap allegations, instead issuing an angry denial through a spokesman.
"These claims are an outrageous and recycled canard, and have no basis in fact," Harman said in a prepared statement. "I never engaged in any such activity. Those who are peddling these false accusations should be ashamed of themselves."
What about the GOP? The party is "scrambling to show it has ideas," Politico's Mike Allen and Patrick O'Conner opine. Politico also headlined, "They do not yet have a health care plan," nor someone equipped to lead that effort.
- Bipartisanship and Successful Polarization and No Clean Hands for Republican Critics - by Ed Kilgore of the Democratic Strategist
- Contest in the opinion polls over proposed "card check" legislation - Politico.com (4/12/09)
See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.
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