Senate to Take Up Spending Bills

After last week's Capitol Hill drama over children's healthcare, in which House Democrats came 13 votes short of overriding President Bush's veto of the SCHIP program, this week in Congress looks to also be lively with several other spending measures up for debate, some of which the president has threatened to veto.

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After last week's Capitol Hill drama over children's healthcare, in which House Democrats came 13 votes short of overriding President Bush's veto of the SCHIP program, this week in Congress looks to also be lively with several other spending measures up for debate, some of which the president has threatened to veto.

Energy. One piece of endangered legislation is the energy bill, which Bush said he would veto because he disagrees with the Democrats' efforts to roll back billions in tax breaks for oil companies and because the bill requires power companies to increase their use of renewable energy. On Friday, Senate Democrats tried to arrange a conference committee for the legislation—which differs significantly in the House and Senate—but that move was temporarily blocked by Republicans because many of the GOP senators had already left for the weekend. Senate Democrats will try again this week. 

Appropriations. Bush is eager to sign the military/veterans appropriations bill. However, Democrats have put that legislation on the back burner and turned their focus on a $605 billion labor/HHS/education appropriations bill, which they hope to pass in the Senate this week. It would be the seventh of the 12 annual spending bills to be passed in the Senate; the House has already passed all 12. In addition to those appropriations bills, the president today sent a request for an additional $45.9 billion in emergency funding to be used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Farm. Earlier this year, House Democrats passed a $286 billion bill that looked very similar to the one the GOP-led House passed five years ago. Now, it's the Senate's turn to take a stab at it, and the Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to mark up its version of the farm bill Wednesday. The biggest point of contention for critics of the 2002 farm Bill was the system of federal subsidies going to growers of corn, soybeans, rice, cotton, and wheat, which cost taxpayers $93.3 billion between 2002 and 2006 and aided in stalling the Doha Round of international trade talks. The debate in the Senate will surely hinge on this and again bring up the issue of congressional earmarks, another chief criticism of this bulky piece of legislation.

—Nikki Schwab