Congress returns to nominations, finance, water bill
Senators will start next week with nominations before moving on to financial issues while the House will bring up a water research and development bill to capitalize on Earth Day.
The Senate will vote Monday on three Justice Department nominees for assistant Attorney General posts: Tony West, Lanny Breuer and Christine Anne Varney to head the department's civil, criminal and antitrust divisions, respectively.
The Senate is scheduled to hold a cloture vote Monday on the nomination of Christopher Hill as ambassador to Iraq. Hill has drawn some GOP opposition for what lawmakers led by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., consider inadequate attention to human rights concerns while he oversaw talks with North Korea and Hill's lack of experience in the Middle East. Also Monday, the Senate will take up a bill to extend anti-fraud laws to cover mortgage brokers and authorize more money for the Justice Department to attack financial fraud.
Off the floor, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., are hoping to strike a deal to win backing from financial institutions, moderate Democrats and a few Republicans for a bill giving bankruptcy judges greater power to modify home mortgages. Democrats hope to move the measure this month with a deal in place. Also on the agenda is the supplemental defense spending request likely to reach the Senate floor in May and a vote on the fiscal 2010 budget resolution when it emerges from conference negotiations with the House.
The Senate is expected to largely adopt the House's version, which would allow use of budget reconciliation for health care and education reform proposals. A House-passed bill to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco products and a railroad antitrust bill sponsored by Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman Herb Kohl, D-Wis., are "both good possibilities" to reach the floor during the upcoming work period, a spokesman for Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., said.
The House will come back into session Tuesday for three days of work. In addition to suspension bills, the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., noted the House will take up the "National Water Research and Development Initiative Act" to mark a spate of Earth Day-related events next week. "The bill coordinates federal water research and development to help communities across the nation facing water shortages and ensure adequate water supplies for the future," according to a spokeswoman. The bulk of the week will again center on the Democratic leadership's push for a conference committee agreement on the fiscal 2010 budget resolution. The House also soon hopes to consider the $83.4 billion fiscal 2009 supplemental appropriations.