Senate prepares to tackle Defense authorization and Iraq

House will wait to take up remaining spending bills because panel is still working on a list of earmarks attached.

The Senate will focus on the fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill next week, which Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said will become the Democrats' latest vehicle for language addressing the Iraq war.

While the amendment schedule is not yet clear, the Senate is likely to start with an amendment from Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., that would set minimum time periods between troop deployments, a spokeswoman for Webb said. He is expected to introduce language Monday, setting the stage for a likely vote Wednesday or Thursday.

Earlier efforts by Democrats to attach Iraq language to a supplemental spending measure failed, with President Bush vetoing one version and lawmakers dropping it from a second version after another veto was threatened. But Reid has said the efforts to alter war policy would continue, on the defense authorization bill as well as other upcoming legislation.

The Senate will start the week with votes Monday afternoon on four judicial nominations.

The House floor schedule for next week remains in flux. None of the six outstanding fiscal 2008 appropriations bills will be brought to the floor because the Appropriations Committee is still working to complete the list of earmarks attached to the spending bills. Floor consideration of those bills, which leaders hope to wrap up before the start of the August recess, is expected to begin the week of July 16.

But lawmakers will, late in the week, take up legislation boosting federal funding for college aid programs. Action is also possible on legislation dealing with the FDA's drug-approval process and federal housing programs.