Big-ticket items will crowd Senate's pre-Easter schedule

Legislature to address Iraq war, fiscal 2009 budget resolution and mortgage reform.

The Senate will try to cram a lot of work into the three weeks before the start of the Easter recess on March 15, addressing major issues such as the Iraq war, the fiscal 2009 budget resolution and mortgage reform.

A spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said a pair of cloture votes on Iraq, including a troop-redeployment bill, could be held as soon as Tuesday. Another cloture vote could come the same day on legislation designed to help homeowners facing foreclosure. In introducing the measure last week, Reid and other senators described it as a second economic stimulus package. Widespread Republican opposition is expected. The timing of the cloture votes could change, since the Senate first must wrap up work on a healthcare bill for Native Americans.

Following work on the housing package, the Senate is expected to move to a consumer products safety bill. Under a compromise reached last week, the legislation would give the Consumer Product Safety Commission more power to monitor products. Consumer groups want the bill to go farther, while the manufacturers want the Senate to scale back the final version.

The Senate is expected to work on the budget during the week of March 10. A spokesman for Reid said the Senate should be able to wrap up work on that measure before leaving for the recess at the end of that week. The spokesman also said a prerecess cloture vote is possible on legislation outlining energy tax credits.

The House is expected to vote next week on the nearly $18 billion Democratic package of renewable energy and efficiency credits, which would be paid for by reducing incentives for the oil and gas industry. Two earlier packages bogged down in the Senate. A vote is also possible on creation of an independent office to weigh ethics complaints against lawmakers.

The House schedule for the remaining weeks before the next recess remains in flux. Leadership aides said votes are possible on the budget, Iraq, housing and legislation dealing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House could also take up the farm bill conference report if a compromise can be reached.