June 9, 2008

This Week on Capitol Hill

Going for the Oil: Senators may turn to an olio of oil measures with the design of torquing down gas prices - or at least putting the squeeze on the oil industry. Those measures include: taking back $17 billion in oil and gas tax breaks and adding on a new oil profit-windfall tax; criminalizing gas price-gouging; giving the US the okay to sue OPEC for messing with oil prices; and putting tighter reins on the oil futures market, which some suspect is inflating oil prices.

Wars, GIS and the Dole: The House is lining up a vote on a Senate-passed war spending bill to cover costs in Iraq and Afghanistan through '08 and into '09. On top of $165 billion for the joint wars, the bill sets aside $51 billion for GI education and $10 billion for Katrina reconstruction. The questions for house members is whether they'll also include a temporary expansion to unemploment insurance and if they'll insist on paying for the veterans education plan through a tax hike on the super-wealthy (or just add it on to the nation's debt tab as the Senate prefers to do).

Doctors' Bill: With Medicare fees for doctors slated to fall 10% July 1, the Senate may vote this week to stop the drop - and instead add a 1% increase, while nudging physicians toward using electronic prescribing. The stumbling block is how to pay for the $20 billion bill; the dem plan, to siphon funds from semi-private Medicare Advantage plans, doesn't jive with the GOP.

Tax Breaks: Senators may also get to a $55 billion bill that would extend popular tax breaks for a year or two, including green energy and research and development perks. Fitting with this week's theme, the point of contention is how - or if - to account for those tax breaks by raising taxes elsewhere in the budget (most likely on fund managers and multinationals).

Space and Rail Travel: The House also has plans to approve bills that would reauthorize and boost Amtrak, HR 6003, and space research and travel, HR 6063.

On tap for June

Congress may be busy wrapping up lingering business this month, possibly voting on a housing rescue/bailout bill, a terrorist wiretapping bill, a ban on CIA torture (as part of an intelligence reauthorization bill), extensions to middle-class exemptions from the dread Alternative Minimum Tax and final measures on college tuition and consumer protection.

The Usual Deal

If you want to let your Congressfolk know where you stand on any of the issues above, you can email them through Congress.org, because...

Hey, it's your democracy too.

- teamJoe

Next update: June 16.

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