GOP Prepares for Dem Push on Finance, Cap and Trade

Sunday, 11 Jul 2010 06:41 PM


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US lawmakers return from a week-long break Monday to fight unfinished battles over a historic finance industry overhaul, a US Supreme Court nomination, and funding for the unpopular Afghan war.

US President Barack Obama's Democratic allies in the Senate and House of Representatives also aim to pass measures aimed at battling stubbornly high US unemployment, their main weakness ahead of November midterm elections.

Time is short: Lawmakers have just three full weeks before a month-long August break, after which the political campaign traditionally shifts into high gear with control of the US Congress and key governorships on the line.

And Democrats face opposition from Republicans, who have ramped up warnings that the swelling US deficit and the ballooning national debt it feeds threaten the United States' future.

The US Senate was to pursue its work on a jobs package immediately upon its return, and could also take up the war spending measure and hold the final vote on Wall Street overhaul legislation this week, Democratic aides said.

Analysts expect the new banking rules -- the most sweeping such initiative since the Great Depression of the 1930s -- to get through Congress, but Democrats have struggled to find the 60 votes needed to ensure Senate passage.

The House of Representatives passed the measure in a largely party-line vote before the July 4 break, leaving Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hunt for support necessary to overcome any parliamentary delay tactics.

Democrats and their two independent allies control 58 Senate seats, but opposition from one Democratic senator has left them three votes shy and courting three Republicans who are ultimately expected to back the bill.

Internal Democratic disputes are on broad display when it comes to a measure packed with some 37 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- notably to fund Obama's "surge" strategy to turn the faltering campaign around.

The Senate approved the money in May, but the House attached more than 15 billion dollars in jobs and education programs to the measure when it passed the bill the week before the break, sending it back to the upper chamber.

Stiff Republican opposition to the social spending, and Democratic doubts about the war, could cloud the legislation's fate, though lawmakers are ultimately unlikely to let front-line troops go un-funded in an election year.

The Senate is also all but certain to vote to confirm US Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the US Supreme Court before the August recess, though the precise timing is unclear.

Republicans have opposed her nomination, but seem unlikely to attempt to delay it with a parliamentary tactic called a filibuster that requires 60 votes to overcome.

Lawmakers are also expected to keep working on ratifying a new nuclear arms control treaty with Russia, a step Obama has called for this year but some Republicans have sought to block until 2011.

They are also due to continue work on sweeping energy legislation to battle climate change and efforts to overhaul US immigration policies -- though election-year prospects for both initiatives are grim.

And the Congress faces renewed calls to pass legislation aimed at pressuring Beijing to end what many lawmakers have branded unfair currency manipulation that keeps Chinese goods artificially cheap, harming export-led US jobs.

© AFP 2014

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