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This Week in Washington – September 6, 2011

Both the House and the Senate return from the August recess today with much to do, including the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations bills, consideration of patent reform and a bill to commemorate 9/11.  The highlight of this week in Washington will be President Obama’s Thursday address (campaign speech?) to Congress. 

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will meet for the first time on Thursday morning.  Conservatives should demand transparency from the Joint Committee and a change in the accusatory tone of the President for evidence that politicians in the White House and Capitol intend on following the will of the American people.

President Obama’s planned Thursday night address to Congress is proving to be controversial.  ABC News reports that the President urged Republicans to support his job proposal without sharing the details of his so called bipartisan plan with Republican members of Congress.  He seemed to imply that if Republicans do not support his secretly crafted jobs plan, they would be unpatriotic.

Ahead of his Thursday address to Congress, President Obama told Republicans today it’s time to “get on board” and urged them to support his proposals to boost jobs creation and help the middle class.In a campaign-style speech at a Labor Day rally in Detroit, Obama challenged Congressional Republicans to put country ahead of party but warned “we’re not going to wait for them.”

A few details of the President’s plan have leaked.  According to Bloomberg, President Obama is expected to roll out a Stimulus 2.0 containing more federal money to fund federally funded construction of schools and roads.

President Barack Obama said spending to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure is a key component of his plan to reignite the economy and boost hiring.

The House and Senate bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction will meet and adopt rules of proceeding.  The Co-Chairs of the Committee Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) have invited Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf to address the first hearing.  Transparency is going to be a challenge for this Committee and the Sunlight Foundation has proposed five transparency ideas for the Joint Committee.  We shall see if this joint committee operates in a manner that allows the American people to participate in this important deficit cutting committee.

The House will meet on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in Pro Forma session.  On Wednesday, the House consider three bills on the Suspension Calendar:  H.Con. Res. 67 (Authorizing the use of Capitol Grounds for D.C. Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run); H.R. 2061 (Civilian Service Recognition Act of 2011); and, H.R. 2832 (a bill to extend trade preferences).  On Thursday, the House will meet to consider H.R. 2218 (Rep. Hunter bill – Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act) and then meet at 7 p.m. to receive an address from President Obama.  On Friday, the House will meet to consider H.R. 1892 (Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2012) and a resolution relating to the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

House Rules and Veterans’ Affairs Committees will hold markups.  The House Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on Thursday to study the impact of September 11th on defense policy with three individuals who served as either Chairman or Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The House Committee on Natural Resources will have a hearing on Wednesday to study domestic mining opportunities and hurdles to creating American jobs.

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a motion to proceed to H.R. 1249, the controversial Patent Reform bill, after voting on the nomination of Bernice Bouie Donald, of Tennessee, to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (Calendar No. 109).  Heritage Action for America argues that the funding mechanism for the Patent Reform bill renders it “constitutionally flawed.”

In Senate committes, the Appropriations Energy-Water Subcommittee will markup a draft appropriations bill on Tuesday at 2pm.  The Appropriations Committee as a whole will mark up the Agriculture, Energy-Water and Homeland Security spending measures on Wednesday.  The Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing to examine that U.S. Postal Service in crisis and to discuss bailout options.  The Postal Service is expected to lose $8.3 billion this year alone.  The Senate Banking Committee and Finance Committee will consider nominations this week.

Conservatives should keep a close eye on the Joint Committee to see if they intend on operating with maximum transparency.  Conservatives also need to watch the President’s speech closely to see if the President uses the speech to blame all of his shortcomings on natural disasters, the Tea Party and former President Bush.  If the President does have a plan that amounts to more than a stump speech, then the President needs to share this detailed plan with the American people by the end of this week.  Also, Fiscal Year 2011 ends on September 30, so expect another fight over a continuing resolution to commence later this month.

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