At least four hearings today in the House and Senate on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This is becoming a big problem for the Obama Administration, because Obama Administration officials and President Obama himself, just don't seem to be responding quickly to emerging threats. There is no official of the Obama Administration taking point on the situation to explain to the American people President Obama's game plan to "Just Plug the Damn Hole" and to set up some means to protect the Louisiana and Florida coastlines from the oil spillage.
Today is where the Senate and House give it the old college try to get all the pending legislation and nominations wrapped up in a bow for the Memorial Day recess. House Democrats have cut a deal on the Tax Extenders bill to make it cost less. The Senate will work through amendments to the War Supplemental. Both the House and the Senate will complete some work on the Defense Authorization bill.
The issues to watch in Washington today are the following:
- Tax Extenders - Reports of a deal on the "Tax Extenders" bill indicates that House Democrats have scaled back the plan. The Hill reports that "after several days of House Democratic negotiations within their own ranks and the Senate, the formerly $200 billion bill was scaled back to about $145 billion, with $95 billion not paid for, compared with an estimated $134 billion previously." With reports that our national debt has reached a staggering $13 trillion, many conservatives in the House and Senate worry that adding another $95 billion in unpaid for new spending programs is a bridge too far. Expect some heated debate in the House and Senate on the fact that Congress still can't find programs to cut when they commit the federal government to massive new spending programs.
- War Supplemental - The President may have broken yet another promise with the War Supplemental. Fox News reports that "a year after President Obama pledged to end the practice of funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with 'emergency' spending bills, the Senate is taking up a $60 billion request that would do exactly that. The spending bill, which includes $33 billion for the two wars in addition to disaster relief funds and aid for Haiti, is running headlong into concern from war-weary Democrats and deficit-conscious Republicans." Furthermore, this bill contains items that have nothing to do with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) reports that the bill might not pass. "It might be called a 'war supplemental,' but less than half of the House’s roughly $84 billion emergency spending bill has anything to do with war. For that reason and others, prospects are dimming for swift enactment of the legislation." CQ reports that some of the extraneous items included are "$33 billion allocated for defense and military construction projects ," "$4.46 billion for the State Department and foreign assistance spending," "$5.1 billion requested by the administration to refill the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency ," "emergency funds to deal with the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico," "make payments to Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, " "$23 billion to prevent layoffs of teachers, " "$1.18 billion to maintain police jobs," "$500 million for firefighting" and "$5.67 billion for Pell grants." These items added on that have nothing to do with the war efforts may endanger passage of the bill before the Memorial Day recess.
The President belatedly scheduled a trip to Lousiana for tomorrow and has a presser today. Maybe the PR team at the White House can produce some talking points to blame former President George W. Bush for President Obama's percieved lack of focus toward an emerging environmental problem in Louisiana and Florida.