wpostServer: http://css.washingtonpost.com/wpost

The Post Most: Politics

Read In

Now Viewing: People from around the country looking at Post Politics section

See what's being read across the country ›

Social Surface: Politics

2chambers
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 07/23/2012

5 things to watch this week in Congress: Colorado shootings, Ron Paul’s ‘Audit the Fed’ bill, tax cuts get up or down votes, new national egg standards


(Brendan Smialowski - Getty Images)
Congress has no immediate plans to address Friday’s deadly shooting spree in Aurora, Colo., that brought a brief halt to most election-year politicking.

Top aides to House and Senate leaders said Sunday that there are no current plans to pass any resolutions or other measures to memorialize the 12 killed and 58 wounded in the attack. But flags will fly at half-staff on Capitol Hill through at least Wednesday.

Here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

1.) How does Congress respond to the Colorado shootings?: Lawmakers reacted swiftly to the deadly shooting by canceling press conferences and political rallies and urging the nation to focus attention on the victims of one of the largest (but not deadliest) mass shooting in U.S. history.


Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). (Tom Williams - Roll Call/Getty Images)
The movie theater attack occurred during a midnight viewing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” which includes two brief appearances by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a longtime Batman fan, who previously appeared in the 1997 film “Batman and Robin” and the 2008 film “The Dark Knight.”

On Friday, Leahy said that he was “horrified and saddened by this senseless tragedy. The thoughts of the nation and indeed the world are turned to these innocent victims and their families, and our hearts and our prayers are also with them.”

Just days after the shooting, attention has shifted again to whether Congress needs to do more to restrict access to assault weapons.

Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), whose district includes Aurora, said Sunday that he would join a new push to reinstitute the assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

“I think this is really a congressional issue that has to be dealt with. Should we reinstate the assault weapons ban? I think we should, and I think that’s where it starts,” Perlmutter told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a longtime gun control advocate who sponsored the original ban, said the fact that suspect James Holmes had access to such powerful weapons is cause enough to reinstitute restrictions.

“Weapons of war don’t belong on the streets,” Feinstein said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is a powerful weapon, it had a 100-round drum; this is a man who planned, who went in, and his purpose was to kill as many people as he could in a sold-out theater. We’ve got to really sit down and come to grips with what is sold to the average citizen in America.”


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). (J. Scott Applewhite - AP)
Appearing on the same program, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) suggested that Congress would never be able to solve the problem at the root of the Aurora shootings: the actions of a disturbed individual.

“This isn’t an issue about guns. This is just really an issue about sick, demented individuals,” Johnson said. “And it’s a tragedy and I don’t think there is a solution here in Washington to solve this problem.”

“I really would hate to see a tragedy like this used to promote a political agenda to reduce American’s freedoms,” Johnson added later. “Enough have been taken away and we don’t want to lose anymore.”

But Feinstein noted that her bill included exceptions for hundreds of weapons commonly used for hunting or self-defense — and said she wanted to outlaw only high-power weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing or injuring large numbers of people.

Johnson appeared to agree with suggestions first made Friday by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) that an armed audience member in the theater might have been able to stop Holmes from killing more people.

“And maybe you could have had a firefight and killed more people,” Feinstein retorted.

The issue of gun control may dominate the airwaves and congressional floor speeches this week, but meaningful legislation changing the nation’s gun control remains far off. Why? As The Post’s Chris Cillizza noted Friday, public polling on the issue has reversed itself during the past two decades.

In 1990, Gallup found that almost eight in 10 Americans said that the “laws covering the sales of firearms” should be made “more strict” while just 10 percent said they should be made “less strict” or “kept as they are now.” Twenty years later, 54 percent of Americans said they wanted less strict or no change to guns laws and 44 percent said they believed gun laws should be made more strict, according to Gallup.

2.) Senate to vote on tax cuts proposals: The Senate is expected to take up competing proposals on temporary extensions to the Bush-era tax cuts. Both measures are expected to fail by design as Democrats and Republicans hope to score a few more political points before heading home for the month-long August recess.

Neither party is seeking a permanent extension of the tax cuts — just a one-year extension in order to punt the issue into next summer, when they expect to be in a better position to launch a complete overhaul of the nation’s tax laws.

The Republican tax plan would retain the tax cuts for taxpayers in the top two tax brackets and reduce the estate and gift tax — felt mostly by the wealthy. In total, the GOP proposal would cost roughly $300 billion, according to cost estimates by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Democratic proposal would extend the tax cuts only on income under $250,000 and would add about $223 billion to the deficit next year. Democrats would devote an additional $27 billion to extending a variety of other middle-class tax cuts, including a credit for college tuition and an expanded credit for the working poor, bringing the total cost of the measure to about $250 billion.

But the potential costs don’t matter: Neither proposal is expected earn enough votes to proceed to final passage.


Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas). (Charlie Neibergall - AP)
3.) House to vote on ‘Audit the Fed’ bill: The Republican-controlled House plans to vote this week on a bill called the “Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2011.” They might as well call it the “Ron Paul Appreciation Act.”

The Texas Republican congressman — who is still officially running for president — has pushed for years to expand legislative oversight of the U.S. Federal Reserve by permitting the Government Accountability Office to conduct a full audit of operations. This week the House is expected to pass the bill, but it’s considered more of an effort by House Republican leaders to appease Paul’s supporters ahead of the Republican convention rather than a serious attempt to solve his long-held concerns.

The House last voted on a similar proposal during the 2009 debate on financial regulatory reform, but a Republican plan wasn’t included in the final agreement approved by Congress.

4.) Red Tape Reduction Week: That’s what House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is calling this week as lawmakers plan to vote on bills designed to repeal regulatory decisions made by the Obama administration.

The first measure would roll back restrictions on off-shore oil drilling, while the second bill combines seven proposals to repeal what Republicans considered to be excessive or job-killing regulations established by federal agencies in the past three-and-a-half years. Neither proposal is ever expected to succeed in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

5.) Now hear this: Congressional hearings this week are expected to focus on security threats from Iran and Syria, the effects of super PACs, the adverse impact of the impending “Sequestration” cuts on the nation’s education system and a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on a bill establishing “a uniform national standard for the housing and treatment of egg-laying hens.”

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Read more at PostPolitics

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 07/23/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company