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Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 07/09/2012

‘Obamacare’ repeal, small-business tax cuts and voting records smashed: 5 things to watch this week in Congress


(Joshua Roberts - BLOOMBERG NEWS)
Congress will return to Washington after a week-long recess and plans to work through July on a series of measures never expected to earn President Obama’s signature. And that’s just how the two political parties want it.

House Republicans plan to start by once again voting to repeal Obama’s health-care legislation, another opportunity to remind voters about the unpopular law. Senate Democrats plan to hold a test vote on a bill that would give small businesses tax breaks for boosting payrolls, the opening salvo in a long-anticipated election-season fight over which party’s tax cut plan is more likely to help spur job creation.

Here’s a quick look at what to expect this week:

1) “Obamacare” repeal: The repeal vote is one of more than 30 held in the past two years to strip away all or parts of the reforms, according to the Associated Press. The vote will make good on a promise by House GOP leaders to try to repeal the law if the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it.

In hopes of shifting focus away from the unpopular reform package, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) plans to push GOP leaders Monday to vote instead on his “Make It in America” plan to boost the manufacturing sector.

“We must make a strong and serious effort to create an environment that grows the manufacturing sector so companies can hire for jobs that will stay here,” Hoyer will say, according to prepared remarks distributed by his office. “Congress must pass a comprehensive jobs plan that invests in the advanced manufacturing and innovation that is critical to our future.”

Despite any political cover Hoyer may provide by attempting to change the subject, dozens of vulnerable House Democrats are expected to vote with Republicans on repeal.

2) Small-business tax cut: The test vote scheduled for Tuesday is on a bill that would give certain small-business owners a 10 percent payroll tax cut. In an effort to focus the cuts on smaller firms, the bill would limit eligible wages to $5 million per employer and the actual credit to no more than $500,000. Another proposal would provide tax cuts for large equipment purchases. Congressional Republicans plan to introduce a broader tax cut proposal this month.

3.) The revolving door: Does anyone else plan to leave this week? The House now had three vacancies, after Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) shocked colleagues Friday by announcing his resignation. The announcement came a day after the office of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) announced that he is struggling with “physical and emotional ailments” worse than previously known, fueling speculation that he might resign or opt not to run for reelection.

In addition to McCotter’s vacancy, the other open seats were once held by Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who is running for governor, and Donald M. Payne (D-N.J.), who died in March.

4) Politics, politics, politics:What event this week could help or hurt Mitch McConnell’s prediction that there’s a “50-50” chance that he will become Senate majority leader next year? And who agrees with him?

“I think it is going to be a very close, competitive election,” the Kentucky Republican told CNN’s “State of the Union” program on Sunday. “There are a number of places where we have opportunities for pickups, not many places where we have much chance of losing a seat. I think at the end of the day, we will have a very narrow Senate one way or the other.”

Seasoned political observers generally agree with McConnell’s assessment. He also said Sunday that he expects GOP candidates will win competitive Senate races in Massachusetts and Virginia. (Another competitive Senate contest in North Dakota, between Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rep. Rick Berg, was the subject of a Sunday must-read by The Washington Post’s Rosalind S. Helderman.)

5) Voting record to be smashed this week: Two senators are on the verge of reaching impressive milestones.

First, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) expects to cast her 5,000th consecutive vote this week. She has never missed a vote since taking office in January 1997, and her record — if she reaches it — would place her second to Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) among current senators. Grassley has cast 6,444 consecutive votes dating to 1993. But Collins and Grassley rank far behind former senator William D. Proxmire (D-Wis.), who cast 10,252 consecutive votes between 1966 and 1988.

In another impressive feat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) is 12 votes shy of casting his 14,000th vote. Among current senators, Leahy’s vote total ranks second to that of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who has cast more than 16,000 votes since 1963. The all-time Senate record-holder is the late Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who showed up for 18,689 votes during his five decades in the chamber.

Leahy is poised to join an elite list of 14,000-plus voters that includes only Inouye, Byrd, former senators Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and the late Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).

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