An insider's guide to the upcoming week

Monday, July 30, 2007

Final Assignments Before Recess

In the last week before lawmakers leave Washington until after Labor Day, the House and the Senate are to take up the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The plan, created in 1997, helps provide health coverage for children from low-income families that do not qualify for government insurance.

Both chambers are trying to renew -- and expand -- the program. But Republicans are calling the bills budget-busters, and President Bush has issued a veto threat.

The House will also take up a slew of appropriations bills, most significantly for defense. Democrats are hoping to use that measure as a platform to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and to reduce troop levels in Iraq.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday into the death of Pat Tillman, a pro football player who joined the Army after Sept. 11, 2001, and died in Afghanistan in 2004. The Pentagon said Tillman was killed accidentally by friendly fire, but a cloud has surrounded the investigation into his death, prompting emotional complaints from his family and a probe by Congress. Among those invited to testify: former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and retired Gen. Richard B. Myers, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

And look for the constitutional clash between the White House and Congress to escalate, once again, on Thursday, when Karl Rove, Bush's chief political adviser, and his deputy, J. Scott Jennings, are expected to cite executive privilege in refusing to testify regarding nine fired U.S. attorneys.

On the trail: The political committee raising money for a likely GOP presidential bid by Fred D. Thompson, the actor and former senator from Tennessee, is expected to release its fundraising numbers for June tomorrow. Thompson's camp, which had hoped to raise $5 million last month, recently lowered its estimates to about $3 million.

Also tomorrow, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), a Democratic presidential candidate, will release his autobiography, titled "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics."

Most of the Democratic presidential field will address the YearlyKos conference, which starts Thursday in Chicago. The gathering of liberals predominately active online is an offshoot of the community built on the popular Web site and blog DailyKos.

White House diplomacy: President Bush has a thin agenda this week after a meeting with Gordon Brown, the new British prime minister, concludes today at Camp David. The only other scheduled event is a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, meanwhile, jet today to the Middle East, where they will press Arab countries to provide more support in stabilizing Iraq and promoting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Rice will also visit with Israeli leaders and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

An FDA reevaluation: A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel will recommend today whether to pull the diabetes drug Avandia, used by about 1 million people, from the market after several studies reported that it raises the risk of heart attack. The issue has generated concerns over the FDA's procedures for evaluating the safety of drugs. The panel's recommendation is not final; the decision on pulling the medication rests with the FDA.

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