Senate Democrats are going to try to force a vote on the “Buffett Rule,” which would require those earning more than $1 million a year to pay a minimum tax of 30 percent even on investments that made people like Buffett so wealthy. The vote is expected to fail, but will add to the Democratic Party’s plans to campaign on a message of economic fairness. Republicans suggest that the vote is a gimmick and a misguided attempt to bolster the economy.
Monday’s vote in the Senate “is about dividing and conquering,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “Let’s face it. Listen, this is — and we all know what this is — this is a shiny object that Barack Obama wants the country to look at, which as you know if you added up every dollar of revenue that this little rule would put into place, if you took every dollar over a year, it would add up to paying for 11 hours of the federal government.”
But Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, who appeared on several Sunday talk shows to defend the proposed Buffett Rule, said it is sound economic policy.
“Just because [Republicans] oppose this, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” Geithner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “They fought us on the payroll tax, that was the right thing to do. They’re resisting funding infrastructure, that’s the right thing to do. . . . If we don't push for things that make sense, then we’re not governing.”
Later in the week, the Senate is expected to return to a bill that would authorize reforms at the U.S. Postal Service, including an eventual end to Saturday mail deliveries and the renegotiation of postal worker labor contracts to offset billions of dollars in losses. Senators first planned to debate the measure right before their two-week break.
In the House, lawmakers plan to vote Monday afternoon to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who helped save nearly 100,000 Hungarian Jews; Lena Horne, a recently-deceased singer, dancer and civil rights activist; and Jack Nicklaus, a famed pro golfer and golf-course designer.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of appreciation that Congress can grant to honor “national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions.” Previous recipients include George Washington, Andrew Jackson, John Wayne, Rosa Parks, and Gerald and Betty Ford.
Separately, the House plans to vote Monday on a bill that would authorize the Treasury Department to mint commemorative $1 and $5 coins to honor Mark Twain. (The push to mint another commemorative coin comes as the Obama administration late last year suspended production of commemorative presidential $1 coins.)
As the week progresses, the House plans to turn its attention to the economy, especially to gasoline prices.
As The Washington Post’s Paul Kane reports, House Republicans are expecting to push this week for passage of a temporary highway-funding bill that includes mandatory approval of construction of the Keystone energy pipeline — a move that should set up contentious negotiations with Senate Democrats over a long-term highway-funding measure. Several House committees are moving bills that would freeze regulations on oil refineries and forbid Obama from releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to keep costs down.
Republicans believe that the winter surge in energy costs provides them with a political opening to go on the offensive against Obama. But Democrats and independent energy analysts note that gasoline prices may have in fact peaked as a result of a rising global supply.
Beyond votes, several congressional committees this week will focus on major scandals embroiling two federal agencies. On Monday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee plans to hold the first of at least three hearings on a lavish Las Vegas conference organized in October 2010 by the General Services Administration with current and former agency officials expected to testify. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plans to hold a similar hearing Tuesday and a Senate Appropriations subcommittee is expected to meet Wednesday to discuss the matter with agency officials.
In addition to the GSA scandal, House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Sunday that his committee plans to conduct an “over-the-shoulder” investigation of the brewing sex scandal allegedly involving at least 11 U.S. Secret Service personnel. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said his panel will conduct a preliminary inquiry before determining whether to hold public hearings.
There is one key senator who hasn’t weighed in on either scandal: Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the only Senate panel with jurisdiction over both the GSA and the Secret Service. Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), the committee’s ranking Republican, wants a hearing on the GSA scandal, but Lieberman’s aides said he hasn’t weighed in on either scandal because he has been out of the country for two weeks for official and personal travel.
Three political items worth your attention:
1. In case you missed it on the front page of Saturday’s Washington Post, 2chambers recently visited Northwest Iowa, where Democrats hope Christie Vilsack can defeat Rep. Steve King (R). The race promises to be a recurring flash point in the battle for political control of Washington.
2. Also make sure to watch the spirited debate Sunday between Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Bachmann stopped short of endorsing Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, while Gillibrand bolstered her liberal bona fides by voicing the Democratic Party’s concerns about Republican policies toward women — and stepping in at the last moment for Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, who backed out of the show Friday to avoid drawing more attention to her comments about Ann Romney.
3. History might be made in 2012: The Cook Political Report projects that when a new Congress is sworn into office in January, white men will for the first time in U.S. history be a minority of one party’s caucus in the House. It’s a milestone that Democrats will celebrate regardless of whether Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wins back the speaker’s gavel, according to David Wasserman.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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