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This Week In Congress - January 15, 2010

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This Week in Congress...

Republican Senators returned Monday from a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said US forces are making progress and improving security, but he says there is some misunderstanding on the ground.

MCCONNELL: "From the top to the bottom the American military people that we talk to indicated some confusion operationally about what you do when you detain a terrorist."

McConnell called the mentality very dangerous for the war on terror.

MCCONNELL: "We this preoccupation with prisoner’s rights both on foreign battlefield and here at home that seems to be consuming the administration I think it is wrongheaded as I’ve said repeatedly Guantanamo should not be closed."

President Obama is still trying to decide when to shut down the detention center.

Early in the week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was under fire for a comment he made about then-candidate Barack Obama in 2008. Some Republicans called for Reid to step down; some Democrats countered with calls of their own for GOP party head Michael Steele to give up his hat for invoking a certain phrase referring to Native Americans.

STEELE: "Our platform is one of the best political documents that has been written in the last 25 years, honest Injun on that."

House lawmakers returned from the winter break on Tuesday. They had a closed caucus meeting on health care. Talks continued throughout the week. Leadership said the chamber is inching closer to a final deal.

By Wednesday however...the focus and tone had shifted. A devastating earthquake in Haiti brought unimaginable suffering to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek represents the state with the largest population of Haitians in the U.S.

MEEK: "Constituents of mine who reached family members, finally reached family members, only to find that they needed medical care and that medical care was not there for them outside of a towel and some cool water being poured on them."

In the meantime, the financial equivalent of the 9-11 commission began its first public hearings. The goal is to find out the causes of the meltdown. Chairman Phil Angelides leads the panel.

ANGELIDES: "We are after the truth, the hard facts because it is our job to provide an unbiased accounting of the actions that led to the devastating economic consequences for so many American families."

On day one of testimony, top Wall Street executives admitted making some mistakes. Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein testified first.

BLANKFEIN: "We lent money out to cheaply and in certain loans without the traditional safeguards we didn’t recognize early enough that risk was being mispriced we made too many liquid investments particularly in real estate and we were too concentrated in certain areas namely leveraged loans."

At any other time, the launch of this financial autopsy might have gotten a lot more attention. This week, however, the public’s focus was very much on the tens of thousands of earthquake victims. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had her own take on the disaster.

PELOSI: "For my own experience with earthquakes being from San Francisco. I think that this can be an opportunity for a real boon economy in Haiti that it can leap frog over its past challenges economically politically and demographically in terms of the rich and poor and the rest there and have a new just a new fresh start."

House Democrats wrapped up their two-day issues conference today. Topics included how to move forward on energy, climate change, and health care. After pep talks from Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton the caucus is feeling energized going into next week.

When Congress returns after the holiday weekend, Senate will take up a jobs bill and examine the findings of an independent review of the Fort Hood shootings.

That was This Week in Congress. I’m Sara Sciammacco, Capitol News Connection.

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