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This Week In Congress - March 12, 2010

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I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...

New York Congressman Eric Massa wasted no time getting us all to the Scandal of the Week. The personal became the political, in the form of speculation that it was Democrats who orchestrated the mess and sacrificed one of their own – because Massa’s been critical of the Party’s health care overhaul.

That theory was sharply dismissed by Democratic leaders. The matter lives on in the House ethics committee, which now has to decide whether to launch a formal inquiry into who knew what, when.

Congress has yet to figure out how to protect staffers from alleged abuses by certain members of Congress. But it’s hard at work figuring out how to protect consumers from abuses by the financial industry.

DODD: While we do not have a bipartisan agreement at all, we’re getting there. We’re trying to. I don’t know if it will happen or not.

This was Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd on financial regulatory overhaul LAST week:

DODD: I’m optimistic it can happen, but I’ve been around here long enough to know that these things can fall apart very easily. It’s fragile.

A week later–yesterday to be precise–Dodd convened the press for an important update.

DODD: A lot of progress has been made on it...I don’t expect universal support, but broad support. So we’re getting there.

In the meantime, the President of Haiti visited Washington on Wednesday. Rene Preval met with President Obama and members of Congress to talk about forgiveness of Haiti’s international debts–totaling about $800 million dollars. A gesture of global goodwill and a meaningful assist to a struggling island nation hoping to transform disaster recovery into economic rebirth.

PREVAL: To keep the country functioning, we need some support of the budget.

President Preval came to share his plans for reconstruction because he still has to win over lawmakers who are worried about corruption and mismanagement.

All the while, the Senate inches presumably ever-closer to a health care bill. Late this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid hinted the Senate may up the health care ante by attaching an education reform bill that increases financial aid for college students and offers a much-needed boost to state coffers. The strategy is to put education and health care together and pass both through budget reconciliation.

REID: But the caucus, I want them to make that decision. I don’t want to make it on an arbitrary basis.

As for questions about whether the House trusts the Senate to keep its end of the legislative bargain:

REID: I’m not going to get into the House-–how they’re going to vote, why they’re going to vote...do everything we can to satisfy them...any questions they may have about us.

One development this week of interest only to those tracking every twist, turn, nuance and procedural red herring: the Senate parliamentarian says a bill must be signed into law by the President before any post-reconciliation "fix" can begin. Is Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi alarmed?

PELOSI: It isn’t going to make a difference. Except maybe the mood people are in.

Speaking of moods, the one over in the Senate Banking Committee seems to have shifted.

CORKER: There is no question that White House politics and health care have kept us from getting to the goal line.

That’s Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, Chris Dodd’s closest Republican ally. So Dodd swam out into the choppy wake of Corker’s comments...

DODD: Getting this right is more important to me than getting a date. But I emphasize again, I don’t have a lot of time left in this Congress.

Dodd’s only "news" was that he plans to unveil an actual regulatory reform proposal on Monday--even though it’s not actually finished, and it’s not yet a ‘bipartisan compromise.’

They’re close, though. So close.

That was This Week in Congress. I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.

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