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This Week In Congress - April 16, 2010

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

On Monday, the Senate returned from the two-week recess, and got back to its job of addressing the needs of Americans who don’t have jobs. Tennessee Republican Bob Corker was among those seeking to block yet another temporary extension of unemployment benefits, because it’s not paid for.

CORKER: I mean politically, which is not usually what I think about, meaning that I try to delve in the substance of issues...but politically, I would imagine that most people in my state would like to see us pay for things that we spend.

With midterm elections looming, Congress is smack in between the fiscal rock of the budget and the financial hard place of being jobless--and equally accountable to both.

When it comes to the federal budget, it doesn’t get any more ‘grounded’ than the plight of the unemployed; and it doesn’t get any loftier than space.

UDALL: The President’s request for non-exploration priorities represents a far-sighted investment that should pay large dividends.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall of Colorado praised the administration for upping NASA’s budget overall. Do we hear a "however" coming?

UDALL: However, the elephant in the room is understandably the proposed cancellation of Constellation program, which is to be supplanted by commercial development of human space flight.

When government enters the realm of zero-gravity, partisan moorings kinda...float away.

UDALL: A purely commercial approach to human space flight may be the future. But I’m concerned that it also runs the risk of diminishing American leadership in space.

Not for nothing – Colorado alone has thousands of jobs on the line. Much like the Pentagon, NASA divvies up the manufacturing of every rocket, capsule and launch mechanism across as many states as possible. And for good reason. Within days, President Obama had reconsidered his plan for NASA’s human space flight program.

Congress is 15 months in to its work on financial regulatory reform. Arguably the defining bone of contention is the phenomenon now known as "too big to fail." And whether the plan put forth by Senate Banking Committee chairman Chris Dodd would prevent or perpetuate the problem. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a moderate Republican, balks at the creation of a fund for future bailouts and its consequent "moral hazard."

COLLINS: We’re essentially telling these big institutions that there still will be funding to bail them out if they continue to pursue high-risk practices, and that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Perhaps you’ve already guessed what’s coming next.

DODD: (shouting)...nothing could be further from the truth! The bill as drafted ends bailouts! Nothing could be more clear in the legislation!

In the face of radically different interpretations...some apparent consensus has emerged. One is on increasing capitalization and liquidity requirements – in other words, it’s a lot harder for firms to get ‘too big to fail’ if they actually have to pay for their own growth on the way up.

A financial regulatory reform bill may (or may not) be headed for the Senate floor next week.

Also next week – a deadline set by Senators Collins and Joe Lieberman in their investigation into the shooting spree by a U.S. soldier at Fort Hood.

LIEBERMAN: The response of the executive branch to this thoroughly legitimate request for information has been inadequate and unreasonable.

The Senators have put the administration on notice.

LIEBERMAN: If it fails to provide us with the critical info that we need to conduct our committee’s inquiry by next Monday, April 19th, we will serve the Departments of Defense and Justice with subpoenas to obtain that information.

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


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