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This Week In Congress - May 7, 2010

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

Despite an increase in funding for anti-terrorism efforts in NYC and elsewhere, apparently it’s still not enough.

LIEBERMAN: Once again we found out over the weekend that New York is and will continue to be, as long as we’re fighting this war against Islamic terrorism, a major target of the terrorists. Therefore we ought to be giving New York City more funding.

To what extent Congress and the federal government need to do a better job at "securing the homeland" – that’s something Senator Joe Lieberman plans to come back to later. On his way into a Homeland Security hearing early this week, his focus was on singing the praises of New York’s finest:

LIEBERMAN: The fact is, the police work, the investigative work after Saturday night was brilliant.

In the near-term, Congress is gearing up to get some answers about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Vermont Democrat Peter Welch is on the House oversight panel that will conduct the first official hearings next week, and he’s racking up the questions.

WELCH: You know, no one’s answered the question of how this happened. No one’s answered the question of why they didn’t have blow-out preventives that worked. And what we’re hearing from the oil companies, frankly, is a lot of evasion and very oblique discussion about will they accept responsibility for the harm that’s been done to a lot of innocent people?

On Wednesday a group of Gulf Coast fishermen made their way to Washington to meet with members of Congress. Seething with rage at the consequences of the oil company’s actions, right?

VOISIN: It would be easy to villainize BP. And...But they just don’t deserve it. It’s sad.

For Mike Voisin of the Gulf Oyster Industry Council, this is not a straightforward ‘us’ and ‘them’ tragedy. Half the members of his family have been in the seafood business for generations, the other half have been almost as long in the oil business.

VOISIN: We’re a small community in south Louisiana. The oil and gas community harvests oil from below the seabed, we harvest seafood from above the seabed, and we all live on land together.

He’s worried about market repercussions for the Gulf Coast seafood industry, which can have almost as much to do with perception as they do with reality. For the time being, his faith was still with BP.

VOISIN: Does it scare me? Yes. I’m hoping technologically they’ll develop things that will give us better assurances. But just like when I send my teenage kids to the prom, I can’t be assured they’re gonna come home safe. Things happen.

Speaking of disasters...and crises of dubious preventable origins...the Senate stepped up the pace this week on the financial reform bill, churning through amendments. And doubling-down in the partisan battle over consumer protection measures – and just what, if anything, is Congress doing to put an end to "too big to fail?"

VITTER: I don’t think this bill, even with the amendments we got on today, ends bailouts.

When he’s not thinking about the watery disaster unfolding back home, Louisiana Senator David Vitter is busy on the Banking Committee – one of many Republican critics of the Democrats’ approach, with its expanded bureaucracy. He’s also critical of what’s been left OUT: namely the federal government’s own efforts to ease credit- and income barriers and promote home ownership.

VITTER: For instance, the four words "Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" aren’t in the 1,100-page bill.

The raft of amendments continues. Some optimistic lawmakers say a bill could be ready as early as next week. Others are quietly taking bets on what day the President will announce his pick to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. ‘Cause that’s going to throw the schedule off again, for sure.

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


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