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This Week In Congress - May 21, 2010

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

...Began with all eyes on financial regulatory reform. In summing up the last 15 months, Senate Minority Leader McConnell sounded like he was pitching a screenplay titled "The Bureaucracy That Ate Democracy."

MCCONNELL: They’re running banks, insurance companies, car companies, taking over the student loan business, taking over health care... They’ve got people over at the FCC trying to take over the internet.

Apparently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was reading from a different script.

REID: Senator Dodd has approved almost 40 different amendments. Democratic Amendments. Republican Amendments. Bipartisan Amendments.

Senator Mike Johanns has been a key player in the negotiations. But as the bill moved closer to a vote, Johanns moved farther away from supporting it. The Nebraska Republican doesn’t like the clamp-down on derivatives and credit card merchant fees. Neither do banks...

JOHANNS: Now you have all of sudden impacted the profitability of the financial sector, and I know it is very populist to beat up on the financial sector at the moment, but it is a very precarious economy out there...

This Week in Primaries: five-term Senator Arlen Specter lost his bid to run for reelection as a Democrat in Pennsylvania. Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett announced he will NOT mount a write-in campaign. He lost the Republican spot to a Tea Party-backed candidate.

BENNETT: This has been the nastiest race that we have had for a party nomination in the history of the State of Utah.

As a Senator, Bennett has played the game as a conservative by any measure. He did, however, work across the aisle on significant pieces of bipartisan legislation. And he voted for a Wall Street bank bailout. Somewhere along the way it all became too much for Utah’s Republican voters, who chose this election to punish their Senator for being bipartisan-curious.

Back in Washington, a rare Byrd was spotted on the Hill on Thursday. Ninety-two-year-old West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd wasn’t going to miss the first testimony by the CEO of Massey Energy, the company behind the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion.

BYRD: 29 men are now dead. Dead. Dead. For reasons unknown, some combination of righteous indignation, sorrow and anger really brought out the speller in the coal-miner’s-son-turned-Senator.

BYRD: I don’t believe they lacked - l-a-c-k-e-d.../ I’m also concerned about the Massey record - r-e-c-o-r-d...

Speaking of righteous indignation, sorrow and anger...

Congress continued to hold hearings on the causes and effects of BP’s under-sea oil gusher. A debate is taking shape over raising the cap on BP’s liability, in the face of staggering uncertainty about the true long-term costs involved.

Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma says the cap should be raised, but he, along with key members of the Obama administration, is against proposals to raise it $10 or $20 billion. Inhofe says smaller companies would be priced out of doing off-shore drilling.

INHOFE: To arbitrarily come up with something that has the effect of shutting out everyone except BP and four others from being able to explore in the Gulf, I think that is wrong.

Isn’t that actually good ol’ market forces at work?

INHOFE: Now, don’t worry about the economic damages; in this case will all be taken care of.

Too late. We’re already worried.

Perhaps you heard: the week in Congress ended with the Senate passing, as it has so often been described, ‘the most sweeping financial reform legislation since the Great Depression.’ Now it’s on to conference, where lawmakers will hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. So negotiations aren’t over yet.

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


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