I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...began with an official arrival.
Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office to Sen. Carte Goodwin, Democrat of West Virginia.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller was having nothing of questions about his junior colleague being a "placeholder" lawmaker.
ROCKEFELLER: He’s called a temporary appointment but as Sen. Byrd said so often, there is no such thing as a temporary appointment to the United States Senate. You are either a Senator or are not. And you join a very select crew.
With that, it was on to the Nation’s business.
REID: We are happy to have the newest and the youngest Senator.
Most likely "relieved" would also express how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid felt to have a 59th Democrat on board. Goodwin’s vote would be needed to move forward with an extension of federal unemployment benefits.
BEGICH: The clerk will report the motion to invoke cloture..." [clerk reads]
With continued grumbling and counter-grumbling about the degree to which another extension of jobless benefits has any measurable impact on the deficit, there would be two more days and several more rounds of this. Wednesday evening,
White House: In the motion to concur...the motion is agreed to
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the House Education and Labor Committee approved a sweeping mine safety bill. It was a straight party-line vote. Republicans on the committee regard the attempt to increase the power of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as a step toward over-regulation.
THOMPSON: That’s a program that’s out of control. We need OSHA to protect workers, but we have to do it in a balanced way.
That’s Pennsylvania Republican Glenn Thompson. His Democratic colleague Jason Altmire said the federal government would do well to re-establish a program that allowed mining interests to work out problems with federal regulators before companies are punished and penalties are assessed.
ALTMIRE: I believe the federal government and industry must work together to make the workplace safer.
Add mining safety to the increasingly long list of legislative items great and small that the House continues to churn through, only to see those items go fallow, waiting for attention from the Senate.
It bears mentioning that straight partisan gamesmanship isn’t the only force at work. Campaign politics have a part in this as well. With over 400 members up for reelection, the House is all about rapid-fire; with a vulnerable majority and only one-third facing an election, the Senate is primed for a stalemate.
Late this week, Senate Majority Leader Reid committed to getting an energy and climate bill to the floor...Albeit without the piece that would put a price on carbon emissions in a market-based attempt to reduce greenhouse gases. With most Republicans and some Democrats steadfastly set against it, "cap-and trade" seemed destined to derail any movement on an energy bill; ironically, the idea of putting a price on polluting started out as a Republican thing.
Late Thursday night, the Senate did kick the war funding bill back to the House, without approving more than $20 billion in domestic spending add-ons. Congress has a couple of weeks to resolve emergency war funding before the August recess.
That was This Week in Congress. I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.