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This Week In Congress - July 30, 2010

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

For the House, this would be the last gasp of legislative business before the August recess. One key health care topic reemerged, just in time to refresh voters’ memories before House members like Maryland’s Donna Edwards return to their districts.

EDWARDS: A public option that at the end of the day saves money.

POLIS" I don’t think we should take anything off the table with regard to reducing the deficit and fiscal responsibility.

Edwards and Colorado Congressman Jared Polis were among those Democrats forced to swallow a bitter pill in this year’s health care overhaul. The loss of the government-backed insurance approach known as "public option." Now 100 or so of those lawmakers want a rematch.

POLIS: Congress is going to be looking at a lot of ways of reducing the deficit. And you know what, a lot of them might be a lot less popular than the public option.

With Republicans and fiscally-conservative Democrats finding common ground in at least one thing – sounding the deficit alarm – that’s become the backbone of a renewed argument in favor of a public option. A Congressional Budget Office estimate says the latest proposal would help reduce the deficit by $68 billion dollars through 2020.

While backers say a public option fosters competition, opponents say it’s just the opposite. Maryland Republican Roscoe Bartlett doubts more moderate Democrats have the political and intestinal fortitude to take up this issue again.

BARTLETT: I think that many of their members here who were coerced into voting for that would not feel kindly if they had to walk that plank and it wasn’t going to get through the Senate.

Speaking of things that are tough to get through the Senate...This week, a campaign finance bill aimed at rolling back a controversial Supreme Court ruling came to a vote. To recap – starting with Senator Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat who supports the DISCLOSE Act:

MERKLEY: If the essence of the First Amendment is that competing voices should be heard in the marketplace of ideas, Citizens United just gave the largest corporations a stadium sound system with which to drown out the voice of American citizens.

BENNETT: The DISCLOSE Act listens to the outcry of some corps, such as NRA, and says, "we won’t make it apply to you."

Sen. Bob Bennett, a Utah Republican...

BENNETT: ...Thus demonstrating...responding to political pressure. This is not a "disclose" act, it’s an act aimed at [selectively] prohibiting free speech.

In the end, the Senate did not pass the DISCLOSE Act.

Also in the Senate this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid rolled out a much-anticipated energy bill – which by this point had taken on the name and form of a "clean energy jobs and BP accountability" bill. Notably absent: the climate-focused element. No provision to cap overall levels of carbon emissions.

Over in the House, a final vote on the $59 billion war funding bill. Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz was one of the 12 Republicans who voted against it.

CHAFFETZ: There are now less than 100 Al Qaeda in the country and the Taliban pose no clear and present danger to the U.S. nor to the current Afghan government. That’s what our CIA director is saying.

He’s at odds with those who argue that keeping up the fight in Afghanistan is essential to the global war on terror. In the end, the vote was almost three-to-one in favor.

As the House breaks for the August recess, Democrats are primed to trumpet a list of things changed by their legislative handiwork: The health care insurance industry, Wall Street and bracing for fallout, as well...Including the latest – an announcement by the House Ethics Committee that former Ways and Means chairman Charlie Rangel will face 13 charges of breaking House rules and federal laws.

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

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