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Members of Congress return to Capitol Hill this week after a week away. Just before the break, both houses were able to pass legislation extending a payroll tax break and other measures set to expire at the end of the month. David Hawkings, editor-in-chief of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU 88.5 Morning Edition host Matt Bush about whether that spirit is likely to continue into the rest of the legislative session. Here are some highlights:
Whether bipartisan goodwill is still in the air: "I don't think that deal has really laid the groundwork at all for any sort of happy spring or summer or fall in Washington," Hawkings says. "It was probably the exception that's going to prove the rule, which is that this is going to be a very slow and behind the scenes legislative session with not a lot … getting finished."
On prospects for federal mass transit funding for local projects, given Congress's pending overhaul of transportation funding: "There was sort of a total breakdown on the House side of the speaker of the House's ambitious plan, which actually included cutting off the guarantee of mass transit money, which would of course be extremely hurtful in our area," Hawkings says. "This would have impacted significantly on the ability of the Purple line to get done, or the rail line to Dulles or the rehabilitation of Metro cars."
The latest on the transportation fight: "It appears as though now Republicans who wanted to dedicate virtually all the money to roads and bridges are now being forced to back down," Hawkings says. "They will come back probably next week with legislation that would at least preserve mass transit funding."
On the likelihood that contraception and/or other unrelated items will be added to the bill in the Senate: "Republican conservatives are going to propose an amendment that would essentially negate the controversial contraception language that was so much in the new a few weeks ago," Hawkings says. "It would essentially allow any organization that has a conscientious objection to providing contraception coverage as part of their health plans to get out of the new mandate."
If the contraception provision would ultimately succeed: "It is unlikely to ever make its way into law," Hawkings says. "This will be a pattern for much of the year, when the few bills that are on the floor will more often than not become the vehicle for politically potent but ultimately, legislatively, not-that-long-lasting language."