Congress intends to focus on economy

December 03, 2007|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- Democrats intend to put more focus on economic issues as Congress returns this week for a packed December agenda while President Bush and Republicans push for release of money for the war in Iraq without conditions.

House Democrats, sensing increasing unease, plan a session Friday with Wall Street executives and other financial experts to discuss the mortgage crisis, tightening credit and other problem areas.

The Senate returns today and the House returns tomorrow, with Democrats hoping to move quickly on an energy bill. The measure would increase fuel economy standards for the first time in more than a decade and provide a legislative accomplishment heading into 2008.

Both parties want to block the alternative minimum tax to prevent an estimated 20 million taxpayers from falling under the levy that was created to make certain high-income Americans pay some taxes. The parties have disagreed about how to accomplish that.

Congress also has to find a way to resolve a fight with the White House over 11 spending bills that finance every federal agency but the Pentagon. Bush has insisted he would not approve any domestic spending above his limits. Democrats offered to cut the difference in half, to $11 billion, but the administration refused.

Congress and the White House are also in a dispute over money for the war in Iraq. The House has approved $50 billion in interim financing, but it sets a goal of December 2008 to withdraw most combat troops. That was blocked in the Senate, and Bush and Republicans have been trying to pressure Democrats to release the money without strings.

Congress also has to dispose of a major farm bill, the annual Pentagon policy bill, a trade deal with Peru and a terrorist surveillance measure. The fate of a children's health insurance program also remains in question.

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