The House’s Special Session

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Ah, the joys of special session. Today 255 House Dems and 178 House Republicans are making their way back to Washington for a 24-hour session of the lower chamber. The reason? A $26.1 billion bill providing aid to the states that the Senate finally managed to push through before adjourning last week — about half of the original $50 billion requested by the Obama Administration a couple of months ago. Dems say the legislation could save as many as 300,000 teaching and first responder jobs while Republicans call it a sop to the unions. As if abandoning campaigning to vote on another big bailout package weren’t appealing enough, there are some other potential wedge issues at play whilst they’re here.

As the issue of immigration continues to simmer with the Justice Department’s lawsuit(s) going forward, the Senate last week made a down payment on comprehensive immigration reform. “The bottom line is we’ve heard a lot of talk about controlling the border… over the last year. We’re finally doing something about it,” Senator Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said last Friday. The House may this week take up the $600 million measure, which would add 1,500 new Border Patrol and immigration agents and increasing funding for unmanned aerial border patrols. The White House is pushing for a House vote on the issue – a sign they see it as a winner at the polls in November.

The House will also vote on a privileged resolution by Rep. Tom Price, a Georgia Republican, on the upcoming lame duck session. As I’ve reported before, there will most likely be a lame duck after the midterm elections given the state of the appropriations process. Dems have been tantalizing their base with the possibility of passing other legislation such as climate change, the Employee Free Choice Act and immigration reform. Republicans, such as Price, have been drumming up the GOP base, warning of Dem plots to ram through controversial legislation during lame duck. In reality neither is likely to happen as Dems won’t have any more votes as they do right now to pass anything much, so Price’s resolution calling on Dems not to have a lame duck unless there’s a “national emergency” is a purely political move that will likely pass overwhelmingly. If lame duck happens at all, the “national emergency” will be the federal government grinding to a halt because Congress hasn’t funded it and, barring unforeseen natural disasters or terrorist attacks, that’s about it.

In the wake of a California Court’s overturning of Prop 8, which banned gay marriage in the Golden State, Republicans (though, not leadership) may offer a resolution defending the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, if the Family Research Council is to be believed. From Face the Nation on Sunday:

CBS’ John DICKERSON: Mr. Perkins, I’m going to ask you about the Republican Party. Often in cases like this, you hear Republican politicians jump to decry these kinds of rulings. It has been pretty muted so far. Why do you think that is?

Family Research Council’s Tony PERKINS: Well, there will be a resolution introduced in Congress this coming week when the House is pulled back in by Nancy Pelosi.

After all, what’s a special session without a little Terry Schiavo craziness – remember that special session in 2005? It’s the silly season, and everything Congress does between now and election day will have political overtones and consequences at the ballot for one party or the other.