House Speaker John Boehner criticizes President Obama's energy… (Mark Wilson / Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington —
With just a few days standing between Congress and its spring recess, lawmakers are hurtling into a busy workweek that could provide a defining political contrast between the parties for election season.
House Republicans will devote much of the week to their signature legislative document, Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2013 budget, which slashes federal spending, lowers taxes and revamps Medicare. The proposal is essentially dead on arrival in the Senate as Democrats have steadily attacked the plan as ending Medicare in favor of tax breaks for the rich.
To counter the House GOP approach, Democrats will hold a largely symbolic vote Monday to repeal subsidies for the big five oil and gas companies. Such measures have failed in the past, and even oil-state Democrats have balked at efforts by their party to end tax breaks for the industry.
The Chamber of Commerce is urging senators to vote against the proposal, which could save $20 billion over 10 years. It will likely be blocked by a GOP-led filibuster.
But first, the House is expected to give swift passage to a small business capital formation bill, sending the once-bipartisan but now controversial measure for President Obama’s signature.
Jobs remains a top issue for voters and lawmakers, and both the GOP-led House and Democrats in the Senate have unveiled competing measures to provide employers with tax breaks intended to spur hiring. But votes on those measures are not expected until after Congress resumes from its two-week recess.
Democrats argue that the biggest potential jobs creator, the multi-year highway bill, is languishing in the House. House Speaker John A. Boehner has been unable to assemble a majority for passage.
As a backup, the House will attempt on Monday to pass a short-term 90-day extension of highway funding. But Democrats are urging a no vote. The current highway funding authorization expires March 31, and a stall could potentially throw construction and road projects into jeopardy.
Senate Democrats will also turn their attention to the U.S. Postal Service, with a proposal to save the beleaguered mail carrier from steep job and service cuts.
The busy floor schedule unfolds as protests happen across the street at the Supreme Court, where hearings on the nation’s controversial health care law are underway -- providing perhaps the most visible difference of all between the parties.
Senators are among the crowds gathered for the hearings, with Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the GOP leader, planning to make a rare visit to the court on Tuesday to listen to oral arguments. Other senators from both sides of the aisle are also attending arguments at the court.
Congress is expected to adjourn Friday – Thursday for the House – sending lawmakers to their home districts, where voters will be able to begin to assess the contrasting styles between the parties in advance of the fall election.