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November 6, 2007

Congress This Week

CQ: The Week Ahead
Farm policy, appropriations, taxes and trade will dominate the congressional agenda next week as the Senate launches debate on a farm bill while the House takes on tax and trade measures.

Both chambers also are preparing to move the first of the fiscal 2008 spending bills to the president’s desk.

Both chambers also are expected to take up a conference report on an appropriations package that includes $150.7 billion in discretionary spending for the Labor-HHS-Education bill (HR 3043) and $64.7 billion in similar funding for the Military Construction-VA measure (HR 2642).

Republicans may try a procedural maneuver under Senate rules to separate the two spending bills.

In the Senate, the five-year, $283 billion farm measure — which would update the 2002 authorization (PL 107-171) — is expected to consume the bulk of [this] week’s schedule.

The House plans to tackle a loaded schedule that includes the appropriations conference report, a tax measure, a free-trade agreement with Peru and securing homeowners’ insurance funds.

The tax legislation (HR 3996), by Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., includes a “patch” to prevent the alternative minimum tax from affecting an additional 20 million middle-class taxpayers in 2007. The nearly $80 billion bill would extend certain expiring tax provisions, such as the research and development tax credit. It would be offset by new tax provisions for private equity executives, venture capitalists, multinational corporations and hedge fund managers.

The House will also take up legislation that would implement a renegotiated free-trade pact (HR 3688) with Peru. The accord includes labor and environmental protections. Among its provisions, the agreement would remove tariffs on 80 percent of U.S. exports to Peru and phase out any that remained over 10 years.

Also slated for action is a bill (HR 3355) intended to shore up state homeowners’ insurance funds in the event of a natural disaster. The measure would allow state insurance funds to enter into a consortium in order to combine their risks to ward off insurance losses.

Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., also said it was possible that the House would take up a $23.2 billion water resources bill (HR 1495).

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