President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats have settled on an agenda for the final weeks before Congress’ summer recess that could force Republicans to take tough votes on populist issues like unemployment insurance and a small business loan program.
It comes with Democrats clawing for advantage amid a nasty political climate and in the face of continued high unemployment heading into crucial November midterms.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama and Senate Democratic leaders agreed at a meeting Tuesday to try to hold votes in the next couple weeks on a financial regulation overhaul bill, extending unemployment insurance and a measure providing for increased lending to small businesses. The Senate breaks for recess Aug. 6 for a month of campaigning.
Gibbs said senators will have to decide whether they’re for new rules for Wall Street, whether they’re for helping the unemployed and whether there should be increased lending for small businesses.
“I think the message is going to be fairly clear,” Gibbs said.
“Those are votes that will be important and a conversation that will be important as we move into the fall,” he said.
The approach is consistent with the White House’s strategy of trying to tie Republicans to the problems that caused the economic crisis, and arguing that Obama and Democrats are the ones fixing it.
Legislation enacting a sweeping overhaul of financial regulations is expected to come up for a final vote on Thursday in the Senate, having already passed the House. Gibbs said he expected the Senate to take up extending unemployment benefits next week and that he expected it to pass, even though the extension has been stuck in the Senate for weeks.
Democrats also hope to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court before the August recess and bring energy legislation to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday he hoped an energy bill would be introduced in the final week of July.
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