Weekly Wrap-Up & the Final Four

Caryn Freeman 4:37PM EST
We’ve all made it to Friday and I’m sure you have piquant plans for the weekend ahead. Even though the drama of the White House debt ceiling talks dominated the main stream media just a few blocks away folks on the Hill helped members of Congress with more workable solutions to a few other legislative needs. Let’s wrap up the week on a high note and talk about what Congress actually did accomplish.

Monday: The Judiciary and Ways and Means committees met to discuss the role of administrative law judges, the impact their decisions have on the claimant and the taxpayer. Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) explained to the committee and witnesses that, “No one should have to wait months or even years for their hearing decision….that’s plain wrong,” he said. The committee did make some headway in addressing the inefficiencies within the system, the burden on tax payers and the individual applying for aid.

Tuesday: The role of U.S. aid to Palestine in promoting peace in the Mid-East region and how this investment serves U.S security interests was tackled by the committee on Foreign Affairs. All sides agreed that building a “Palestinian government and a viable Palestinian economy serve these interests and are essential for peace.

Rep. Connolly (D-VA) asked witnesses for more information on the amount of aid going to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and a potentially Hamas-led government. For the record, USAID works with the government in the West Bank, but in Gaza programs are run through international nongovernmental organizations.

Also on Tuesday NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke about human space flight. Bolden pledged that the U.S. would not lose its standing and described how deep space travel was the new frontier in the space program as well as planned mission to an asteroid in 2025 using the MPCV (multi-purpose crew vehicle).
The highlight of my week came Wednesday when Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) served Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke with best verbal smack down delivered by a member Congress this week, when she asked Bernanke to explain how hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars designated for TAFT in the 2008 bailout ended up in the hands of two women who ran a small debt purchasing company with only fifteen million in debt backed assets but received two-hundred million dollars of tax payer money. The Fed Chair could only respond by saying that “the program was available to any American company,” but gave no answer to how this actually occurred.

Later that day, Republicans called off a congressional hearing on “What Went Wrong at the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission.” Democrats asserted that Republicans didn’t like what they found in the investigation. Wednesday, Commissioner Peter Wallison who is also  an Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute called the financial panel a “fiasco” and said that the commission had been wrong to ignore the work of his colleague at the Enterprise Institute on housing policy.
Thursday: The House Energy and Commerce Committees hearing on Internet privacy gave no indication of where Congress stands, how or if they plan to move forward with legislation. Republicans were concerned legislation might impede innovation. “At this point, it is not clear what legislation, if any, is necessary, but the hope is that this hearing will shed additional light on that question,” said Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, (R-OR). Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton added that there was a “need to hear from everyone with a stake in Internet privacy before we contemplate legislating."

The Committee on Government Oversight and Reform addressed Consumer protections with testimony from Elizabeth Warren. Mrs. Warren, Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau told Congress in her opening statement that the Bureau is “working nonstop to build an effective operation, with the goal of making consumer financial markets work better for consumers and better for financial services providers alike.” Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been an outspoken critic of Consumer Protection Bureau for months now voiced concerned on how, “the regulatory authority granted to the CFPB will protect consumers, guard against rate and fee spikes, and promote private sector job growth.”  Issa was clearly on message.

TGIF & The Final Four:  Offshore Energy: Interior Department's Plans for Offshore Energy, Revenue, and Safety Reorganization, a Legislative Hearing on H.R. 2433, H.R. 1941 and H.R. 169,  Homeland Security Contracting: Does the Department , Effectively Leverage Emerging Technologies? Finally there will be a hearing on the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act.

Congratulations on making it through the week. Thanks for reading Quorum Call. I hope you all enjoyed my initiation to Cloture Club. Please come back to for regular updates and analysis of what’s happening @ the hearings.