Hard deadlines -- like the one that was looming at the end of the week on the ports deal -- are anathema to the political mind. Issues take time to mature, coalitions need time to form, controversies need time to breathe. Politicians thrive in an environment of ambiguity, and none of this happens when congressional leaders are forced to act when a political firestorm is at its hottest, as would have been the case this week had not Dubai Ports World (DPW) voluntarily submitted to an investigation.
House Republican leaders had set aside their weekly Tuesday closed-door planning session to figure out how they were going to deal with the terminal takeover, which was set to go into effect March 2. Two hearings looking into both the issue and the process that led to approval of the deal were slated for the week. All of those events will still go forward, just not with the same urgency that surrounded them before Sen. John Warner, R-Va., announced the takeover delay yesterday on "Meet the Press." (Transcript link)
So as it stands now, your U.S. House returns tomorrow from a week-long recess with another break -- St. Patrick's Day merits a week off this year -- awaiting them a brief three weeks hence.
-- On WEDNESDAY the House will finally vote on final congressional action on the PATRIOT ACT extension. So confident are House leaders of passage that they are bringing up the measure under special rules that require the support of two-thirds of those voting. Debate is limited to 40 minutes and and no amendments are permitted.
-- Also on WEDNESDAY, the Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber.
-- The normally bickering Republican and Democratic leaders of the House will lead a bi-partisan delegation to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast on THURSDAY to assess recovery efforts and the effect of more than $100 billion in federal aid so far. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will bring 30 members -- though that number could increase -- along on the three-day trip. Separately, a hearing on fair housing issues surrounding the recovery is planned this TUESDAY.
-- The aforementioned ports issue will get a hearing on WEDNESDAY in a House subcommittee, to focus on the CFIUS process... Armed Services will meet THURSDAY to hash out the national security implications... On Wednesday DoD official Gordon England will be on hand at the budget committee. Since England was in on the approval process for DPW, we can expect questions on that topic, as well. And Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., will introduce a bill this week that would require a 45-day investigation of any transactions of the sort affecting the ports when it involves a foreign government.
-- Democrats on the House Armed Services will use committee procedure to try and force an investigation of the administration's domestic surveillance program. We can expect that the effort will fail for lack of support in the full committee.