After an intense yet futile debate on immigration, the Senate returns from a two-week recess braced for another multi-layered battle over the emergency funding bill for the Iraq/Afghanistan wars and hurricane relief. While there is general consensus on the $92 billion requested by the president (and already approved by the House), the Senate bill exceeds that by $14 billion. The GOP mantra of "fiscal restraint" will be tested as conservative Republicans try to push the number back to the president's original request.
And because this is a "must pass" bill, it's become a magnet for what are arguably non-emergency items that have nothing to do with the wars or Katrina relief. Again, conservatives will battle with their own party and any Democratic attempts to add unrelated measures. There has also been talk of a Democratic sponsored resolution for a "no confidence" vote on Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, but at this point it's just talk.
The immigration debate will also weave itself into an emergency supplemental this week, but only in a limited way. In an op-ed over the weekend, Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tenn., says the Senate will act to increase funding for border security: more fencing, aircraft and training for border agents. As for the controversial guest worker proposals with paths to citizenship, Frist said he plans to address it before the end of May.
On Tuesday the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing looking at the economic impacts of the various immigration proposals. Testimony will come from experts and academics.
While there is much talk from both sides of the aisle on high gas prices, at this point there are no hearings or events planned. But that's very likely to change.