Finances, Supreme Court Nominee and Trade Legislation on Congress’ Agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government’s money problems, President Reagan’s controversial nomination to the Supreme Court and protectionist trade legislation await Congress as it returns from its summer vacation this week.
The agenda starts relatively light in the House and Senate, which resume business on Wednesday. The House has scheduled some minor bills, and the Senate will renew its periodic debate of campaign finance reform.
Off the floor, Senate committees have scheduled hearings this week on Reagan’s nominations to two top posts.
The Judiciary Committee begins hearings Wednesday on the nomination of William S. Sessions to replace William Webster as head of the FBI. Sessions, 57, is a federal judge in San Antonio, Texas, known as a tough law-and-order type.
The Commerce Committee begins its hearings Thursday on the nomination of C. William Verity to be Reagan’s commerce secretary.
Verity, 70, is the former chairman and chief executive officer of Armco Inc., the nation’s No. 5 steelmaker. He would replace Malcolm Baldrige, who was killed in a rodeo accident this summer.
The commerce secretary could play an important role in upcoming negotiations on Capitol Hill over trade legislation, and Verity’s former industry is among those lobbying for action.
The House and Senate have passed different versions of the legislation, designed to cut the nation’s huge foreign trade imbalance, and the two chambers will soon begin work to resolve their differences. President Reagan has often spoken against trade restrictions, and will have to decide whether to veto the conference product.
The hearings on those two nominations are not expected to generate much controversy, with much of the political fire stoked up for next week when hearings on Supreme Court nominee Robert H. Bork begin.
Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., has announced he will fight the Bork nomination, which is opposed by many civil rights groups but strongly supported by conservatives. Both sides say Bork’s vote could swing the court’s balance dramatically to the right.
A full Senate vote on the Bork nomination is expected in October.
Congress has also left for the year-end rush its most important financial decisions, including:
-A plan to revive the Gramm-Rudman budget-balancing law, which was designed to force Congress and the president to reduce the deficit. The statute has been toothless since the Supreme Court struck down a plan to enforce its goals with across-the-board spending cuts.
A new automatic-cutback plan has been attached to a bill needed to increase the government’s borrowing authority. The latest in a series of temporary debt ceilings expires Sept. 17.
-All 13 annual appropriations bills for fiscal 1988. The House has passed most of them, the Senate none. The schedule calls for that work to be completed by Oct. 1 but that’s unlikely and lawmakers are already discussing delaying final decisions until mid-November.
-A decision on a tax increase. The Democratic-controlled Congress has passed a budget calling for $19 billion in new taxes, three times the amount Reagan requested in his budget. But there has been no decision on what those taxes would be.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., has been leading the work on the Gramm-Rudman dispute. Changes in the deficit law could add or ease pressure to pass a tax bill and confront Reagan’s veto threats.
During the recess, new estimates were released showing that the federal deficit will again soar toward the $200 billion mark - after a one-year drop this year to about $157 billion - unless taxes are raised or spending cut.
The House and Senate special committees have completed their public hearings on the Iran-Contra affair which dominated much of the first eight months of the 100th Congress.
The panels are now working behind closed doors to complete their investigations and issue a final report, probably next month.
Meanwhile, a Senate Government Affairs subcommittee begins hearings Wednesday on another scandal. The Wedtech Corp., a Bronx, N.Y.-based company, allegedly sought and received improper assistance from high officials both in Congress and the Reagan administration in its quest for government contracts.
Senate leaders hope to end one long-standing controversy this week. After the Senate convenes on Wednesday morning, a vote is scheduled on choking off the six-month conservative blockade against Reagan’s nomination of Melissa Wells to be ambassador to Mozambique.