The Week Ahead: Middle East policy

President Obama will focus on the country's role in the Middle East with visits from King Abdullah of Jordan on Tuesday and Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday. He will also deliver, in the words of spokesman Jay Carney, a "fairly sweeping and comprehensive speech" on U.S. policy in the Middle East at the State Department on Thursday. The president is expected to discuss major developments in the region, including the death of Osama bin Laden and the Arab Spring. 

The president will pause in his Middle East-centered activities to speak at the commencement of Booker T. Washington High School and to meet with the University of Connecticut NCAA champions on Monday. He will also host a White House reception commemorating Jewish American Heritage Month Tuesday evening.

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While the president speaks at the high-school commencement, Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to attend Rahm Emanuel's inauguration as Chicago mayor with his wife, Jill. With security tighter than usual surrounding Emanuel's inauguration, rumors abounded that one of the former White House chief of staff's high-profile colleagues, if not the president himself, was on the guest list. The administration confirmed on Thursday that Biden would be in attendance.

While the House is out of session for a Constituent Work Week, the Senate will also focus on the latest developments in the Middle East. In light of recently inflamed tensions with Pakistan over the bin Laden assassination, former National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on "Strategic Implications of Pakistan and the Region." 

On Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold the second of two hearings reviewing intelligence reform in the 10 years since 9/11. The (select) Senate Intelligence Committee will also hold a closed hearing later in the day Thursday to discuss intelligence matters.

The Senate is also likely to consider Sen. Robert Menendez's (D-N.J.) bill, the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act, which would require oil companies to pay taxes for drilling on federal land and remove tax deductions for companies that drill in foreign countries.

Monday, May 16

Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will attend the inauguration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago.

The Senate meets at 2 p.m. for morning business until 5 p.m. There will be no votes in the Senate on Monday.

President Obama will travel to Memphis, Tenn., where he will deliver the commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School's graduation ceremony. The school was the winner of the 2011 Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge. While in Memphis, the president will also meet with families affected by the flooding, state and local officials, first-responders and volunteers.

Although he didn't pick them to win the championship in his bracket, Obama will host the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team at the White House for a ceremony honoring their 2011 NCAA national championship.

Tuesday, May 17

President Obama will meet with King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East and areas of agreement on political and economic reform. They will also discuss the pursuit of a comprehensive plan for peace in the region.

At 10 a.m. the Senate will consider the nomination of Susan Carney to serve as U.S. Circuit Judge for the Second Circuit, and will vote on the nomination at noon.

Former National Security Adviser retired Gen. James Jones will testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on "Strategic Implications of Pakistan and the Region." The hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Dirksen 419.

Alan Bersin, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, will testify before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on "Improving Security and Facilitating Commerce at America's Northern Border and Ports of Entry." The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen.

Former Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), co-chairman of Building America's Future Educational Fund; Joseph Kile, assistant director for microeconomic studies at the Congressional Budget Office; Matthew Posner, director of Municipal Market Advisers; and Gabriel Roth, civil engineer, transport economist and research fellow at the Independent Institute, will testify before the Senate Finance Committee on "Financing 21st Century Infrastructure," focusing on how best to fund infrastructure improvements, including how to replenish the Highway Trust Fund. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in 215 Dirksen.

Postmaster General and Postal Service CEO Patrick Donahoe; Phil Herr, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office; U.S. Regulatory Commission Chairwoman Ruth Goldway; Postal Service Inspector General David Williams; American Postal Workers Union President Clint Guffey; National League of Postmasters Executive Vice President Jack Jameson; and Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at the Direct Marketing Association, will testify before a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee. The hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.

President Obama will host a White House reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month. The event will highlight and celebrate the history of Jewish Americans. Invitees include grassroots Jewish community leaders, rabbis and members of Congress.

Wednesday, May 18

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on "Improving Efficiency and Ensuring Justice in the Immigration Court System." Witnesses are yet to be announced. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. in 226 Dirksen. 

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on contributions of space to national imperatives. A list of witnesses has yet to be announced. The hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in 253 Russell. 

Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will testify before the Defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2012 for the Army. The hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. in 192 Dirksen.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu will testify before a Energy and Water Development subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2012 for the Energy Department. The hearing will begin at 2:30 p.m. in 192 Dirksen.

Thursday, May 19

President Obama will give a major speech from the State Department on the Middle East. He will discuss the killing of Osama bin Laden as well as the impact of the recent revolutions in the Middle East on U.S. foreign policy in that region.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on "Ten Years After 9/11: Is Intelligence Reform Working? Part II." A list of witnesses has yet to be announced. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in 342 Dirksen. (Part I of the hearing was held May 12).

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on policies to reduce oil consumption through the promotion of advanced vehicle technologies and accelerated deployment of electric-drive vehicles, as proposed in S.734, the "Advanced Vehicle Technology Act of 2011," and S.948 to promote the deployment of plug-in electric-drive vehicles. A list of witnesses has yet to be announced. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m. in 366 Dirksen.

The Senate Select Intelligence Committee will hold a closed hearing on intelligence matters. The hearing will begin at 2:30 p.m. in 219 Hart.

Friday, May 20

President Obama will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.


—Josiah Ryan contributed.