Byrd tributes and Wall St. reform

The death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) will be on the minds of many on Capitol Hill this week.

Byrd, the longest-serving senator, died Monday at the age of 92.


He was a fierce critic of the Iraq war and filibuster reform. The West Virginia Democrat took on presidents from both sides of the aisle when they impeded on the turf of the legislative branch.

Byrd’s passing and the deaths of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) have changed the face of the Congress. All three men were legendary in their own ways, and Capitol Hill will not be the same without them.

Meanwhile, the White House legislative affairs shop will be busy counting war votes in the House and Wall Street reform votes in the Senate.

The House and Senate are looking to pass their merged Wall Street reform bill, and Democrats will need to pick up GOP backing to clear it.

Before Byrd’s death, it was a foregone conclusion that the legislation would pass both chambers. Now, getting to 60 votes in the upper chamber will be more challenging. The Senate financial reform measure overcame a filibuster earlier this year with no room for error, 60-40.

Other big news this week is the confirmation hearings of Elena Kagan and Gen. David Petraeus.

Kagan is well on her way to sitting on the high court and Petraeus will quickly be approved to become the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

The Senate will act on a small-business jobs package while the House tackles a stalled war supplemental bill.

After whipping on a war bill last year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she will not round up votes on this year’s supplemental. Department of Defense Secretary Robert Gates initially wanted the legislation passed by Memorial Day and has stressed the need for it to be approved before members head home for July 4.

Most House Republicans are expected to vote no on the bill because it is not a “clean” bill on war funding and instead includes other domestic spending they oppose. The vote is expected to be close because some anti-war members in the Democratic Caucus are fed up with the war and the administration’s backpedaling on firm timelines in Afghanistan.

The crucial second quarter ends this week, so both parties are holding a lot of fundraisers before the June 30 deadline.

Hearings this week will tackle the Gulf Coast oil spill, the proposed Comcast-NBC merger and nuclear terrorism.