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« NC: Dems Target Most Vulnerable Republican | Blog Home Page | Excerpts of Elena Kagan's Opening Statement »

The Week Ahead: Hectic Week On The Hill

The Senate begins the week mourning the death of West Virginia Democrat Robert Byrd, the longest-serving senator in history who died early this morning at the age of 92. The AP describes Byrd as "a fiery orator versed in the classics and a hard-charging power broker who steered billions of federal dollars to the state of his Depression-era upbringing."

Byrd's death opens what was already expected to be a busy week on Capitol Hill. For the second time in a year, the Senate will begin the confirmation process of a Supreme Court nominee of President Obama. Elena Kagan, the current solicitor general, testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee today after being introduced by her home-state senators, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown.

Kagan is a former Harvard Law School dean and veteran of the Clinton White House. With no bench experience or decisions to dissect, it's Kagan's experience in both capacities that Republicans will focus on as the hearings unfold this week.

White House: President Obama returned to Washington Sunday night from a weekend at the G-20 summit in Toronto. To begin the week, the president will attend meetings at the White House, then on Tuesday welcomes a bipartisan group of senators to discuss comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. Obama heads to Racine, Wisconsin on Wednesday to hold a town hall meeting on the economy. The rest of the week, so far, looks to be quiet.

Vice President Biden hits the road again this week. Biden heads to the GE Appliance and Lighting headquarters in Louisville on Monday to highlight the impact the stimulus bill is having on creating jobs. Later in the day Biden attends a campaign event in Jeffersonville for Indiana Rep. Baron Hill, then begins the evening in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware with an event for Senate nominee Chris Coons. On Tuesday he travels to the Gulf Coast, including a visit to the National Incident Command Center in New Orleans and to the Florida panhandle.

Capitol Hill: You know it's a busy week for Congress when Supreme Court nomination hearings share the spotlight with anything. Kagan's hearings begin today at 12:30 p.m. and are expected to run throughout the week. However, her's won't even be the only high-profile nomination hearings.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hear Tuesday the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus to take over as commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus is expected to cruise to confirmation, as senators from both sides of the aisle praised Obama's choice following the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate will vote on a compromise Wall Street reform bill that increases the government's regulatory abilities and creates a consumer-protection agency. It's expected to have a more difficult road in the Senate, where 60 votes are required. Meanwhile, House Democrats are also expected to bring a "budget enforcement resolution" to the floor to set discretionary spending levels, in lieu of a traditional budget. And a supplemental appropriations bill still awaits a vote as well.

And it's unclear what effect Byrd's death will have on some of these votes in the Senate. Now with 58 votes, the road to passing legislation will be even more trying.

*In Case You Missed It: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, on "Fox News Sunday": "Given everything I know today, she's well-qualified but she has a lot to answer for. The president won the election -- to my conservative friends, you should expect liberals to be picked by Obama. But you should expect us to do our job, and that's not replace our judgement for his but to make sure she's qualified and not an activist. And that's what we aim to do."