Welcome back to the Alley, where we hope you had a good Independence Day break. Here's the latest to get you up to speed.
Countrywide Financial made discounted loans to members of Congress, their staff, Cabinet secretaries and Fannie Mae executives, according to a House Oversight Committee report. "The discounts -- which averaged about 0.5 points -- spanned from 1996 to 2008, according to a report from the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, which was obtained by AP," writes my colleague at National Journal, Jonathan Miller.
WaPo reporter Dan Eggen writes that campaign fundraising and spending in congressional elections this cycle compared to 2008 is significantly up. "Congressional races this year are more on par with 2010, when an angry electorate helped Republicans take control of the House in what President Obama famously described as 'a shellacking.'" Eggen writes. My colleague Elahe Izadi took a closer look at the Federal Election Commission's congressional figures here.
Our own Matthew Cooper walks you through the rest of Congress's year. "In some ways, Congress has picked off the low-hanging fruit. Now we're in for a stretch where the parties are unlikely to agree--again," he writes, leaving you with this thought: "It's easy to see Congress as a timepiece, broken or working. But that's not the right metaphor. Congress is more like traffic, which can sometimes be backed up, sometimes smooth, and sometimes a combination of both--ever sensitive to the actions of a few."
Photo: Fireworks light the sky over the U.S. Capitol, left, Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)