Weekly Washington Outlook – Sept. 9, 2013

U.S. Capitol

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What to Watch This Week:


The House:

On Monday and Tuesday, the House is expected to consider a number of non-controversial bills.  During the balance of the week, the House will take up H.R. 2755 (Sponsored by Rep. Diane Black), which would call for the creation of  a program to verify household income and other qualification requirements in order to receive the premium and cost sharing subsidies of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) . Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has also left open the possibility that the House may begin consideration of a yet-to-be-released stopgap spending measure and a narrow authorization for the use of force against the Assad regime in Syria.

The Senate:

The Senate will begin this week by considering two judicial nominations.  The remainder of the week will be consumed by the Foreign Relations Committee’s resolution that authorizes force in Syria,, which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is aiming to pass by the end of the week.  He is expected to file cloture on this today.

White House:

On Monday and Tuesday, the president will attend unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday evening, the president is scheduled to address the nation, making the case for military intervention in Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons.  On Wednesday, the president, vice president, the first lady, Dr. Jill Biden and White House staff will gather on the South Lawn of the White House to observe a moment of silence to mark the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. President Obama will then travel to the Pentagon Memorial to attend the September 11th Observance Ceremony.  On Thursday, the president will hold a Cabinet Meeting.  Finally, on Friday, President Obama will welcome to the White House the Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah.

Also this week and beyond:

ImmigrationIn his regular memo to House Republicans outlining the September and October legislative calendar, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that immigration reform may be brought to the floor.  He further reiterated that border security and interior enforcement would be sequenced ahead of votes on any other component.

AppropriationsThe House this week may introduce its stopgap spending bill, a short-term appropriations bill, to fund the government beyond September 30 when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires  The precise details are not yet clear, but the measure is widely expected to last for 60-90 days and maintain spending at current sequestration levels.

Debt Limit – Closely related to the Continuing Resolution, there is now wide speculation that Congress may suspend the debt limit briefly, as it did in January of last year.  A plan is under consideration which would allow the government’s debt to rise above its statutory limit for several weeks before establishing a new ceiling based on the amount of borrowing incurred.  The suspension plan would essentially allow more time for Congress to negotiate a long-term omnibus spending plan.  Otherwise, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has informed Congress that the debt limit will be reached on October 15 and negotiations are, once again, at an impasse.  The White House continues to insist on a clean increase, whereas House Republicans favor coupling an increase with a package of spending cuts and deficit reduction initiatives.

Farm BillIn the Majority Leader’s  memo to House Republicans, he wrote in support of the yet-to-be introduced Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, the nutrition section of the farm bill reauthorization that was omitted earlier this summer.  He explained that the bill will save taxpayers an estimated $40 billion over ten years and “restores the intent of the bipartisan welfare reforms adopted in 1996 by ensuring that work requirements for able-bodied adults without children are enforced – not waived – and eliminates loopholes exploited over the last few years to avoid the program’s income and asset tests.”  The deadline for reauthorizing all farm and nutrition programs is September 30.

Healthcare – Majority Leader Cantor reiterated his commitment to continuing to attempt to dismantle the ACA, in part through discrete repeal efforts and targeting appropriations.

Elsewhere, Mr. Cantor plans this fall to bring up H.R. 2019, the Kids First Research Act, a bipartisan bill to eliminate federal funding for the Presidential Election Campaign Fund and divert this into pediatric research.

Nominations – Prior to the August recess, the Senate Banking Committee confirmed Congressman Mel Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA)  Yet, it is not yet known when his confirmation will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.  Several Republican Senators remain staunchly opposed to his appointment arguing he lacks the necessary technical expertise.

Housing/Finance – This week, the Senate Banking Committee will hold its first hearing on overhauling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (commonly referred to as GSEs, an acronym for government-sponsored entity).  This hearing is part of a broader effort to examine the Corker-Warner bipartisan reform proposal.  Julia Gordon from the Center for American Progress and the CEO of SunTrust Mortgage will testify.  The Committee plans to hold a hearing every other week examining various aspects of housing finance.   In the House, Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray will appear before the House Financial Services Committee to provide the agency’s semi-annual report and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)Chairman Gary Gensler will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to answer questions relating to his use of his personal email for work-related purposes.

Tax Reform – Senate and House Finance Committee Chairmen Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and (?) Dave Camp (R-MI) spent much of the summer traveling the country together advocating for an overhaul of our tax code.  Following their roadshow, however, it remains unclear how either chamber may proceed.  In the House, Chairman Camp has said that he plans to release a discussion draft of a tax reform bill at the end of September, but, tax reform was not mentioned in Majority Leader Cantor’s memo outlining the fall agenda.  In the Senate, Finance Committee staff has said that a discussion draft may be available later in the fall, but have not made any further commitment on timing.  Of course, all discussions of tax reform are complicated by ongoing discussions of reaching a “grand bargain” on spending questions.

The Senate Finance Committee is continuing to put out weekly papers, available here: http://www.finance.senate.gov/issue/?id=6c61b1e9-7203-4af0-b356-357388612063.



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