Weekly Washington Outlook- Sept. 16, 2013

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

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The House:

This week, the House commences its legislative business with a series of non-controversial bills considered under suspension of the rules on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, the House will take up the following:

On Thursday, it is widely expected the House will vote on the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (Rep. Frank Lucas), the yet-to-be released nutrition portion of the Farm Bill. 

The Senate:

The Senate will begin the week by considering two judicial nominees and will then resume consideration of the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, an energy-efficiency measure sponsored by Senators Shaheen and Portman.

White House:

On Monday, the president will deliver remarks in the Rose Garden marking the five-year anniversary of the financial crisis. On Tuesday,  President Obama will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office.  Later in the day, he will be interviewed by Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart to discuss his plan for a “Better Bargain for the Middle Class” and the need for immigration reform.  On Wednesday, the president will address the Business Roundtable’s quarterly meeting.  On Thursday, Mr. Obama will deliver brief remarks at a meeting with his Export Council to highlight the importance of helping American companies sell their goods and services abroad.  Finally, on Friday, the president will travel to the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant to talk more about the economic recovery.

Also this week and beyond:

AppropriationsThe House last week delayed a vote on a stopgap spending resolution to fund the government through mid-December.  The measure which was introduced last Tuesday would have maintained current sequestration funding levels.  House Leaders planned to couple the continuing resolution (CR) with an enrollment resolution to defund the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  This procedural maneuver would have allowed the Senate to vote for the CR and vote against defunding ACA.  Many House members, however, felt this did not go far enough.  This week, House Leadership will continue to try to find a path forward to fund the government passed September 30th when the current spending resolution expires.

Economy – In advance of the President’s speech today touting the economic recovery five years after the financial crisis (on the anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy), the National Economic Council issued a report detailing progress and what still needs to be done.  The report and the President’s speech have been timed to push for Congress to lift the debt ceiling mid-next month without offering any further spending or policy concessions.  Both will also underscore the positive impact of Dodd-Frank and increased financial regulations and consumer protection.  Read the whole NEC report.

Farm BillThe House this week is expected to vote on a stand-alone nutrition bill, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act.  While the text of the bill is not yet available, most believe that it would cut $40 billion out of the Supplementat Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and more closely align eligibility requirements to those for welfare.  The Senate passed its Farm Bill earlier in the summer but the House was only able to pass a bill with the agricultural provisions after a failed vote on the entire package.  House Leadership has refused to appoint conferees until voting on this nutrition section.  The last Farm Bill reauthorization expires on September 30.  Without Congressional action, price supports for certain commodity goods will revert back to 1949 levels.

EducationThis week, the Senate HELP Committee holds the first of 12 planned hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act on accreditation.  The Committee will also hold an executive session to consider the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act.  In the House, the Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on “Improving Access and Affordability through Innovative Partnerships” and on Friday will look at career and technical education.

Healthcare – With 15 days to go before enrollment begins in ACA exchanges, efforts are still underway to block implementation of the law.  The House will hold at least three hearings this week on the status and impact of ACA.  In the Senate, Senator Vitter is blocking consideration of amendments to an energy efficiency bill until he receives a vote on his amendment related to the employer contribution for Congressional healthcare.

Nominations – Prior to the August recess, the Senate Banking Committee confirmed Congressman Mel Watt to head FHFA.  Yet, it is not yet known when he will be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.  Several Republican Senators remain staunchly opposed to his confirmation, arguing he lacks the necessary technical expertise.  Elsewhere, this week Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration to be the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.  The current Chairman, Ben Bernanke, is stepping down at the end of his term in January.  Janet Yellen, the current Vice-Chair is now favored to become Chairman.

Tax ReformIn 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 the 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.  Both Chairmen nonetheless remain optimistic that tax reform will happen this Congress.

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