Weekly Washington Outlook– Sept. 30, 2013

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House has not released a weekly schedule given the likelihood of a federal government shutdown at midnight this evening.  Today, however, the House will consider two bills under suspension of the rules.  Pending Senate action, it is possible the House will consider additional amendments to the spending resolution it passed over the weekend.

The Senate:

The Senate this afternoon convenes to take up the H.J.Res. 59, amended over the weekend by the House.  The Senate will also vote to confirm two judicial nominations.

White House:

On Monday, the President will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.  The two leaders will discuss progress on final status negotiations with the Palestinians, as well as developments in Iran, Syria, and elsewhere in the region.  On Tuesday, the President will attend unspecified meetings in the White House.  On Wednesday, the President will deliver remarks at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 36th Annual Awards Gala at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The First Lady will also attend.  On Thursday and Friday the President will again attend unspecified meetings in the White House before leaving on a trip to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines on Saturday

Also this week and beyond:

Shutdown Preparations – Given the increasing likelihood of a federal government shutdown at midnight this evening, this week’s schedule remains somewhat unclear and contingent on the House and Senate ending their stalemate over the CR.  In preparation, there are several guides about what to expect, available here: http://bit.ly/WashingtonPostGovtShutdownExplained, here: http://bit.ly/NPRGovtShutdown, and here: http://bit.ly/TimeMagGovtShutdown.

AppropriationsLast Friday, the House passed H.J.Res. 59, a stopgap spending measure which would fund the government through December 15th at current sequester levels, prioritize certain debt payments in the event of a government default, and defund the Affordable Care Act for one year.  The Senate on Friday, through a series of procedural votes, amended H.J.Res. 59 to move the date up to November 15th and strip out the language on ACA.  Over the weekend, the House then passed a series of amendments to the spending bill changing the date back to December 15th, delaying the implementation of ACA, repealing the medical device tax, and several others.  The Senate today is likely to reject all of these amendments.  Majority Leader Reid may do so by asking for unanimous consent to disagree with the House, or, move to table the motion to concur with the amendments.  Given the standoff between the House and Senate, a federal government shutdown looks increasingly inevitable.  In preparation, the House on Sunday passed a bill to pay military members should this occur.  That said, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said on Sunday that he believes the next House response will be acceptable to the Senate and hinted at a very short-term spending bill to allow more time to negotiate.

Debt Limit – House Leaders had planned to vote last week on a measure to raise the debt limit, but this has been placed on hold as negotiations over the CR remain ongoing.  There was discussion of introducing a bill that would suspend the debt limit through the 2014 midterm elections and include a number of other unrelated policy riders.  The bill has been temporarily shelved, in part due to push-back from members that it did not contain enough in spending cuts in both mandatory and discretionary programs.  The White House and Senate Democrats are continuing to insist on a clean debt limit increase, paving the way for yet another contentious and partisan fight in the lead-up to October 17th.

Farm BillAll Farm Bill provisions from the last reauthorization in 2008 are expected to expire on Monday at midnight when the current Continuing Resolution also lapses.  The House this week, however, is expected to approve the rule merging its agriculture and nutrition bills together so that conferees can be appointed to reconcile the differences with the Senate-passed version.  It remains unclear whether an agreement can be reached over the stark differences with funding SNAP.  If the conferees are not able to find a compromise, commodity price supports revert to 1949 levels in January.  The most noticeable consequence of this will be the “dairy cliff” – the likely doubling in all milk prices.

Tax and Entitlement Reform – House Leadership is discussing with Republican members various proposals to include tax and entitlement reform proposals in a debt limit increase bill.  The precise details of these are not entirely clear and somewhat evolving.

Fiduciary Duty – While the Congressional schedule this week is somewhat murky, the Rules Committee this evening is set to consider H.R. 2374, the Retail Investor Protection Act (Rep. Wagner).  The bill would block the Department of Labor from finalizing a regulation requiring a fiduciary duty for brokers selling investments for retirement accounts until the SEC finishes a rulemaking process on extending the legal obligation to put a client’s interest first to broker-dealers.  The bill would also delay this SEC process by requiring the body identify investor impacts before moving forward.

Healthcare – As fights over the ACA bog down the appropriations process, enrollment in the healthcare exchanges is set to open tomorrow regardless of a federal government shutdown.   Consumers will be able to compare health insurance plans at www.healthcare.gov, but the Spanish version of the website will not be operational until October 21st.  To better explain ACA in advance of this week’s start, the White House released this video http://bit.ly/WhatObamaCareMeans.

For a complete list of everything happening in the House, please see: http://majorityleader.gov/floor/daily.html

For a complete list of everything happening in the Senate, please see: http://democrats.senate.gov/floor/

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

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After months of debate, both the House and Senate passed their versions of the farm bill earlier this year with notable differences, specifically around the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). […]