Weekly Washington Outlook – November 4, 2013

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House is in recess until Tuesday, November 12th.

The Senate:

The Senate on Monday will vote on a motion to proceed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815) and two judicial nominations.

White House:

Monday: The president will welcome the five-time Stanley Cup Champions the Chicago Blackhawks to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 Stanley Cup victory. Following the visit, President Obama will deliver remarks at an Organizing for Action event.

Tuesday: The president will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with Wounded Warriors who are being treated at the hospital and their families.  Mr. Obama will also visit the Fisher House, a program that supports military families by welcoming them to stay at the House while their loved one receives specialized medical care.

Wednesday: President Obama will travel to Dallas to participate in Democratic party fundraising events.

Thursday: The president is scheduled to attend unspecified meetings at the White House.

Friday: President Obama will travel to the New Orleans area for an event on the economy.  Later that day, he will travel to Miami to participate in Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee events.

Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court is back hearing oral arguments this week on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Among the cases being considered, is one involving the role of prayer in government meetings in Town of Greece v. Galloway.  Visit the Supreme Court website for the full list of cases. Additional information is also available on SCOTUS Blog.  

Also this week and beyond:

ENDAThis week, the Senate will take up the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815), a bill that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  The bill wouldn’t affect uncompensated volunteers, nor would they apply to religious organizations exempt from religious discrimination provisions under existing civil rights laws.  A vote on final passage could come as early as Wednesday or Thursday, and given that it enjoys some Republican support, its prospects for cloture and passage are viewed as promising.  President Obama also penned an op-ed for Huffington Post on the measure’s importance.

Budget ConferenceBecause of the House recess this week, budget conferees will not meet again formally until next week.  A number of unofficial working groups have formed among the conferees though, including one driven by Senator Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Manchin (D-W.V.) looking at reviving a proposal to grant agencies additional flexibility within sequestration.

Farm BillBecause the House is in recess this week, conferees will not meet formally until next week again.

Housing Finance – The Senate Banking Committee will hold two hearings this week on housing finance reform and proposed legislation to overhaul Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Notably, on Thursday, the Committee will address access and affordability.  Hilary Shelton from the NAACP is scheduled to testify, as is Rick Judson from the National Association of Home Builders, Sheila Crowley of the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum, and Ethan Handelman from the National Housing Conference.  The full hearing notice is available here.

ImmigrationIt is possible that Congressman Darryl Issa (R-Calif.) will introduce a legalization bill as part of the House’s piecemeal approach to immigration reform following the recess.  Rep. Labrador’s (R-Idaho) yet-to-be introduced guest worker bill may include some form of legalization as well.  Details of these remain unknown, however.  To date, the House has not yet addressed this component of immigration reform.  It is worth noting that Congressman Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) may have an alternative at some future date.  Finally, a number of letters are being circulated among members and outside groups this week, particularly conservative groups, urging Leadership to make progress on this issue.

HealthcareHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is back on the Hill this week, testifying to the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday on the flawed ACA rollout.  Similarly, the head of CMS Marilyn Tavenner is scheduled to testify to the Senate HELP Committee on Tuesday on the same subject.

NominationsLast week, the Senate rejected a motion to proceed to Congressman Mel Watt’s nomination to head the Federal Housing Finance Administration.  Majority Leader Reid has indicated that he will try again at confirmation, possibly as soon as this week.  However, there remains staunch opposition to Congressman Watt’s confirmation on the basis that he does not have the requisite technical expertise.  He has been endorsed by a number of civil rights and industry groups.

Tax Reform – Senator Baucus (D-Mont.), Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, may finally introduce a detailed tax reform plan as early as this week. Sen. Baucus has been working with his House counterpart Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) on pursuing an overhaul; they have agreed on broad principles to lower rates and eliminate loopholes, but have not yet shared specifics.

Election Day – Tuesday is Election Day!  While this year is an off-year, there are still a number of important state and local races including for Virginia Governor, New Jersey Governor, and New York City Mayor among others.

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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). […]