Weekly Washington Outlook – February 18, 2014

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What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House is in recess this week.

The Senate:

The Senate is in recess this week.

White House:

On Tuesday, the president will deliver remarks on the economy at a Safeway distribution center in Upper Marlboro, Md. and will also meet with African American civil rights groups in the afternoon.  On Wednesday, the President will travel to Toluca, Mexico, to participate in the North American Leaders Summit.  At the Summit, President Obama will discuss a wide range of issues including economic competitiveness and citizen security with Mexican President Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Harper.  On Thursday, the president will return from Toluca, Mexico and attend the Democratic Governors Association dinner.  On Friday, the Mr. Obama will meet with the Democratic governors in town for the annual National Governors Association Winter Meeting to discuss his Opportunity for All agenda and the Year of Action. 

Also this week and beyond:

CFBPWhen the House returns next week, it may resume consideration of legislation that would change the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to an independent commission led by a five-member board. The newly named Financial Product Safety Commission would be removed from the Federal Reserve System and subject to annual appropriations under a modified version of H.R. 3193. The bill wraps in five measures the Financial Services Committee approved on Nov. 21 that also would make changes to the agency’s rulemaking and data-collection processes.  Last week, House members took a procedural vote to advance the measure but did not vote on final passage.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation –On December 28, 1.3 million people immediately stopped receiving emergency unemployment compensation when the program’s authorization expired.  Several procedural votes to move forward with a three-month extension have failed.  While Senator Reid remains committed to advancing an extension, the path forward is not clear.

Minimum Wage – A procedural vote to advance a minimum wage hike is expected in the Senate in early March.  In the House, House Democrats are considering using a discharge petition to force a vote, but the details and timing of this remain unclear.

Education – The White House Initiative on Excellence for African Americans is hosting a discussion Wednesday on equitable school disciplinary policies.  The event follows guidance released by the Education and Justice Departments in January on the subject, which showed that discipline policies in some instances, violate civil rights laws.

Tax Reform – A number of news sources have reported that Republican Leadership in the House is setting aside tax reform this year, given the divided nature of the Republican conference.  Instead, Leadership intends to focus on items that have broad support within their ranks rather than forcing fractious votes.  In the Senate, given the Leadership change on the Finance Committee, a complete tax overhaul also appears to be on hold.  Senator Wyden has however expressed an interest in retroactively extending the 55 expired tax extenders, particularly those related to energy.  Elsewhere, comments on the IRS proposed rulemaking to regulate 501(c)4 political activity are due next week and both chambers of Congress seem poised to use legislation to water down any final rule.  As it stands, over 23,000 comments have been submitted so far.

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