Weekly Washington Outlook – February 24, 2014

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

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The House:

The House returns after last week’s recess to focus on a series of measures aimed to curb the Administration’s regulatory power.  On Tuesday afternoon, the chamber will consider five bills under suspension of the rules from the Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform Committees.  On Wednesday and Thursday, the House will resume consideration of the Consumer Financial Protection and Soundness Improvement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3193) and will also address the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (H.R. 3370), the Taxpayer Transparency Act of 2014 (H.R. 3308), the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014 (H.R. 3865), and the All Economic Regulations Are Transparent Act of 2014 (H.R. 2804).  On Friday, the House will take up the Unfunded Mandates Information and Transparency Act of 2013 (H.R. 899).

The Senate:

The Senate returns Monday afternoon.  Following the prayer and pledge, Senator King will be recognized to deliver Washington’s Farewell Address.  Upon conclusion of the reading, the Senate will proceed to consideration of four judicial nominations and a vote on a motion to proceed to the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014 (S. 1982).  It is likely that votes on these items will extend through the week.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with the National Governors Association.  On Tuesday, he will hold an event on the economy at the White House. In the evening, Mr. Obama will attend an Organizing for Action event in Washington, DC. The following day, the president will travel to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for an event on the economy.  On Thursday, he will host an event on his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.  And, finally, on friday, the president will attend a DNC event in Washington, DC.

Also this week and beyond:

ImmigrationNot unsurprisingly, in last week’s memo to House members on the winter legislative agenda, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did not include action on immigration reform.  The House Judiciary Committee is moving forward this week, somewhat related, with a hearing on Wednesday morning “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws.”  The witnesses include four members of Congress and three law school professors.  It is expected that they will discuss implementation delays with the Affordable Care Act as evidence that President Obama cannot be trusted to fully implement immigration reform.  Also on Wednesday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is scheduled to appear before the House Homeland Security Committee.

CFBPThe House this week will 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.  Before leaving for an extended recess, House members took a procedural vote to advance the measure but did not vote on final passage.

501(c)4 Political Activity – The House this week will vote on Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014 (H.R. 3865).  The bill sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is a response to a notice of proposed rulemaking from the Treasury that would very narrowly define political activity for the purpose of a 501(c)4 social welfare organizations. It would prevent Treasury from acting for one year on issuing regulations on this matter.  Thousands of comments from charitable organizations on both sides of the political spectrum have been submitted to Treasury on this rulemaking.

Unlocking Mobile Phones – The House this week will vote on a bill, H.R. 1123, which would reinstate a rule to allow mobile phone users to circumvent software that restricts the network to which they can connect.  This bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee in July.

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 Sen. Reid remains committed to advancing an extension, the path forward is not clear and additional action is not expected until sometime in March.

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.

Economic OutlookFederal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear this week before the Senate Banking Committee to give her semiannual report to Congress.  She was scheduled to testify earlier this month but the hearing was delayed because of a snowstorm.

Tax Reform – Despite months of inaction, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is expected to release the architecture of a tax overhaul on Wednesday.  It is not clear if he will release a discussion draft or simply a blueprint.

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