Weekly Washington Outlook – March 31, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

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The House:

The House convenes on Tuesday and will take up seven bills under suspension of the rules, including two Senate-passed bills that would provide aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its invasion of Crimea.  The remaining five measures would:

Later in the week, the House will consider the Save American Workers Act of 2014 (H.R. 2575) and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1874).  The first would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time employee under the law’s employer mandate from thirty hours a week to forty hours a week.  The second would require the Congressional Budget Office to produce a macroeconomic analysis for legislation passed out of committees.

The Senate:

The Senate comes back into session on Monday afternoon and will consider the House-passed Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302).  The so-called “doc fix” would extend the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians for twelve months and add a 0.5 percent increase.  Following passage, the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a five-month unemployment insurance extension.  A vote on passage is expected before the end of the week.  Several judicial nominations are also scheduled for confirmation this week.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday, President Obama will welcome the Boston Red Sox to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 World Series Championship.  On Wednesday, the he will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an event on his proposal to raise the national minimum wage.  Following this event, the president will travel to Chicago to attend Democratic National Committee events. On Thursday, the president and First Lady will host members of the United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.  On Friday, President Obama will host Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House.  During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss Tunisia’s democratic transition and a broad range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, including U.S. economic, political, and security assistance to support the Prime Minister’s reform agenda and Tunisia’s stability. 

Also this week and beyond:

ImmigrationLast week, House Democrats filed a discharge petition of H.R. 15 as a tool to force Speaker Boehner to bring immigration reform to a vote.  As of Friday, the petition had 171 signatories (all Democrats).

Budget/Appropriations – House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will unveil on Tuesday his FY2015 budget resolution. The Budget Committee will mark-up the bill on Wednesday and likely brought to the floor next week. The draft resolution is expected to adhere to the spending allocations set in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement.  On the Appropriations front, Administration officials will again be on the Hill testifying on the president’s FY2015 budget request. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan will all appear. On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder will speak before a Senate Subcommittee, and on Friday, he will be in the House.

Healthcare – Today is the deadline to begin enrolling in Affordable Care Act!  The House will vote later in the week on a bill to amend the ACA’s definition of full-time employee under the employer mandate from those working thirty hours per week to forty hours.

Housing Finance ReformThe Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a mark-up of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance overhaul bill for April 29.

EducationHouse Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Kline (R-Minn.) is visiting charter schools in his home state this week as part of an effort to draft legislation with Ranking Member Miller (D-Calif.) to reauthorize charter law.

Emergency Unemployment Compensation – This week, the Senate is expected to pass a five-month retroactive extension of unemployment benefits that expired at the end of December. The measure had previously stalled over disagreements about how to pay for the extension. A bipartisan group of Senators reached an agreement several weeks ago to offset the cost through “pension smoothing.” This maneuver would give companies more time to make payments to their pension funds, meaning their short-term taxable income would increase because they could claim fewer deductions. Other offsets include extending customs user fees through 2024 and allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat-rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. While Speaker Boehner has previously said that he would bring an unemployment insurance extension to the floor if it was offset, the timing remains unclear. Majority Leader Eric Cantor did not include this in his legislative agenda memo to members.

Minimum Wage – A procedural vote to advance a minimum wage hike is expected in the Senate next week (although it could potentially come at the end of this week).  President Obama and Labor Secretary Tom Perez are both expected to hold events highlighting this issue this week and next.

Tax ReformThe Senate Finance Committee this week will hold mark-up a so-called “tax extenders” bill.  The bill would retroactively extend the tax credits that expired at the end of 2013.

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