Weekly Washington Outlook – May 12, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:


The House:

The House is not in session this week.

The Senate:

On Monday, the Senate will vote to confirm two nominations and then proceed to a motion to end debate on the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2014 (S. 2262). If cloture is invoked, the Senate will vote on passage early in the week and likely a stand-alone measure to authorize the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline by TransCanada Corp. Following disposition of S. 2262, the Senate will take a procedural vote to advance a Finance Committee-backed bill to extend retroactively over fifty expired tax credits.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host President Jose Mujica Cordano of Uruguay at the White House; the vice president will also attend. They will discuss strengthening bilateral economic ties and improving market access for each nation’s goods and services; expanding collaboration on science, technology, and health; increasing educational exchanges; and consulting on multilateral issues including peacekeeping. In the afternoon, the president and vice president will honor the 2014 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners at the White House. On Tuesday, President Obama will award Kyle J. White, a former active duty Army Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Sergeant White will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Platoon Radio Telephone Operator assigned to C Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations against an armed enemy in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on November 9, 2007. Sergeant White will be the seventh living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. On Wednesday, the president and the first lady will travel to New York metropolitan area. While in New York, President Obama will host an event on the economy and attend DNC and DSCC events. On Thursday, the president and the first lady will tour the National September 11th Memorial and Museum; Mr. Obama will also deliver remarks at the dedication ceremony. Following his remarks, the president and the first lady will return to Washington for unspecified meetings in the White House on Friday.

Also this week and beyond:

Immigration Reform – Last week, Congressmen Cardenas (D-Calif.), Polis (D-Colo.), and Garcia (D-Fla.) used a series of parliamentary maneuvers to offer the budgetary savings from H.R. 15, the House companion to the Senate immigration bill, to offset an unpaid for permanent extension of the Research & Development tax credit. This effort provided an opportunity for these members to speak on the House floor about the economic benefits of immigration reform and ask House Republicans why they will not bring a bill for a vote on the floor. Elsewhere, Congressman Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) reminded his colleagues last week that the deadline for Congress to act is August.

Healthcare – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Wednesday on Sylvia Mathews Burwell’s nomination to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. While she will likely face difficult questions about the Affordable Care Act, she is widely expected to be confirmed.

Veterans’ Healthcare – Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki is scheduled to appear before the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on Thursday to address allegations of delays in service in VA hospitals. The House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, for its part, has subpoenaed documents from the agency relating to these claims and a number of members, including House Speaker John Boehner, have called for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation.

Housing Finance Reform – On Tuesday, Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt will give a speech at the Brookings Institution outlining the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under conservatorship. The remarks come at a particularly sensitive time as draft legislation to unwind the GSEs appears stalled in the Senate.  After postponing a mark-up of Johnson-Crapo to attempt to get support from six Democrats on the Committee, the Senate Banking Committee will reconvene on Thursday to finish. The expectation is that the six Democrats will not endorse the measure after negotiations fell apart late last week.  Without their support, the bill’s chances on the Senate floor are meager.

Transportation – The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark-up a six-year surface transportation reauthorization on Thursday. The mark-up will follow a call by the president on Wednesday at an event in New York to invest in infrastructure and quickly pass a so-called “highway bill” before the Highway Trust Fund runs dry. The last reauthorization expires at the end of September.

Education – The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will mark-up on Wednesday Chairman Harkin’s (D-Iowa) Strong Start for America’s Children Act.  The bill would expand early education programs for children under five.

Tax Reform – The Senate this week will consider “extender” legislation that would retroactively extend the majority of the fifty-five tax credits that expired at the end of 2013.  The extension currently has no off-set and attempts to use revenue from limiting Child Tax Credit eligibility for ITIN-filers are widely anticipated to be put forward. The Senate approach to extenders is in sharp contrast with the House; Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has indicated that he will renew each expired credit on an individual basis and plans to make several permanent as a means to change the baseline of his draft bill.

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