Weekly Washington Outlook – June 2, 2014

White House at Night

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The House:

The House is in recess this week, returning Monday, June 9.

The Senate:

The Senate returns from its recess Monday afternoon to consider a number of pending judicial and executive nominations, including Sylvia Matthews Burwell’s confirmation to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  While much of the week will be devoted to nominations, it is possible that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will take-up a bill making it easier to dismiss Veterans Affairs officials for misconduct.  It is also possible later in the week Senate Leadership will bring to the floor legislation that would permit recreational hunting and fishing in federal wilderness areas (S. 2363).

White House:

On Monday, the president will speak on a conference call in the afternoon on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Later in the evening, he will depart for Warsaw, Poland. On Tuesday morning, President Obama will arrive in Warsaw, where he and President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland will have an opportunity at the airport to meet with U.S. and Polish airmen who are supporting an aviation mission based at Lask Air Base. Following this event, the president will travel to Belweder Palace to take part in a bilateral meeting and joint press conference with President Komorowski. In the afternoon, the president will travel to the Chancellery of the Prime Minister to participate in a bilateral meeting and deliver statements to the press with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. Later, he will go to the Presidential Palace to co-host with President Komorowski a meeting with Central and Eastern European leaders. In the evening, the president will attend a Solidarity Dinner at the Royal Castle. On Wednesday, President Obama will hold a bilateral meeting with President-elect Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and then travel to the Royal Castle to take an official family photo with leaders attending the Freedom Day event, marking the 25th anniversary of Poland’s first partially free election. At the Royal Castle, Mr. Obama will deliver remarks commemorating Freedom Day. In the afternoon, he will fly to Brussels, Belgium. In the evening, the president will travel to the Royal Palace of Brussels to meet with King Philippe of Belgium. Afterward, he will attend the 2014 G-7 Summit, which will begin with a leaders working dinner on foreign policy issues. On Thursday, the president will participate in G-7 meetings on the global economy and energy and climate issues and a G-7 working lunch on development. G-7 leaders will also take a traditional “family photo.”  In the afternoon, President Obama will participate in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom. In the evening, the president will travel to Paris, where he will have dinner with President Hollande and remain overnight. On Friday, the president will travel to Normandy, France, to deliver remarks at Omaha Beach for the 70th French-American Commemoration D-Day Ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. In the afternoon, he will travel to Sword Beach to attend a leaders lunch hosted by President Hollande and then attend the Ouistreham International Ceremony.  In the evening, President Obama will depart France en route to Washington.

Also this week and beyond:

Veterans – Despite the resignation of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki on Friday, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on legislation that would allow the VA to immediately remove senior executives based on poor job performance. The measure under consideration would also allow veterans facing long waits for VA services to go instead to community health centers, military hospitals, or private doctors; authorize new health facilities in 18 states; permit emergency funding to hire staff; and a number of other veterans-related provisions. While Senate Leadership has indicated willingness to fast-track a veteran’s bill to the floor, it is not yet known whether this will be one put forward by Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) or whether a new draft will be written by Veterans Affairs Committee staff.

Campaign Finance – On Tuesday, in a highly unusual hearing, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will testify before the Judiciary Committee on a proposed constitutional amendment to limit the applicability of the First Amendment on campaign finance. Senator Reid has become a staunch advocate for reforming campaign finance to limit the influence of individual contributors, whereas Senator McConnell has spoken frequently about the need for unfettered political speech.

Juvenile Justice – The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a field hearing on Monday, June 9, in Rhode Island on the re-authorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.  The hearing will focus on preserving youth potential and protecting communities.  Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will preside.

Education – The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on the impact on student loan debt on borrowers and the economy. Ronit Chopra, the student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scheduled to testify.

Health – The Senate will vote this week to confirm Sylvia Matthews Burwell to head the Department of Health and Human Services.  A cloture vote is schedule Monday with thirty hours of debate slated prior to confirmation.

Energy – The Environmental Protection Agency will release on Monday new rules to call on power plants to curb their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.  The new rules are at the center of President Obama’s climate agenda, but are nonetheless expected to spark intense criticism from Republican members of Congress over the scope of EPA’s authority to act without legislation.

WIA – Two weeks ago, members of the House and Senate reached a bipartisan compromise to reauthorize federal workforce and jobs training programs in the Workforce Investment Act. The measure was expected to immediately head to the Senate floor under a unanimous consent agreement, but several Senators objected.  It is likely that when the Senate returns from its recess, that this bill will be on the June agenda.

Tax Reform – Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up a number of bills to make permanent several expired tax provisions related to charitable giving. This was the second such mark-up and Committee staff has indicated several more are planned throughout the summer. Unlike the Senate, the House is taking a more granular approach that examines lapsed provisions one-by-one, in part deciding whether any should be made permanent to change the baseline of a Chairman Camp’s tax reform bill.  In the Senate, Leadership has indicated it is still trying to work out an agreement to revive its extenders bill that stalled over Republican objections about amendment process.

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