Weekly Washington Outlook – June 30, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

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The House:

The House is in recess, returning Tuesday, July 8.

The Senate:

The Senate is in recess, returning Monday, July 7.

White House:

On Monday, the president will welcome back to the White House, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The two leaders will discuss ways to advance peace and global security, social inclusion, and free trade. Other agenda items include UN Security Council matters, other multilateral and regional issues, and ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as expanding educational exchanges and deepening collaborations in the areas of energy, science, and technology. The vice president will also participate. In the afternoon, President Obama will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month; the first lady will also attend.  On Tuesday, the President will hold a Cabinet meeting; Vice President Biden will also attend. In the afternoon President Obama will deliver remarks on the economy at the Georgetown Waterfront Park in Washington. On Wednesday, the president will host top economists for lunch to discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, expand opportunity, and improve the competitiveness of the American economy. The vice president will also attend. On Thursday, President Obama will attend unspecified meetings at the White House. On Friday, the president and the first lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbecue, concert and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn. Staff and their families from throughout the Administration will also attend this event for the concert and fireworks viewing.

Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court ends its session for the year with the announcement of a 5-4 decision to narrow the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. In the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court decided that closely-held private companies are exempted on religious grounds from a requirement that employer-provided health plans include a range of contraception options at no additional cost to the individual.  Additional details available.

Also this week and beyond:

Unaccompanied Children – The working group appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address the situation with unaccompanied children held its first meeting last week. By all accounts, this was productive and positive and members framed the issue as a humanitarian crisis. In the coming weeks, they are likely to make at least one trip to the Southern border in order to make appropriate recommendations on possible Congressional action. Elsewhere, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will visit Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and CBP facilities this week as part of the Administration’s ongoing response to influx of unaccompanied children. The White House this week also sent a letter to Congressional Leadership, providing additional details of the actions being taken. These include additional enforcement resources, an increase in immigration judges, and a request for emergency supplemental appropriations.

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Committee will continue its work on individual spending bills next week, but Senate Leadership is struggling to find a path forward for a stalled “minibus” that includes Agriculture-FDA, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD spending bills. The measure was pulled from the floor earlier in the month over yet another disagreement about the process for considering amendments. Elsewhere, after the Agriculture-FDA bill was pulled from the House floor earlier this month, it appears the process will begin again with the Energy-Water bill in early July. It is likely that Financial Services would follow, in an effort to return again to regular order. At the Committee level in the House, Chairman Rogers indicated that Labor-HHS-Education will be marked-up this month, but Congressional staff has said it is unlikely this would be brought to the floor.

Workforce Investment Act – Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly passed a re-authorization to the Workforce Investment Act.  The House is expected to take up the measure in the next work period.

Highway Trust Fund – Lawmakers are expected to devote the beginning of the July work period to finding a short-term “patch” for the Highway Trust Fund, expected to be insolvent by the end of the month. Without an injection of revenue immediately, an estimated 700,000 construction jobs are in jeopardy and 100,000 projects are potentially on-hold. To address the shortfall, the Senate Finance Committee began marking-up an $8 billion bill that would keep the fund afloat for six months to allow time to negotiate a more permanent solution. In the House, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has said that he prefers a fix through at least 2015. House and Senate negotiations are expected to take place this week, with the hope that a compromise could be on the floor of each chamber as soon as possible.     

Nominations – On Monday, the President will nominate former CEO of Procter & Gamble, Bob McDonald to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. Later in the month, the Senate is expected to vote to confirm both Julian Castro as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Shaun Donovan to head the Office of Management and Budget.

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