Weekly Washington Outlook – September 2, 2014

White House at Night

What to Watch This Week:


The House and Senate are in recess, returning the week of September 8th. Members are only expected to remain in Washington, DC through the week of the 15th, with both Chambers aiming to adjourn to campaign for the mid-terms on November 4th.

White House:

On Tuesday, the president will travel to the Republic of Estonia to affirm America’s commitment to our Baltic allies. Following the president’s arrival, President Obama will remain overnight in Tallinn, Estonia.

On Wednesday, the president will meet with employees and family members of the United States Embassy to Estonia. Following the meet and greet, he will visit the Kadriorg Palace to participate in the official arrival ceremony, where he will be greeted by President Ilves of Estonia. Later in the morning, President Obama will also participate in the guest book signing and official photo and hold a bilateral meeting while at the Palace. In the afternoon, he will visit the Bank of Estonia to participate in a joint press conference with President Ilves. Following the press conference, the president will visit the Stenbok House to meet with Prime Minister Roivas to discuss bilateral ties, strategic and regional cooperation, and our shared commitment to the trans-Atlantic partnership. Later in the afternoon, the president will visit the Kadriorg Art Museum to meet with the three Baltic presidents — President Ilves, President Berzins of Latvia, and President Grybauskaite of Lithuania — to discuss ongoing cooperation on regional security and policies that support economic growth and to discuss collective defense. In the evening, President Obama will deliver remarks at the Nordea Concert Hall to students, young professionals, and civil society and political leaders. Following his speech, president will deliver remarks to U.S. and Estonian troops at the Tallinn Airport Hangar. Later in the evening, the President will travel to Newport, Wales, where he will remain overnight.

On Thursday, President Obama will take an official family photo with leaders attending the NATO Summit at Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. The president will then join NATO leaders for the first session on Afghanistan and then proceed to a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. The president will attend a working dinner on security challenges at historic Cardiff castle and will remain overnight in Wales.

On Friday, the president will view a fly-over ceremony and then attend two more working sessions on the Future NATO and the Transatlantic Bond. In the afternoon, he will hold a press conference and then depart Wales en route Washington, DC.

Next Week and Beyond:

Appropriations – The top priority in the House and the Senate when they return next week will be to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open after current spending expires September 30. While there have been rumblings of attaching immigration-related policy riders that could lead to a government shutdown, House and Senate Leaders remain at least nominally committed to clearing a clean CR as quickly as possible. The fate of the president’s supplemental funding request to alleviate the situation along the Southwestern border could also be attached to the CR, but it is not yet known if lawmakers have the appetite to bring the stalled measure up again. It is likely this funding measure will only last through the end of the year, but the precise timing and spending level remain unknown for now.

Immigration – While there have been recent reports that an announcement on Administrative Relief could be delayed until after the November elections, split into two, or narrowed in scope in other ways, little concrete information is available presently and advocates are continuing to encourage the president to act “big and bold.”

Export-Import Bank – The authorization for the Export-Import Bank expires September 30, and a reauthorization is on the calendar at least in the Senate. The Senate plans to vote on a five-year extension (S. 2709) offered by Senator Manchin (D-W.Va.), but House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has vowed to let the bank’s authorization expire. Passing a short-term extension or including a reauthorization in a CR are also both options under consideration.

Campaign Finance – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) plans to schedule a vote on S.J. Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would set limits on campaign contributions. The amendment is a legislative response to the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases that removed such limits. This vote is largely symbolic as the House is unlikely to bring the measure up. If it were to pass both Houses of Congress, three-fourths of state legislatures would then need to ratify the resolution.

Defense Authorization – The Senate hopes to clear its annual defense authorization before adjourning in mid-September to allow time for a conference with a House-passed measure before the end of the year. It is not known if Senate Leadership will try to include a version of the Enlist Act, a measure that would allow Dreamers to join the military. Congressman Denham (R-Calif.) had previously tried to attach this to the House version earlier this summer.

Corporate Tax Inversions – Following Burger King’s announcement that it plans to buy Tim Hortons and invert (to Canada!), lawmakers are increasingly looking for a legislative solution to make this practice more punitive. An inversion occurs when a multinational corporation with significant U.S. operations shifts a portion of its profits which were previously taxed in the U.S. to a foreign jurisdiction to take advantage of a lower tax rate. To comply with existing U.S. tax rules, the shift usually requires the multinational to acquire or merge with an existing foreign company with actual assets or capital. Typically, the multinational will retain its management and control in the U.S. after the shift. Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) are also said to be working on legislation. It is possible that legislation could also come out of the House, but nothing has yet been announced.

Energy – The House plans to vote in September on a number of energy-relating messaging bills Recycling popular favorites, the package will include approving the Keystone XL pipeline, blocking various environmental regulations, and allowing drilling/extraction on federal lands.

Healthcare – As with its energy package, the House will vote on a healthcare messaging bill. H.R. 3522 would allow health insurers to sell the plans offered in 2013, before new standards in coverage took effect under ACA. The measure is sponsored by Congressman Bill Cassidy (R-La.), running for Senate in a tight contest against Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

Minimum Wage – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may bring back a bill to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. The measure previously failed on a procedural vote, but could be part of the Majority Leader’s election strategy to show that Republicans are out of touch with average voters.

Student Loans – Similar to the minimum wage vote, the Senate may vote again on Senator Warren’s student loan bill that also previously failed on a procedural vote. The bill would let students refinance their loans at lower rates by enacting the “Buffet Rule” on tax policy.

Contraception – The final contender for Senate floor consideration is a bill that would overturn the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision granting employers a religious exemption to exclude birth control from health coverage. As with the other two messaging bills, this also fell short on a procedural vote and could be part of a strategy to rally up the Democratic base headed into the elections.