What to Watch This Week:
The House has not yet released its weekly schedule. On Tuesday, members will be sworn-in and formerly elect a Speaker; despite several Republican members challenging Speaker Boehner, he is widely expected to be chosen. The House will also vote on its rules for this Congress, which reportedly includes dynamic scoring of major legislation. Later in the week, the House may vote on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline and amend the Affordable Care Act.
On Tuesday, newly-elected Senators will be sworn-in to office and a vote is scheduled to elect Senator Orrin Hatch to be the president pro tempore. At this time, there is no legislative business scheduled for the floor for this week. The Senate is expected to vote as soon as next week on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.
The White House has not released a public schedule for this week. However, on Tuesday, the president will host President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the White House. The two leaders are expected to discuss economic, security, and social issues. On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Detroit to talk about auto manufacturing. On Thursday, the president will speak about homeownership in Phoenix. On Friday, President Obama and the vice president will discuss college access and affordability at an event in Tennessee.
Also this Week:
Appropriations – As part of the agreement to fund the government at the end of last year, the Department of Homeland Security only received appropriations until February 28 of this year. It is possible a Homeland Security spending bill could be on the floor next week after Republicans meet this week to discuss their strategy for continued opposition to the president’s executive actions on immigration. There has been some speculation that a border security measure could be attached, but this is not yet clear.
Health – The House could vote as soon as this week on legislation that would change the definition of full-time employment under the ACA from thirty to forty hours a week. Members may also vote on a bill that would allow employers to exclude employees with healthcare coverage through the Defense Department or Veterans Affairs Department from the employer mandate.
Budget – The House will vote this week on a package of rules for this Congress that includes a provision requiring dynamic scoring for major pieces of legislation. Dynamic scoring takes into account the macroeconomic impact of a given bill. This policy change is motivated in part by a long-standing Republican wish to show that tax cuts are beneficial to the economy as a whole and this picture is not fully captured under current scoring assumptions. Elsewhere, new House and Senate Budget Chairs Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) are considering replacing Congressional Budget Office Direct Doug Elmendorf. His term has expired, but no decision has yet been made.
Education – While not yet officially scheduled, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, has said he plans to hold a hearing in early January on testing as a lead-up to re-authorization the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.