Weekly Washington Outlook — February 23, 2015

Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons
Photo: Harris Walker, Creative Commons

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

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On Monday, the House will meet in pro forma session. No votes are expected.

On Tuesday, the House will consider three bills under suspension of the rules:

  • H.R. 212 – Drinking Water Protection Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 734 – Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise/Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • H.R. 1020 – STEM Education Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith/Science, Space, and Technology Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider the following:

  • S. 227 – Strengthening Education through Research Act (Suspension of the Rules) (Sponsored by Sen. Lamar Alexander/Education and the Workforce Committee)
  • H.R. 529 To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to improve 529 plans (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins/Ways and Means Committee)
  • H.R. 5 – Student Success Act, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. John Kline/Education and the Workforce Committee)

It is possible that members may also vote on legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate:

On Monday, Senator Hoeven (R-N.D.) will deliver Washington’s Farewell Address (a Senate tradition). Later in the day, Senators will vote for the fourth time on a procedural motion to bring up H.R. 240, the House-passed Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with the National Governors Association. In the afternoon, he will participate in an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office. At this event, President Obama will receive the credentials from foreign Ambassadors recently posted in Washington. The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.

On Tuesday, the president will host the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, at the White House to discuss political, economic, and security issues of mutual concern.

On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Miami to participate in an immigration town hall hosted by Telemundo and MSNBC.

On Thursday, the president will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, president and the first lady will host a reception celebrating Black History Month in the East Room.

On Friday, President Obama will welcome President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to the White House to discuss a wide range of topics including the ongoing Ebola response, the region’s economic recovery plans, and other issues of mutual interest.

Also this Week:

Appropriations – The Senate plans to try again to advance a House-backed bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security until September 30. The measure includes five amendments approved by the House that would block implementation, defund, and otherwise undermine the President’s immigration actions from late last year. Democrats and Senator Heller (R-Nev.) have held their position on the need to pass a “clean” spending bill and have blocked this same vote three times already. Several other Republican Senators have also suggested passing a clean bill including Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senator Kirk (R-Ill.). The precise path forward remains somewhat unclear, given that Speaker Boehner has so far insisted that the House has acted and it is now up to the Senate. In light of last week’s ruling in Texas, it is possible there could be a compromise short-term continuing resolution. The current DHS spending bill expires February 27. If Congress fails to act, the agency has indicated up to 30,000 employees will be furloughed.

Immigration – As the Senate considers funding DHS, the House has planned two hearings related to Administrative Relief. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet Wednesday to examine enforcement priorities, including apprehension and detention. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday will hear from a panel of law professors on the constitutionality of the president’s actions on immigration.

Education – This week, the House has scheduled a vote on the Student Success Act, a bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind). In its current form, it would weaken accountability systems and performance standards put in place in the last rewrite. It is possible that members may also vote on an amendment that would eliminate annual assessments in favor of assessments once in elementary school, middle school, and then high school that has bipartisan support but is opposed by civil rights and business groups. The House will also vote on legislation related to STEM education and education research. In the Senate, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are still working on a compromise to reauthorize ESEA. While these talks are ongoing, the Committee has planned a hearing on higher education on Tuesday.

Budget – Members of the Cabinet will continue to appear on Capitol Hill this week to defend the President’s budget request. House Appropriations subcommittees on Wednesday will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro.

Tax – The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday with a number of public policy professors speaking to the economic benefit of tax reform. In the House, the Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee on Wednesday will hear from the Department of Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration Russell George and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. On the House floor, members will vote as soon as Wednesday on a bill from Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) to expand tax-advantaged college savings plans under section 529 of the tax code.

Nominations – The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a vote on Thursday on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be the Attorney General.

Banking – Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will appear on Tuesday before the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. She is expected to receive questions about the Fed’s transparency and accountability.

Labor – The White House is expected to back a Department of Labor proposal this week that would establish a fiduciary standard for advisers and brokers giving advice about retirement savings. Labor Secretary Tom Perez has said that the rule will be open for stakeholder comment in the coming months.