Weekly Washington Outlook — March 9, 2015

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

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

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The House is in recess, returning the week of March 16.

Senate:

On Monday evening, the Senate will vote on a series of executive nominations.  Later in the week, the Majority Leader will bring up a bill related to human trafficking from Senator Cornyn (R-Texas).  It is possible the Senate could also confirm Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general this week.

White House:

On Monday, the president will deliver remarks at the National League of Cities annual Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC. In the afternoon, President Obama will host European Council President Donald Tusk at the White House. The President and President Tusk will discuss a range of issues, including the situation in Ukraine, Russia, economic growth, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), energy security, climate, and countering violent extremism and terrorism.

On Tuesday, the president will travel to Atlanta to deliver remarks at Georgia Tech. He will also attend a DNC event.

On Wednesday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, the president will travel to the Los Angeles area to attend a DNC event.

On Friday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House.

Also this Week:

Immigration – After last week’s procedural vote on Senator Collins’ bill to block and defund the President’s immigration actions, it is unlikely the Senate will take another vote on this in the next few weeks.

Human Trafficking – This week, the Senate will vote on a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Cornyn (R-Texas), Wyden (D-Ore.), Kirk (R-Ill.), and Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the “Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.”  The measure was approved unanimously in the Senate Judiciary Committee and is designed to empower law enforcement to crack down on traffickers and provide additional restitution for victims.  Senate staff members believe it is unlikely that this bill will be amended on the Senate floor to include language related to unaccompanied children or the President’s immigration executive actions.

Budget – Next week is budget week!  When the House returns, Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) is scheduled to release his budget resolution on Tuesday, March 17.  Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) has scheduled a two-day mark-up on his version of a budget beginning Wednesday, March 18. The bipartisan budget agreement for the last two fiscal years negotiated by Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Patti Murray (D-Wash.) will lapse at the end of this year.  The reconciliation process between the House and Senate budget, expected in the Spring, could include spending cuts long sought by Republicans. It is also likely anti-immigrant amendments related to tax, health, benefit, and other issues could come up in this process.

Debt Limit – The debt limit will once again technically be reached on Sunday, March 15.  Beginning on March 13, the Treasury is expected to use extraordinary measures to prevent default while Congressional Leadership determines how to raise or suspend the statutory limit.  Over the weekend, Majority Leader McConnell said he did not intend to risk a potential default over political brinksmanship.

Nominations – Majority Leader McConnell allegedly plans to bring Loretta Lynch’s nomination to be attorney general to the Senate floor as soon as this week.  He is seeking a time agreement to schedule debate and votes.  Last week, Senate Democrats sent a letter asking for swift confirmation and accusing Republicans of holding this up over the President’s executive actions on immigration.

Education – The Senate HELP Committee is continuing bipartisan negotiations to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (last reauthorized as No Child Left Behind).  After rumors an agreement had been reached last week on a core piece of the bill, the accountability system, it seems any announcement has been postponed until later this month or early April.  In the House, there is some speculation that the Student Success Act could be brought back to the floor next week.  This partisan reauthorization of the law had to be pulled from consideration at the end of February due to lack of support.

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