Weekly Washington Outlook — June 22, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

 Congress:

House:

On Monday, the House is not in session.

On Tuesday, the House will meet at meet at 12:00 p.m. for morning hour and 2:00 p.m. for legislative business. Votes will be postponed until 6:30 p.m and the House will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

1) H.R. 805 – Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

2) H.R. 2576 – TSCA Modernization Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Shimkus / Energy and Commerce Committee)

3) H.R. 893 – Boys Town Centennial Commemorative Coin Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Fortenberry / Financial Services Committee)

4) H.R. 1698 – Bullion and Collectible Coin Production Efficiency and Cost Savings Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Huizenga / Financial Services Committee)

5) H.R. 2620 – To amend the United States Cotton Futures Act to exclude certain cotton futures contracts from coverage under such Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. David Scott / Agriculture Committee)

6) H.R. 1633 – DHS Paid Administrative Leave Accountability Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Barry Loudermilk / Homeland Security Committee)

7) H.R. 1615 – DHS FOIA Efficiency Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Buddy Carter / Homeland Security Committee)

8) H.R. 1640 – Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Consolidation Accountability Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker / Homeland Security Committee)

9) H.R. 1626 – DHS IT Duplication Reduction Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Will Hurd / Homeland Security Committee)

10) H.R. 2390 – Homeland Security University-based Centers Review Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Homeland Security Committee)

11) H.R. 1637 – Federally Funded Research and Development Sunshine Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. John Ratcliffe / Homeland Security Committee)

12) H.R. 2200 – CBRN Intelligence and Information Sharing Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally / Homeland Security Committee)

13) H.R. 1646 – Homeland Security Drone Assessment and Analysis Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman / Homeland Security Committee)

14) Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 615 – Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications (Sponsored by Rep. Donald Payne / Homeland Security Committee)

Also Tuesday, complete consideration of H.R. 1190 – Protecting Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015 (Subject to a Closed Rule, No Further Debate) (Sponsored by Rep. Phil Roe / Ways and Means Committee / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Wednesday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business and will consider H.R. 2042 – Ratepayer Protection Act of 2015, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Whitfield / Energy and Commerce Committee).

On Thursday, the House will meet at 10:00 a.m. for morning hour and 12:00 p.m. for legislative business.

On Friday, the House will meet at 9:00 a.m. for legislative business. Last votes expected no later than 3:00 p.m. with consideration of H.R. 2822 – Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2016 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Ken Calvert / Appropriations Committee). There might also be consideration of legislation related to trade.

Senate:

Today, the Senate will vote on two nominations. Tomorrow and the remainder of the week, the Senate will focus on trade, with a vote on a procedural motion to limit debate on “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. Senate passage would clear the bill for the president’s signature. There will also be a cloture vote later this week on the legislative vehicle for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). If passed by the Senate, that bill would go back to the House, where its passage is anything but assured.

White House:

On Monday, the president will host an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House.

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

On Wednesday, the president will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.

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

Supreme Court

By the end of June, the Supreme Court is set to hand down numerous decisions, including on three significant cases. As noted above, King v. Burwell will decide the availability of tax subsidies for those who enrolled in health insurance through the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with a decision against the government potentially leading to the disruption of health care coverage for millions of people. A decision on Obergefell v. Hodges will determine if the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriages and if states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states that allow it. In Texas Department of Housing and Community Affiars v. The Inclusive Communities Project the Court will decide on whether disparate-impact claims are viable under the Fair Housing Act.

Also This Week:

Appropriations – The Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will continue mark-up of their versions of spending bills for FY2016. Up on Tuesday are Transportation-HUD and Labor-HHS-Education. Senate Democrats have vowed to vote against procedural motions on the floor for any appropriations bill that upholds sequestration spending levels. The House Appropriations Committee plans a mark-up Wednesday on their Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. The measure would slash programs by $3.7 billion, with education taking the biggest hit.

Education – The Student Success Act (H.R. 5) remains off this week’s House schedule despite its inclusion in Majority Leader McCarthy’s memo for this work period. Instead, attention remains on the Senate where members are preparing ESEA reauthorization for introduction after the July 4 recess, at the earliest. The business and civil rights community is continuing to work toward bipartisan support of an amendment to strengthen the accountability system in the bill.

Health – The House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday on health insurance premiums under the ACA. In anticipation of a King v. Burwell decision, House and Senate Republicans are preparing a response. Senator Johnson (R-Wis.) has crafted the most likely legislative proposal, which would reportedly block new enrollments in the federal health care exchange, but would extend tax credits for two years for those already enrolled. Repeal of the ACA would increase the budget deficit by an estimated $353 billion according to a recent Congressional Budget Office assessment.

The House Education and the Workforce Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education Subcommittee is holding a hearing on Wednesday titled “Child Nutrition Assistance: Looking at the Cost of Compliance for States and Schools” and the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee and House Agriculture Committee Nutrition Subcommittee are holding a joint hearing on the “Past, Present, and Future of SNAP: How Our Welfare System Can Discourage Work.”

Labor – The Department of Labor is expected to announce a long-awaited overtime rule that could double the salary level of workers able to claim time-and-a-half payments. Republicans are expected to fight the rule, with a House Education and Workforce hearing earlier this month indicating staunch opposition to any regulatory proposal seen as an overreach.

Consumer Protections – This Thursday the House Financial Services Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee is holding a hearing on “Examining Continuing Allegations of Discrimination and Retaliation at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” with testimony from two whistleblowers after reports that worker complaints against the agency have increased.

Civil Rights – The House Judiciary Committee is holding a listening session on criminal justice reform this Thursday and the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice will hold a Friday hearing titled “The State of Property Rights in America Ten Years After Kelo v. City of New London.”

Congress Strives to Undermine the Consumer Protections It Once Forged

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist

The financial crisis united members of Congress to fight for families who lost their homes and watched their retirement savings vanish. Capitol Hill took up the cause and crossed the aisle with a bipartisan law to stall this runaway train. Today, leaders are targeting the very protections they created under the presumption that families are clear of financial danger.

This week, the House of Representatives made one of several attempts to erode consumer protections when it passed the “Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Advisory Boards Act” (H.R. 1195). While the bill itself was fairly innocuous, an amendment was added at the last minute to reduce funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Impairing the CFPB budget is harmful to consumers. It is the only agency wholly devoted to stopping predatory practices by bad market players. In response to the financial crisis, Congress deliberately designed the CFPB to be funded by nontaxpayer dollars, outside of appropriations and, therefore, political influence. The modest funds the CFPB receives and how it receives them are essential to its success when regulating billion-dollar financial institutions.

Since its creation in 2011, the CFPB has made vast improvements to the financial system for consumers. It has worked hard to ensure that Latino families are finally considered in financial policy decisions and that they have recourse when targeted by bad actors. In addition to putting crucial new rules in place to prevent abuses that were at the heart of the financial crisis, it takes on predatory practices that cost vulnerable consumers billions of dollars every year, such as payday lending. CFPB actions have also resulted in firms returning more than $5.3 billion to more than 15 million consumers harmed by bad players.

The consequences will be perilous for families if Congress continues to occupy its time with undoing consumer protections. It should instead build on the successes of the CFPB and take a more constructive tack to make sure families’ needs are met and their consumer rights are protected.

Credit Card Changes a Win for Latino Consumers

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy Communications Strategist, Wealth-Building Policy Project

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Despite only being in operation for two years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is already making a difference for Latino consumers, and we’re learning more about its benefits all the time.  In a new report, the CFPB announced that the implementation of the CARD Act of 2009 has largely been a success in reducing the costs of credit for ordinary Americans.

In the wake of the financial crisis, the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 was created to rein in deceptive and unfair practices in the credit card market.  After the law was passed by a bipartisan congressional vote, the CFPB assumed responsibility of implementing the law.

This law couldn’t have come soon enough for the at least 70 percent of American adults who have a credit card.  Prior to the CARD Act, 18-year-olds were bombarded with misleading offers for credit cards they couldn’t afford, credit limits were often increased automatically without consulting consumers, and late and “over-limit” fees were exorbitant and damaging.

Fortunately, the CFPB recently announced that many of these practices are now either in decline or eliminated entirely.  In addition, the agency reported that the overall cost of credit decreased by 2 percent between 2008 and 2012 in a promising sign for credit card holders. Continue reading