Weekly Washington Outlook — September 14, 2015

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What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

The House will not meet until Wednesday in observance of Rosh Hashanah.  At this time, it will consider legislation under suspension of the rules:

  1. H.R. 2961 – To establish a research, development, and technology demonstration program to improve the efficiency of gas turbines used in combined cycle and simple cycle power generation systems (Sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  2. Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 23 – National Windstorm Impact Reduction Act Reauthorization of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Neugebauer / Science, Space, and Technology Committee)
  3. Concur in the Senate Amendment to H.R. 720 – Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. John Katko / Homeland Security Committee)
  4. H.R. 487 – To allow the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma to lease or transfer certain lands (Sponsored by Rep. Markwayne Mullin / Natural Resources Committee)
  5.  H.R. 959 – Medgar Evers House Study Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Bennie Thompson / Natural Resources Committee)
  6.  H.R. 1214 – National Forest Small Tracts Amendments Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Mark Amodei / Natural Resources Committee)
  7. H.R. 1289 – John Muir National Historic Site Expansion Act (Sponsored by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier / Natural Resources Committee)
  8. H.R. 1554 –  –  – Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Tipton / Natural Resources Committee)
  9. H.R. 1949 – National Liberty Memorial Clarification Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield / Natural Resources Committee)
  10. H.R. 2223 – Crags, Colorado Land exchange Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Doug Lamborn / Natural Resources Committee)
  11. H.R. 2791 – Western Oregon Tribal Fairness Act (Sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio / Natural Resources Committee)
  12. S. 230 – To provide for the conveyance of certain property to the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation located in Bethel, Alaska (Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski / Natural Resources Committee)
  13. S. 501 – New Mexico Navajo Water Settlement Technical Corrections Act (Sponsored by Sen. Tom Udall / Natural Resources Committee)

On Thursday and Friday, the House plans to vote on the following:

  1. H.R. 758 – Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith / Judiciary Committee)
  2. H.R. 3134 – Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Diane Black / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  3. H.R. __ – Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks / Judiciary Committee)

Senate:

The Senate will meet on Tuesday evening.  A procedural vote has been scheduled on the legislative vehicle for a resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear agreement.  Congress has until September 17th to object to the agreement.

White House:

On Monday, the president will travel to Des Moines, Iowa to join Secretary Duncan’s sixth annual Back-to-School bus tour. President  Obama and Secretary Duncan will host a town hall with high school juniors, seniors and their parents to discuss college access and affordability.

On Tuesday, the president will welcome the 2015 NCAA Women’s Basketball Champion University of Connecticut Huskies to the White House to honor the team on winning their Championship title. In the afternoon, President Obama will host Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain at the White House. Their visit reinforces the strong and enduring ties between the American and Spanish people. The first lady will also host Queen Letizia for tea and a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden.

On Wednesday, President Obama will travel to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and visit with wounded service members who are being treated at the hospital.

On Thursday, the president will attend a DSCC event in the Washington, DC area.

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

On Saturday, the president will deliver remarks at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner in Washington, DC; the First Lady will also attend.

Also This Week:

Immigration – The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a mark-up of S. 1814, the “Stop Sanctuary Cities Act,” sponsored by Senators Vitter (R-LA) and Flake (R-AZ) on Thursday.  The legislation would block certain federal funding streams to so-called “sanctuary cities.”  This mark-up has been postponed several times due to concerns with limiting funding for law enforcement, and a substitute amendment that would impose a mandatory five year sentence for illegal re-entry.  Elsewhere, September 17th is Citizenship Day!  To celebrate, members of Congress are expected to make floor statements encouraging eligible lawful permanent residents to naturalize.  The Administration is also expected to launch a national campaign aimed at promoting citizenship.

Appropriations – Congress has until September 30th to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government, and just eight legislative days.  It is expected this funding vehicle will be short-term, likely through December – potentially tying the next appropriations fight to the debt ceiling.  The House originally planned to vote as soon as this week on a spending bill, but Leadership is still seeking a path forward to defund Planned Parenthood without jeopardizing passage of a clean CR.  For this reason, there is a tentative plan to vote on abortion-related legislation this week, and potentially include this in ACA-related reconciliation legislation later this fall.  In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that a CR with language defunding Planned Parenthood cannot pass.  Further complicating the spending dynamics, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi remains strongly opposed to any funding bill that maintains sequestration-level spending.

Nutrition – The Senate Agriculture Committee has scheduled a mark-up Thursday on legislation to reauthorize child nutrition programs.  The previous authorization, which led to robust school nutrition guidelines, expires September 30th.

Financial Services – The House Financial Services Committee’s Small Business Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access Subcommittee will convene a hearing on Thursday on the Dodd-Frank Act’s impact on small lenders.

Tax – The Senate Finance Committee will mark-up legislation on Wednesday that would give the IRS the authority to regulate paid tax preparers.  The bill would also strengthen identify theft provisions and other anti-fraud measures.  Additional information is available here.

Education – While conferees have not yet been formally appointed to the ESEA conference committee, staff-level work continues to reconcile the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act with the House’s Student Success Act.  There are significant differences between the two bills; notably, neither has strong accountability language ensuring intervention if students are not meeting academic goals.

The Country Can’t Afford a Rollback of Dodd-Frank

By Nancy Wilberg Ricks, Senior Policy and Communications Strategist, NCLR

Last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Richard Shelby introduced a 218-page bill, the “Financial Regulatory Improvement Act of 2015,” which would substantially roll back gains made in the Dodd-Frank Act. This is deeply concerning and should give all Americans pause.

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law to right the economy and prevent another financial crisis. It involved some of the most expansive bipartisan legislation since the New Deal in the 1930s.

The nation has already benefited from Dodd-Frank’s improvements to the market. Families are no longer completely exposed to the risk of unnecessarily losing their homes. Credit card terms are better and clearer. Many fringe financial products have been brought to light and restrained. Consumers are more empowered and aware of their rights. This was the intended result and consumers are grateful.

Today the Senate Banking Committee held a markup on rollbacks that would swing the pendulum backward—to the state of deregulation that led to the financial crisis. This is unacceptable.

The financial industry is experiencing growing pains from Dodd-Frank. Some in Congress see this as a bad thing. Consumers and honest lenders think otherwise. The methods banks and nonbanks alike used to make a profit were hazardous to the market and acutely harmful for families, so many of whom saw a generation of wealth vaporize.

In today’s markup, we saw committee members vote along party lines, some in support of vastly loosened standards for banks and nonbanks. Other senators voted for families to maintain a foothold in the financial industry and keep consumer protections.

Let’s Not Repeat This Part of History

While most Americans have grown tired of hearing about the crisis and recovery, we are at risk of repeating history. Latino families are just now beginning to recover. Hispanics lost 66 percent of their household wealth between 2005 and 2009. These trends were exacerbated by geographic location, as a disproportionate share of Latinos live in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona, the states that experienced the steepest declines in housing values during the crisis.

In the aftermath, there was a palpable sense that the financial system was fundamentally unsound and action was needed to prevent a future crisis of the same magnitude. That is where Dodd-Frank came in to make repairs.

Responsible regulations and oversight are essential to protecting Latino consumers and ensuring that honest lenders strengthen today’s economy. Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, representing 16.4 percent of the U.S. population. Of the 17 million new homes that will be created between 2010 and 2025, seven million will be purchased by Hispanics.

The strong protections that were enacted by the Dodd-Frank Act are critical to ensuring that families can afford their loans and are not targeted by predatory players. Beyond maintaining commonsense regulations, Congress should have viewed this legislative season as a time to finally build the legacy of financial empowerment for families throughout the nation. Instead, they strive to return the markets to risky, unstable times.

Senate Gridlock Ends with a Consumer Win

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

Richard_CordrayYesterday, we saw a welcome victory for consumer protections.  In a final vote of 66 to 34, the Senate confirmed Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is a monumental win for Latino families and a move to avert a nuclear crisis.  That is, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) did not need to deploy his “nuclear option” to rewrite senate procedure and make a unilateral move to change filibuster rules.  While some senators voted to preserve the CFPB’s leadership and some had other motives to preserve the filibuster, installing Cordray in a long-term leadership role is an immense step toward consumer rights and bringing true accountability to the financial industry.

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