Weekly Washington Outlook – April 7, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House will meet Monday afternoon to consider the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2014 (H.R. 1872).  This bill would change the way the Congressional Budget Office scores legislation.  The House will also take up three bills under suspension of the rules:

On Tuesday and the balance of the week, the House will vote on the Baseline Reform Act of 2013 (H.R. 1871) and H. Con. Res. 96, Congressman Ryan’s FY2015 budget.  The former would require the Congressional Budget Office to use “fair value” as the basis for its cost estimates for programs that make direct loans or provide loan guarantees.  The measure also would require the income and expenses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to be treated as “on budget,” meaning that budget authority and outlays would be counted when determining the government’s spending and deficits.

The Senate:

The Senate will vote on passage Monday evening for a bill that would extend lapsed unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed.  Later in the week, the Senate will take-up S. 2199, a bill sponsored by Sen. Mikulski (D-Md.) that would impose tougher standards on employers defending themselves against accusations of wage discrimination based on gender.  The bill would require employers to pay punitive damages and would also establish a grant program to train women in negotiating skills.  Several judicial nominations are likely to be considered throughout the week as well.

White House:

On Monday, the president will travel to Prince George’s County, Md. to host an event announcing the winners of a competition he launched last fall to bring together educators and employers to redesign the high school experience to give students access to real-world career skills and college-level courses.  On Tuesday, President Obama will host an event at the White House, joined by Lilly Ledbetter, to announce two new executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women.  On Wednesday, the president and the First Lady will travel to Houston to attend Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee events.  The president is also expected to visit Ft. Hood, Texas.  On Thursday, President Obama and the First Lady will travel to the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas.  The president will deliver remarks at a Civil Rights Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act.  On Friday, Mr. Obama will travel to New York to deliver remarks at the National Action Network’s 16th Annual Convention.

Also this week and beyond:

Emergency Unemployment Compensation – This week, the Senate is expected to pass a five-month retroactive extension (through May) of unemployment benefits that expired at the end of December.  The measure had previously stalled over disagreements about how to pay for the extension.  A bipartisan group of Senators reached an agreement several weeks ago to offset the cost through “pension smoothing.”  This maneuver would give companies more time to make payments to their pension funds, meaning their short-term taxable income would increase because they could claim fewer deductions. Other offsets include extending customs user fees through 2024 and allowing single-employer pension plans to prepay their flat-rate premiums to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.  While Speaker Boehner has previously said that he would bring an unemployment insurance extension to the floor if it was offset, he recently expressed concerns with the feasibility of a retroactive extension.  Majority Leader Eric Cantor did not include this in his legislative agenda memo to members.

Paycheck FairnessTo commemorate Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, the Senate and the Administration will focus on pay equity issues.  Following passage of the unemployment extension, the Senate will turn to the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The bill would direct the Department of Labor to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities, largely through allowing employees to discuss compensation openly.  It would also set up a grant program to provide negotiating training to women.  In tandem with Senate consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the president will sign an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation.  The Executive Order does not compel workers to discuss pay nor require employers to publish or otherwise disseminate pay data – but does provide a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and able to seek appropriate remedies.  The president will also sign a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race.  The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage voluntary compliance with equal pay laws and allowing more targeted enforcement by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies, reducing burdens on other employers.

ImmigrationThe discharge petition of H.R. 15 is up to 191 signatories (all Democrats).  Elsewhere, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week outlined administrative actions the Obama Administration should take to suspend, delay, or dispense with the deportations of immigrants who would qualify for legal status under the Senate-passed immigration overhaul bill.

Budget/Appropriations – The House this week will vote on Congressman Ryan’s FY2015 budget, released and marked-up last week. While the budget adheres to the spending limits established in the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, the substance of this budget is nearly identical to years past and will not be taken up the Senate. Much like the president’s budget request, this bill is primarily a messaging document to establish priorities and principles. In addition to the Ryan Budget, the House will consider two bills that would change the way the Congressional Budget Office makes budgetary projections.  Elsewhere, administration officials are continuing this week to appear before House and Senate committees of jurisdiction.  Before House Appropriations Subcommittees, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will appear Tuesday; OMB Director Sylvia Matthews Burwell and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Wednesday; and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on Thursday.  Senate Appropriations Subcommittees will also hear from Secretary Pritzker this week, along with Labor Secretary Tom Perez, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

HealthHealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will appear Thursday before the Senate Finance Committee to speak to the President’s FY2015 budget request.  In the House, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the ACA’s employer mandate and reporting requirements.

Housing Finance ReformThe Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a mark-up of the Johnson-Crapo housing finance overhaul bill for April 29.

EducationHouse Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Kline (R-Minn.) will hold a hearing Tuesday morning on the recently introduced Success and Opportunity through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 10).  The bipartisan bill from the Chairman and Ranking Member of the committee would reauthorize charter programs.  From the Administration, President Obama on Monday will hold an event in Maryland to announce the winners of a competition to reshape high schools to better prepare students for college and career as part of the Youth CareerConnect program.  Vice President Biden will also speak on Monday on similar issues announcing the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium.  The Consortium is designed to help students earn credit for apprenticeships that will transfer to community colleges.

Minimum Wage – A procedural vote to advance a minimum wage hike has been postponed again and is now expected in the Senate closer to the end of April or early May.

Tax ReformLast week, the Senate Finance Committee marked-up an “extenders” bill to revive nearly all of the tax credits that expired at the end of last year retroactively.  The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing this week to examine making permanent certain business tax credits.  This is the first of several hearings planned in the House on extenders.  Elsewhere, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday will hold a hearing on unenrolled tax preparers, those who lack professional certification, and is expected to show the need for greater oversight.

Weekly Washington Outlook – March 31, 2014

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

The House convenes on Tuesday and will take up seven bills under suspension of the rules, including two Senate-passed bills that would provide aid to Ukraine and sanction Russia for its invasion of Crimea.  The remaining five measures would:

Later in the week, the House will consider the Save American Workers Act of 2014 (H.R. 2575) and the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2013 (H.R. 1874).  The first would change the Affordable Care Act’s definition of a full-time employee under the law’s employer mandate from thirty hours a week to forty hours a week.  The second would require the Congressional Budget Office to produce a macroeconomic analysis for legislation passed out of committees.

The Senate:

The Senate comes back into session on Monday afternoon and will consider the House-passed Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (H.R. 4302).  The so-called “doc fix” would extend the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians for twelve months and add a 0.5 percent increase.  Following passage, the Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on a five-month unemployment insurance extension.  A vote on passage is expected before the end of the week.  Several judicial nominations are also scheduled for confirmation this week.

White House:

On Monday, the president will attend unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday, President Obama will welcome the Boston Red Sox to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 World Series Championship.  On Wednesday, the he will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan for an event on his proposal to raise the national minimum wage.  Following this event, the president will travel to Chicago to attend Democratic National Committee events. On Thursday, the president and First Lady will host members of the United States teams and delegations from the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games at the White House.  On Friday, President Obama will host Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa of Tunisia at the White House.  During the meeting, the two leaders will discuss Tunisia’s democratic transition and a broad range of bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, including U.S. economic, political, and security assistance to support the Prime Minister’s reform agenda and Tunisia’s stability.  Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – February 3, 2014

Congress Instagram

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

On Monday, the House will take up two measures under suspension of the rules, the Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act (H.R. 1791) and the GI Tuition Fairness Act of 2013 (H.R. 357).  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the House will consider the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2013 (H.R. 3590) and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Emergency Water Delivery Act (H.R. 3964).  Finally, on Thursday, the House will vote on the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act (H.R. 2954).  No votes are expected Friday.

The Senate:

The Senate on Monday evening will vote to invoke cloture on the Farm Bill conference report.  A vote on final passage is expected on Tuesday.  Following passage, it is possible that the Senate will return to its consideration of unemployment insurance.

White House:

On Monday, the president will meet with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and will attend other unspecified meetings at the White House.  On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver remarks on education.  In the evening, the president will host the House Democratic Caucus for a roundtable and reception at the White House. The Vice President will also attend.  On Wednesday, Mr. Obama will deliver remarks at the Senate Democratic Issues Conference.  On Thursday, he will deliver remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. The vice president and the First Lady will also attend.  Later, the president will meet with President Martelly of Haiti at the White House.  Details about Friday’s schedule have not yet been released.  Continue reading

Weekly Washington Outlook – January 13, 2014

STOCK PHOTO capitol building

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

The House:

On Monday and Tuesday, the House will consider several non-controversial bills under suspension of the rules.  Also on Tuesday, the House will take-up a three-day spending bill to fund the government while appropriators finalize their work on an omnibus appropriations bill.  The hope is that an omnibus will be ready for floor consideration on Wednesday or Thursday at the latest.  The House in this period will also take-up the Exchange Information Disclosure Act (H.R. 3362), sponsored by Congressman Terry (R-Neb.).  This measure would require HHS to issue weekly reports on the healthcare website’s enrollment numbers, site visits, and errors.

The Senate:

On Monday, the Senate is scheduled to vote on an amendment to the unemployment insurance extension measure currently under consideration.  The amendment offered by Sen. Reed (D-R.I.), the base bill’s sponsor, would extend UI through mid-November and offers various means to offset the cost.  The Senate will also vote to confirm Judge Robert Wilkins to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  The balance of the week is somewhat contingent on the progress made in negotiating a path forward for the UI extension.  It is likely, however, that Senators will vote on a three-day continuing resolution to continue to fund the government while appropriators complete work on a longer-term measure that will be voted on at the end of the week.

White House:

Today, the president will welcome the President of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain Mariano Rajoy Brey to the White House.  The president and President Rajoy will discuss promoting economic growth and new jobs, support for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, cooperation within NATO, Latin America, shared challenges in North Africa and the Middle East, and other topics of mutual interest.  On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will hold a Cabinet Meeting. The Vice President will attend. In the afternoon, President Obama will welcome the 2013 NBA Champion Miami Heat to the White House to honor the team on winning their second-straight Championship title.  On Wednesday, the president will travel to Raleigh, North Carolina for an event on the economy.  On Thursday, the president and First Lady will host an event at the White House with a number of university presidents on expanding college opportunity.  On Friday, the president will give a speech presenting the outcomes of the Administration’s review of our signals intelligence programs, and how, in light of new technologies, we can use them in a way that optimally protects our national security while supporting our foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. Further details on the speech will be released as they become available.

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