This Week in Washington…

Posted on January 9, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized |

TOP 5 STORIES THIS WEEK

  • House action on a bill funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year is appearing less likely this week, but appropriators on both sides of the Capitol remain optimistic that an omnibus package can be approved before the current continuing resolution expires next Wednesday. Look ahead: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said that while six bills are virtually complete, a final omnibus bill is unlikely before the weekend.
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., expressed optimism about the farm bill, saying this week that negotiators are “just tying up loose ends.”
    Look ahead: Major differences remain ahead of a scheduled Thursday meeting of farm-bill conferees, with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., suggesting that a number of amendment votes will be necessary before final passage.
  • President Obama is expected to shift his focus toward income inequality during his second term, outlining his plans during the upcoming State of the Union address.
    Look ahead: The president will announce five “promise zones” in which the administration will use federal funds to aid community initiatives.
  • The president is meeting Thursday with leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees—and with a trio of congressional critics of the National Security Agency—to discuss the agency’s surveillance programs.
    Look ahead: The president is expected to increase oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework and restrict the NSA’s access to Americans’ phone records, according to sources.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is “cautiously optimistic” that members can craft a compromise agreement to fund the temporary extension of unemployment benefits proposed by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.
    Look ahead: The bill is expected to clear a procedural hurdle, but Republicans will stop the measure cold during the next cloture vote if Reid does not allow an open amendment process.

WHITE HOUSE

  • President Obama is meeting Thursday with the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees and top congressional critics of the National Security Agency.
  • In a speech this afternoon, the president will designate five “promise zones,” pairing federal funding with private-sector programs to address employment, education, and housing.
  • Obama is expected to turn his attention to income inequality during his second term, using his State of the Union address to outline specific proposals, including an increase in the federal minimum wage.
  • The Justice Department will propose a regulation to identify those barred from possessing firearms for mental health reasons, while a proposed regulation from the Health and Human Services Department would enable states to disclose information to the federal background-check system.
  • The Justice Department will issue guidelines for banks governing their interaction with legalized marijuana businesses in states such as Colorado.

CONGRESS

  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is “cautiously optimistic” that members can craft a compromise agreement to fund the temporary extension of unemployment benefits proposed by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev.
  • The bipartisan measure to extend emergency unemployment compensation by three months, which includes no offsets for its $6.5 billion cost, was advanced on a 60-37 roll-call vote, with six Republicans joining Democrats in support of cloture.
  • House action on a bill funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year is appearing less likely this week, but appropriators on both sides of the Capitol remain optimistic that an omnibus package can be approved before the current continuing resolution expires next Wednesday.
  • Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., expressed optimism about the farm bill Tuesday, but House Speaker John Boehner reiterated his opposition to “supply management” provisions offered by House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said that while six bills are virtually complete, a final omnibus bill is unlikely before the weekend.
  • A minimum-wage increase won’t have the vetting of a committee vote before it comes to the Senate floor, likely in February, a move designed to limit the number of “embarrassing amendments” Republicans can offer.

POLITICS

BUDGET & ECONOMY

  • Outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will meet today with Senate Democrats and is expected to address the issues facing the central bank in 2014, including the efforts to taper the Fed’s monthly bond purchases.
  • On a 56-26 vote Monday, the Senate confirmed Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve.
  • The Federal Reserve’s decision to reduce its monthly bond purchases was based on the belief that “the marginal efficacy of purchases was likely declining as purchases continue,” according to minutes of the Dec. 17-18 meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, released Wednesday.
  • JPMorgan Chase has entered into a deferred-prosecution agreement with federal authorities, and will pay $2.6 billion to resolve charges related to Bernie Madoff—$2.24 billion of which will be used to compensate Madoff’s victims.

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

  • Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he believes the Keystone XL oil pipeline will eventually be built.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency may be easing off efforts to enforce penalties against drillers ahead of the 2014 midterm elections due to the fact that fracking has proven to be one of the few bright spots in the economy.
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, came out in support of lifting the de facto ban on oil exports.
  • Natural-gas prices were higher in 2013 compared with the previous year, with New England and New York seeing the largest price increases due to cold weather.
  • Financial-services giant Goldman Sachs sold its share in a company that’s leading the charge to build a controversial coal-export terminal in Washington state.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s draft regulation to limit carbon emissions from new power plants was published in the Federal Register, triggering the start of the 60-day comment period.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

HEALTH CARE

  • More than 100,000 people who applied for coverage via HealthCare.gov—and were informed of their eligibility for Medicaid or CHIP—still lack coverage.
  • The administration urged the Supreme Court to reject the challenge filed by an order of Roman Catholic nuns against the ACA requirement that many employers provide coverage for birth control.
  • More than 70 provisions in 22 states were enacted nationwide to limit access to abortion services in 2013.
  • Spending grew 3.7 percent in 2012, in line with the historical trend in a post-recession period, according to Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services analysis of the data.
  • Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., announced Monday that he is suing the Obama administration over the federal insurance subsidies for lawmakers and their staffers.
  • The new IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, said that ACA implementation costs could force reshuffling.
  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell proposed paying for an extension of unemployment benefits by delaying the individual mandate for one year, while Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said he will propose an amendment to replace the Senate plan with new tax breaks and an ACA exemption.
  • In light of the50th anniversary of the landmark surgeon general’s report, national medical associations are lobbying to bring the smoking rate below 10 percent.

TECHNOLOGY

  • President Obama convened a series of meetings this week on reforming the NSA, including one Thursday with a small group of hand-picked lawmakers, ahead of an anticipated announcement later this month outlining planned changes.
  • FTC Commissioner Julie Brill said Congress should not wait for her agency before tackling patent-litigation reform, she said during an address in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
  • Federal agencies have inconsistent standards for protecting personal data from being breached, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.
  • FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed AT&T’s controversial new “sponsored data” program at CES, leaving the door open for the agency to intervene if the service interferes with Internet operations or is abused as an anticompetitive practice.
  • Reps. Frank Upton and Greg Walden released a white paper highlighting flaws in the Communications Act they claim is outdated and in need of modernization.
  • Online review site Yelp is gaining influence in Washington to match the growing influence it has acquired in Silicon Valley, hiring a former staffer for Darrell Issa as its first in-house lobbyist.

OTHER NEWS

QUOTES

  • “Oh, yeah, name these Republicans. The ones cheating on their third wives while they’re talking about traditional family values? Those ones?” — former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, on “family values” Republicans. (Slate)
  • “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” — Bridget Anne Kelly, a staffer to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in an email that implicates his administration in a political retribution scandal. (Bergen Record)
  • “I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge.” — Gov. Chris Christie, in a statement responding to news of the email. (The New York Times)
  • “I think Enzi would have dropped out if she hadn’t announced so early. But Enzi did not want to be seen as being shoved out.” — Donor to Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., on why Liz Cheney’s aggressive campaign backfired. (Huffington Post)
  • “Really, this is the first time in the history of rock ‘n’ roll that any music fans have been labeled as a ‘gang’ and that’s probably because it makes no damn sense!” — The Insane Clown Posse on why they are suing the FBI. (National Journal)
  • “Raising the minimum wage may poll well, but having a job that pays $10 an hour is not the American Dream.” — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a speech on anti-poverty programs.

CHARTS AND GRAPHICS

  • Pew charts historical income distribution.
  • Gallup charts the growing number of Americans who identify as Independents.
  • NASA tracks the path of its most recently discovered near-earth asteroid.
  • Pew finds that Republicans are more excited about the 2014 elections than Democrats.
  • Al Jazeera charts how poverty demographics have changed.
  • The University of North Carolina’s MPA blog charts the nation’s five largest mass-transit systems.

Future events

  • Thursday, January 9 – President Obama will hold an event to announce “promise zones” at 2 p.m. in the East Room of the White House.
  • Tuesday, January 14 – The House Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing, “Oversight of the Obama Administration’s Questionable Application of Sequestration to the Secure Rural Schools Program and the Costs to States, Local Economies, and Rural School Children,” at 10 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
  • Tuesday, January 14 – The House Financial Services Committee’s Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “How Prospective and Current Homeowners Will Be Harmed by the CFPB’s Qualified Mortgage Rule,” at 10 a.m. in 2128 Rayburn.
  • Tuesday, January – The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing, “Examining Conference and Travel Spending Across the Federal Government,” at 10:30 a.m. in 342 Dirksen.
  • Wednesday, January 15 – The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the impact and potential unintended consequences of the recently finalized Volcker Rule, at 10 a.m. in 2128 Rayburn.
  • Friday, January 10 – the Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on the employment situation for December 2013 at 9:30 a.m. in G-50 Dirksen.
  • First Lady Michelle Obama will attend Democratic National Committee events in Los Angeles on Jan. 29 and San Francisco on Jan. 30, and join House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee event in San Francisco on Jan. 31.
  • Thursday, January 16 – The Joint Economic Committee will hold a hearing on income inequality in the United States at 10 a.m. in 216 Hart.
  • Friday, January 10 – The House Natural Resources Committee’s Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee will hold a hearing, “The Science Behind Discovery: Seismic Exploration and the Future of the Atlantic OCS,” at 9:30 a.m. in 1324 Longworth.
  • Friday, January 10 – The National Academy of Sciences will hold awebinar, beginning at 2 p.m., on a new report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”
  • Thursday, January 9 – The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold adiscussion, “Writing NATO’s Next Chapter,” focusing on “Norwegian defense priorities, its future modernization plans and aspirations for a post-Afghanistan and NATO,” at 2:30 p.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • Friday, January 10 – The International Institute for Strategic Studies will hold adiscussion, “Toppling Qaddafi: Libya and the Limits of Liberal Intervention,” at 10 a.m. at 2121 K Street NW.
  • Monday, January 13 – The Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families will hold a Social Mobility Summit at 9 a.m. at 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., are scheduled to participate.
  • Monday, January 13 – The Society for International Development, Washington, D.C., Chapter, will hold a discussion, “Measuring Child Wellbeing: Tools and Challenges,” at noon at 1101 15th Street NW.
  • Tuesday, January 14 – The Center for Strategic and International Studies Global Health Policy Center will hold a discussion, “Universal Health Coverage in Emerging Economies: Improving Health While Preserving Wealth,” at 8:30 a.m. at 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW.
  • The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to examine the privacy and safety issues relevant to integration of commercial drones into national airspace at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 15. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta is among the witnesses.
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