Unemployment Extension Looks Murky as Congress Heads Toward Break

The House GOP budget proposal is also in the spotlight this week on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) questions Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf during a hearing in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill February 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Committee members questioned Elmendorf about the latest projections by the CBO, which says the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will affect supply and demand for labor, leading to a net reduction of about 2.5 million full-time jobs by 2024. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
National Journal
Billy House
April 6, 2014, 7:42 a.m.

With their 17-day spring break beck­on­ing at the end of the week, House and Sen­ate law­makers will have to scramble to reach agree­ment on restor­ing long-term un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance. But don’t bet on such a deal bloom­ing.

A five-month ex­ten­sion is ex­pec­ted to pass in the Sen­ate on Monday with some bi­par­tis­an sup­port. But House Re­pub­lic­ans were in­dic­at­ing Fri­day that they won’t fol­low suit, at least not on the Sen­ate bill as writ­ten.

As many as 2 mil­lion un­em­ployed Amer­ic­ans are now liv­ing without be­ne­fits, which ex­pire after 26 weeks, since Con­gress let the emer­gency pro­gram ex­pire in Decem­ber. While some Re­pub­lic­ans say the House should act on the Sen­ate bill, many oth­ers ar­gue that the eco­nomy is slowly re­cov­er­ing and the fo­cus should be on al­tern­at­ives to help­ing the longer-term un­em­ployed.

“It doesn’t cre­ate any jobs,” House Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor said Fri­day. “And right now we are in the busi­ness of see­ing how we can get people back to work.”

Mean­while, the House is gear­ing up for a vote later this week on Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an’s pro­posed GOP spend­ing plan for the fisc­al year be­gin­ning Oct. 1. But that too is headed for one-cham­ber ac­tion, giv­en that the Sen­ate says it won’t pass a budget this year and spend­ing levels were set in the Decem­ber budget deal.

Still, House Re­pub­lic­ans see Ry­an’s plan as a way to spell out their spend­ing pri­or­it­ies in an elec­tion year. In fact, the vote will provide both parties with am­muni­tion for polit­ic­al mes­saging as they pre­pare to spend most of the rest of their month in their home dis­tricts.

The House Rules Com­mit­tee will meet Monday to set pro­ced­ures for a vote on the bill.

Among oth­er plans Con­gress has for this week:

  • Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry will testi­fy be­fore the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Tues­day on the na­tion­al se­cur­ity and for­eign policy pri­or­it­ies in the pres­id­ent’s budget re­quest.
  • Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­ret­ary Kath­leen Se­beli­us will testi­fy Thursday be­fore the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee on the pres­id­ent’s budget pro­pos­al.
  • The House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Tues­day on the Rus­si­an mil­it­ary and stra­tegic im­plic­a­tions. The In­tel­li­gence Sub­com­mit­tee will also hold a hear­ing on com­batting weapons of mass de­struc­tion.
  • The House Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing Wed­nes­day on the Bo­ston Mara­thon bomb­ings.
  • Just in time for the April 15 fil­ing dead­line, the Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee will hear Tues­day from top of­fi­cials of the IRS and rep­res­ent­at­ives of tax-pre­par­a­tion com­pan­ies on how tax­pay­ers can be pro­tec­ted from “in­com­pet­ent and un­eth­ic­al” op­er­at­ors who of­fer to file their re­turns.
  • The House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee on Tues­day will de­bate prob­lems caused for em­ploy­ers by ex­tend­ing tax pro­vi­sions for short peri­ods. The Sen­ate Fin­ance Com­mit­tee has been con­sid­er­ing a bill to re­store some of the 55 pro­vi­sions in the tax code that ex­pired Dec. 31.
  • Two nom­in­a­tions im­port­ant to the busi­ness world will be con­sidered Tues­day by the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee: El­li­ot F. Kaye to be chair­man of the Con­sumer Product Safety Com­mis­sion and Joseph Mo­horovic to sit on the com­mis­sion. Kaye is cur­rently the CPSC’s ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or and Mo­horovic is an ex­ec­ut­ive at In­ter­tek’s North Amer­ica Con­sumer Goods di­vi­sion.


The Right Weighs Ry­an

Aside from Demo­crat­ic at­tacks on Ry­an’s spend­ing pro­pos­al, one thing to watch this week is how much sup­port it gets from his own party’s con­ser­vat­ives.

The dead­line for the House to act on a budget is April 15. But no one — even Ry­an — really ex­pects his budget to be­come law. Con­gres­sion­al ap­pro­pri­at­ors on both sides of the Cap­it­ol are already work­ing on spend­ing bills based on the already-agreed-upon spend­ing levels that Ry­an and Sen­ate Budget Chair Patty Mur­ray worked out in Decem­ber.

Nev­er­the­less, Ry­an’s budget is ex­pec­ted to goose some in­tense polit­ic­al back-and-forth.

Among oth­er things, it calls for re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act (though it would still use some of its more than $700 bil­lion in Medi­care sav­ings) to help achieve a cut of $5.1 tril­lion in spend­ing to get to a bal­anced budget by 2024.

And while ad­her­ing to the over­all spend­ing levels and the split between dis­cre­tion­ary nondefense and de­fense al­lot­ments in the Ry­an-Mur­ray deal, the bill ul­ti­mately pushes high­er de­fense spend­ing later, along with cuts and changes to Medi­care, Medi­caid, food stamps, and oth­er so­cial-safety-net pro­grams.

En­ter­ing this week, there re­mained con­cerns from some House con­ser­vat­ives about the spend­ing levels — 62 Re­pub­lic­ans had voted against the deal Ry­an worked out with Mur­ray.

But top con­ser­vat­ives pre­dict there is enough sup­port for the bill to pass, even giv­en that Demo­crats who sup­por­ted the Ry­an-Mur­ray deal may drop off. They ex­plain that the longer-term path Ry­an’s budget sets to­ward bal­ance may out­weigh con­ser­vat­ive con­cerns about the 2015 top-line spend­ing num­ber.


Fed Meets

Cap­it­al re­quire­ments for the na­tion’s biggest banks will be con­sidered Tues­day af­ter­noon by the Fed­er­al Re­serve Board. The Fed, along with the Fed­er­al De­pos­it In­sur­ance Corp. and the Of­fice of the Comp­troller of the Cur­rency, want the eight largest fin­an­cial in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing JP­Mor­gan Chase and Cit­ig­roup, to main­tain equity cap­it­al equal to 6 per­cent of their total as­sets.

The pro­posed rule would go farther than what is re­quired by an in­ter­na­tion­al agree­ment, Basel III, aimed at strength­en­ing big banks for eco­nom­ic down­turns.

Fed Gov­ernor Daniel Tarullo also speaks Wed­nes­day on “Longer Term Chal­lenges for the Amer­ic­an Eco­nomy” dur­ing an even­ing event at the Na­tion­al Press Club.

Along with the Ways and Means hear­ing on the im­pact of tax ex­tenders, oth­er hear­ings on Cap­it­ol Hill this week will ad­dress U.S. eco­nom­ic is­sues and policies.

The House Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing en­titled, “Who’s in Your Wal­let: Ex­amin­ing How Wash­ing­ton Red Tape Im­pairs Eco­nom­ic Free­dom.” And on Wed­nes­day, the House Small Busi­ness Com­mit­tee will ad­dress “the biggest tax prob­lems” for smal­ler com­pan­ies at a 1 p.m. hear­ing.

On the Sen­ate side, the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee is to hold a hear­ing Wed­nes­day that was post­poned last week on the pro­posed mer­ger of Time Warner Cable and Com­cast.


Spot­light on USAID

On Wed­nes­day, House Armed Ser­vices is to hold a hear­ing on na­tion­al de­fense pri­or­it­ies for the Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act.

Also that day, the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Stra­tegic Forces Sub­com­mit­tee holds a hear­ing on nuc­le­ar se­cur­ity.

And Rajiv Shah, the ad­min­is­trat­or for the U.S. Agency for In­ter­na­tion­al De­vel­op­ment, test­i­fies on the in­ter­na­tion­al de­vel­op­ment pri­or­it­ies in the pres­id­ent’s budget re­quest be­fore the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee on Wed­nes­day and be­fore Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions on Thursday.


FDA and DEA Rules

On Monday, the House En­ergy and Com­merce Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hold a hear­ing on im­prov­ing trans­par­ency in reg­u­la­tions is­sued by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Law­makers will re­view three bills: the “En­sur­ing Pa­tient Ac­cess and Ef­fect­ive Drug En­force­ment Act,” the “Im­prov­ing Reg­u­lat­ory Trans­par­ency for New Med­ic­al Ther­apies Act,” and the “Sun­screen In­nov­a­tion Act.”

The Health Sub­com­mit­tee will meet again on Tues­day to con­sider the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the To­bacco Con­trol Act.

Later in the day, the House Ways and Means Health Sub­com­mit­tee will hear testi­mony from J. Mark Iwry, seni­or ad­viser to the sec­ret­ary and deputy as­sist­ant Treas­ury sec­ret­ary for re­tire­ment and health policy, on reg­u­la­tions for the em­ploy­er man­date and em­ploy­er-re­port­ing re­quire­ments.

Con­gress will also con­sider de­fense health pro­grams this week, be­gin­ning with a Sen­ate Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee hear­ing on Wed­nes­day. Sur­geons gen­er­al for the Army, Navy, and Air Force and the pro­gram ex­ec­ut­ive of­ficer for the De­fense Health­care Man­age­ment Sys­tem are sched­uled to testi­fy.

Also on Wed­nes­day, the House Vet­er­ans’ Af­fairs Com­mit­tee is to hold a full com­mit­tee hear­ing on “A Con­tin­ued As­sess­ment of Delays in VA Med­ic­al Care and Pre­vent­able Vet­er­an Deaths.” Wit­nesses have not yet been an­nounced.


Eye on EPA

The House En­ergy and Wa­ter De­vel­op­ment Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee on Tues­day is set to pore over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s fisc­al 2015 budget pro­pos­al for the En­ergy De­part­ment and the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency. On Wed­nes­day, the sis­ter sub­com­mit­tee in the Sen­ate will hold a sim­il­ar hear­ing.

Also Wed­nes­day, the Sen­ate In­teri­or and En­vir­on­ment Ap­pro­pri­ations Sub­com­mit­tee will also con­sider the EPA pro­posed budget.

The Sen­ate En­vir­on­ment and Pub­lic Works Com­mit­tee on Tues­day will con­sider the nom­in­a­tion of Janet Mc­Cabe, the EPA of­fi­cial who will do most of the heavy lift­ing on Pres­id­ent Obama’s cli­mate ac­tion plan, to head the Of­fice of Air and Ra­di­ation.

Mc­Cabe, the former deputy in the of­fice, has been act­ing air chief since this sum­mer but is seek­ing her form­al con­firm­a­tion — a pro­cess sure to be dogged with ques­tions from Re­pub­lic­ans about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­lu­tion-re­duc­tion plans.

EPA Ad­min­is­trat­or Gina Mc­Carthy will dis­cuss the agency’s plans to re­duce green­house-gas emis­sions from ex­ist­ing power plants Monday at a work­shop hos­ted by the Bi­par­tis­an Policy Cen­ter and the Na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Reg­u­lat­ory Util­ity Com­mis­sion­ers.

The Sen­ate Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee will meet Tues­day to dis­cuss the de­vel­op­ment and eco­nom­ic po­ten­tial of ad­vanced bio­fuels, in­clud­ing testi­mony from former NAS­CAR driver and team own­er Richard Chil­dress.


Texas Two-Step

On Monday, the pres­id­ent will hold an event on the eco­nomy in Prince George’s County in sub­urb­an Mary­land. He will fol­low that up with an eco­nomy-themed White House event on Tues­day.

The next day, Obama and the first lady will de­part for a two-day trip to Texas.

On Wed­nes­day, the pres­id­ent will at­tend a pair of Demo­crat­ic fun­draisers in Hou­s­ton and the fol­low­ing day, he will join former Pres­id­ents Carter and Clin­ton in speak­ing at the Lyn­don B. John­son pres­id­en­tial lib­rary to mark the 50th an­niversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

On Fri­day, Obama travels to New York to ad­dress the con­ven­tion of the Amer­ic­an Ac­tion Net­work.

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