Weekly Washington Outlook — December 14, 2015

U.S. Capitol

What to Watch This Week:

Congress:

House:

On Monday, no votes are expected.

On Tuesday, the House will consider the following under suspension of the rules: 

  • R. 3654– Combat Terrorist Use of Social Media Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Ted Poe / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • Res. 536– Supporting freedom of the press in Latin America and the Caribbean and condemning violations of press freedom and violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of speech (Sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires / Foreign Affairs Committee)

On Wednesday and the balance of the week, the House will consider:

  • R. 3750– First Responders Passport Act of 2015, as amended(Sponsored by Rep. Darrell Issa / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • R. 2241– Global Health Innovation Act of 2015, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Albio Sires / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • Concur in the Senate Amendment to R. 2297– Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Ed Royce / Foreign Affairs Committee)
  • R. 3878– Strengthening Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Coordination in Our Ports Act of 2015, as amended(Sponsored by Rep. Norma Torres / Homeland Security Committee)
  • Concur in the Senate Amendment to R. 2820– Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Authorization Act of 2015 (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith / Energy and Commerce Committee)
  • 1347– Electronic Health Fairness Act of 2015, as amended(Sponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson / Energy and Commerce Committee / Ways and Means Committee)

The House will also be continuing negotiations on a tax extender package and omnibus spending bill.

Senate:

On Monday, confirmation votes are expected on the nominations of Alissa Starzak to be the Army’s general counsel, John Conger to be principal deputy under secretary of defense, Stephen P. Welby to be an assistant defense secretary, and Franklin R. Parker to be an assistant Navy secretary. A roll-call vote is expected only on Starzak’s nomination.

On Tuesday and the rest of the week, the Senate expects to also vote on a tax extender package and omnibus spending bill. The Senate also expects to debate and vote on a conference report for H.R. 644, which would revise customs procedures and duty laws.

White House:

On Monday, the president will travel to the Pentagon to chair a National Security Council Meeting on the counter-ISIL campaign and receive an update from President Obama’s national security team. After the meeting, the president will make a statement from the Pentagon Briefing Room.

On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver remarks at a Naturalization Ceremony at the National Archives.

On Wednesday, the president will attend meetings at the White House.

On Thursday, in advance of the holidays, President Obama will travel to the National Counterterrorism Center for a threat briefing. The president and his national security team will review efforts—across our entire government—to prevent attacks.

On Friday, President Obama will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, the First Family will depart the White House en route Honolulu, Hawaii.

Also this Week:

Tax – It has been reported that a deal to make permanent the 2009 improvements to EITC and CTC, along with other provisions, is close and could be voted on this week.  Some House Democrats have been vocal in their opposition to the deal as described because it will not index CTC and has a hefty price tag.  It is thought some of these objections may be related to the status of negotiations with the omnibus spending bill.  However, news reports have also indicated that the package could include a delay of the Cadillac tax, a priority for labor unions and others. If a tax extender deal is not reached, Congress will likely vote on a two-year extension of a number of expired tax provisions; this option would not make any permanent tax policy changes.

Omnibus – Last week, Congress bought more time by passing a several-day continuing resolution set to expire Wednesday.  To meet this new deadline, legislation must be filed Monday in order to be voted on in the House on time.  It has been reported that riders remain problematic, some of which include tightening measures for the U.S. visa waiver program, lifting the crude oil export ban, blocking Syrian refugee resettlement in this country, striking down the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, and repealing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waters of the U.S. rule.

Financial Services – There have been reports that legislation referred to as the “Jumpstart GSE Reform Act” could be included in the omnibus.  This legislation would prevent mortgage guarantee fees from being used to pay for other government spending and also prevent the Treasury Department from selling any of its preferred equity in Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac without Congressional approval for two years. Proponents say the bill would encourage Congress to take up housing finance reform, while opponents contest that the bill only serves to prolong the government’s conservatorship of Fannie and Freddie.

Child Nutrition – Last week, it was thought that a child nutrition reauthorization could be included in an omnibus.  This week, however, Hill staff have said that a number of issues remain in bipartisan negotiations between staff for Sen. Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. Roberts (R-KS) making this outcome less likely. One of the issues still being discussed involves increased verification requirements for students participating in school meal programs.

Puerto Rico – Last week, Sens. Hatch (R-UT), Grassley (R-IA), and Murkowski (R-AK) introduced legislation to address Puerto Rico’s financial crisis.  At its core, this legislation would create a financial oversight authority and provide $300 billion in direct assistance.  It would also reduce the payroll tax for residents and pay for the proposal through an ACA fund for innovation and preventive care.  While some believe it is a positive sign that the GOP introduced a bill at all and view this as a starting point for further negotiation, many Democrats have heavily criticized the bill for its lack of a Chapter 9 provision allowing the island to restructure its debt.  While there was optimism this fall that a legislative fix for Puerto Rico could be included in an omnibus, Hill staff have reported this is increasingly unlikely.

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