Washington Weekly – January 10, 2014

January 10, 2014

Week in Review

House

The House passed the Reducing Excessive Deadline Obligations Act of 2013, a bill to give states the ability to assign priority to Superfund cleanups managed by federal laws, impose state and local laws on federal cleanup projects, and block the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations for hazardous waste disposal in states where similar regulations already exist. The House also passed the Health Exchange Security and Transparency Act of 2014,a bill requiring the Health and Human Services Secretary to notify individuals whose privacy is compromised in a data breach.

Senate

The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as Chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and began consideration of a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits.

FY2014 Appropriations

House and Senate Appropriators continue to work to reach agreement on the FY14 appropriations omnibus bill. Latest reports are that they have agreement on six of the 12 bills (Agriculture, CJS, Defense, Legislative Branch, MilCon/VA, and Transportation HUD) and are close to agreement on two others (Energy & Water and Homeland Security). Discussions on the remaining four bills (Financial Services, Interior & Environment, Labor HHS Education, and State/Foreign Ops) appear to be slowed by divisive policy riders such as implementation of Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul, abortion policy, and the EPA’s carbon emission regulations.

While the appropriators’ goal was to reach agreement on all bills by today, they are running out of time to pass a final omnibus and get it signed into law before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on Jan. 15. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) introduced a short-term CR today funding the government through Saturday Jan. 18 allowing them a few extra days to complete work on the omnibus and avert a shut down. Both the House and the Senate are in recess the week of Jan. 20 so there will be pressure on both sides to complete their work by the end of next week.

FY2015 Budget

The President is required by statute to submit his federal budget request to Congress on the first Monday in February (Feb. 3 this year). However, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reportedly waiting for the FY14 appropriations omnibus bill before completing its FY15 budget formulation process. OMB has not yet sent its decisions on agency FY15 budget proposals back to the agencies for their review (known as “passback”). Passback is normally completed in late November. After passback, it usually takes the Administration four to five weeks to finish the budget process and send it to Congress. Given that passback has not yet occurred, the Administration will likely miss the deadline of the first Monday in February.  OMB may submit its FY15 budget to Congress sometime in late February or early March. Last year President Obama didn’t deliver his FY14 budget to Congress until April as the budget process was delayed by the fiscal cliff negotiations in January of that year.

The latest budget agreement passed by Congress in December included a $1.014 trillion top-line discretionary funding limit for FY15. Even with this top line funding level, Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee are pressing for Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and democrats on the committee to write an FY15 budget resolution as they contend that the budget resolution includes more than just the top-line number. Murray has not decided if she will write an FY15 budget resolution. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) has indicated that his committee will write and mark up an FY15 budget resolution this spring.

Political Updates

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) announced his retirement earlier this week. Gerlach, a six-term moderate Republican and member of the Ways and Means Committee is the ninth House Republican to announce they will not seek re-election in 2014. Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) are also retiring. McIntyre is the third most senior democrat on the Armed Services Committee and second on the Agriculture Committee. His district will be a competitive race in 2014. McCarthy announced in June that she was undergoing treatment for lung cancer. She holds seats on the Education and Financial Services committees. Her seat is not expected to be competitive.

Rep. Melvin Watt (D-NC) officially resigned from the House of Representatives this week having been sworn in as Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). There are now 433 members in the House.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL), the newly elected member from Alabama’s 1st congressional district was sworn in on Wednesday and assigned to the House Armed Services Committee. Byrne fills the seat vacated by former Rep. Jo Bonner, who retired in August to work for the University of Alabama.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said this week that he may need to resign early as he has been undergoing chemotherapy to treat recurrent prostate cancer. Coburn has already said that he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2016. He’ll make his resignation decision after he receives test results in February.

The Senate confirmed Janet Yellen as Chairwoman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve by a vote of 56 to 26. Yellen replaces Ben Bernanke beginning Feb. 1. The White House announced today its intentions to nominate Stanley Fischer, the former head of Israel’s central bank, to serve as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve and Lael Brainard, the former Treasury undersecretary for international affairs, to the Fed board. The president will also nominate current Fed Governor Jerome Powell to serve a full term.

Next Week in Congress

Both the House and Senate will take up a CR and the FY14 appropriations omnibus. The Senate will also resume consideration of a bill to extend federal unemployment insurance benefits.

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