December 10, 2012

THE WEEK AHEAD

Legislative Focus: Defense Authorization, Deposit Insurance, Privacy, and Improper Payments

The Senate convened at 2:00 p.m. today and will resume consideration of S. 3637, a bill that would extend the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Transaction Account Guarantee program for two years, which provides unlimited deposit insurance coverage for non-interest-bearing transaction accounts. 

The Senate is also scheduled to consider the nomination of Carol J. Galante to be an Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. The Senate is expected to continue debate on S. 3320, a bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of gender and for other purposes. 

The House will convene at noon on Tuesday, December 11, and is expected to appoint conferees for H.R. 4310, National Defense Authorization Act. 

Tomorrow, and for the remainder of the week, the House will consider eight measures under suspension of the rules, including H.R. 6190, which allows the sale of a company’s remaining inventory of epinephrine inhalers propelled by otherwise-banned chlorofluorocarbons; H.R. 5817, which eliminates the requirement that financial institutions send annual privacy notices to their customers if the privacy policies have not changed from the year before; and H.R. 4053, which requires OMB to identify programs at high risk of making “improper payments” and creates a government-wide system to prevent federal agencies from making excess or unnecessary payments to contractors and individuals. 


KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS

Energy and Commerce: The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Keeping the New Broadband Spectrum Law on Track.” 
Wednesday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

The Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “State of Uncertainty; Implementation of PPACA’s [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148)] Exchanges and Medicaid Expansion.” 
Thursday, December 13 at 10:00 a.m., 2123 Rayburn Building.

Financial Services:  The Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on the economic impact of the derivatives provisions contained in Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PL 111-203). 
Wednesday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Building.

The House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on section 619 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PL 111-203), known as the Volcker rule, which requires that banks separate activities such as investment banking, private equity and proprietary trading from their consumer services such as installment loans, residential mortgages, equity credit loans and deposit services. 
Thursday, December 13 at 9:00 a.m., 2128 Rayburn Building.

Science, Space and Technology:  The House Science, Space and Technology Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Future of NASA: Perspectives on Strategic Vision for America’s Space Program.” 
Wednesday, December 12 at 9:30 a.m., 2318 Rayburn Building.

Transportation and Infrastructure:  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a series of hearings on the high-speed and intercity passenger rail program. 
Thursday, December 13 at 10:00 a.m., 2167 Rayburn Building.

Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs:  The Housing, Transportation, and Community Development Subcommittee of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled “Streamlining and Strengthening HUD’s [Department of Housing and Urban Development] Rental Housing Assistance Programs.” 
Tuesday, December 11 at 10:30 a.m., 538 Dirksen Building.

Finance:  The Energy, Natural Resources, and Infrastructure Subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled “Tax Reform and Federal Energy Policy: Incentives to Promote Energy Efficiency.” 
Wednesday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m., 215 Dirksen Building.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing titled “Improving Care for Dually Eligible Beneficiaries: A Progress Update.” Dually eligible beneficiaries are individuals who are enrolled in both Medicare and Medicaid. 
Thursday, December 13 at 10:00 a.m., 215 Dirksen Building.

Judiciary:  The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” 
Wednesday, December 12 at 2:00 p.m., 226 Dirksen Building.

Small Business and Entrepreneurship:  The Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee will hold a hearing on the response to Hurricane Sandy, focusing on assessing federal efforts and small business recovery assistance. 
Thursday, December 13 at 10:00 a.m., 428-A Russell Building.


HHS CONDITIONALLY APPROVES 6 STATE EXCHANGES, RELEASES IMPLEMENTATION FAQ

The Department of Health and Human Services today sent a letter and FAQ’s to Governors with answers to many of the questions states have had regarding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The letter includes answers to questions surrounding the deadlines for exchanges, user fees for the exchange, and the Medicaid expansion among others.  The letter can be found here and the FAQ’s here.

 Also, the Secretary of HHS also announced conditional approval for the exchanges of six states: Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington.  That announcement can be found here.


GAO RELEASES REPORT ON STATE SMALL BUSINESS CREDIT INITIATIVE

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report last week on opportunities to improve performance reporting for the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) and the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). 

The SSBCI provides funding for existing and new state programs that support lending to small businesses; it was created and funded with $1.5 billion under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. The law also gave the Treasury Department authority to terminate funds that have not been allocated to states within two years of its approval of a state’s participation. The Department has not developed a formal written policy explaining how they would use this authority, and as of mid-2012, states had only used about 10 percent of the funding available. 

While Treasury officials have said they currently have no plans to terminate unallocated funds, GAO recommended that Treasury develop formal guidelines to ensure consistent use of the authority if used in the future, and to clarify to states the consequences of not using funds in a timely manner. GAO also recommended that Treasury make the results of SSBCI performance measures public. The report can be found here.



NATIONAL UNEMPLOYMENT RATE DROPS TO 7.7 PERCENT

The U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs in November and the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, the lowest level since December 2008. In November, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) ticked down slightly to 4.8 million in November, compared to 5.0 million in October. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 8.2 million in November, was little changed over the month. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the events of Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November.

In October, the unemployment rate in Nevada had fallen to 11.5 percent.



CONGRESSIONAL LETTER TO CONFEREES SUPPORTS AIR GUARD FREEZE
 
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, and Representatives Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Tim Walz (D-MN), co-chairs of the House National Guard and Reserve Caucus, sent a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees urging that several provisions regarding the Air National Guard be retained in the conference agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. 

The letter, which was also signed by nearly 50 other members of Congress, requested that conferees continue the freeze of Air National Guard force structure throughout FY 2013. The letter requested that the House bill’s provision restricting the divestment, retirement, or transfer of Air Force aircraft or C-23 aircraft assigned to the Army be retained, as well as the Senate’s provision regarding establishment of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. The text of the letter may be found here



REPORT RELEASED ON URBAN AREA SECURITY INITIATIVE

Last week, Senator Tom Coburn (D-Okla.) released a report entitled Safety at Any Price: Assessing the Impact of Homeland Security Spending in U.S. Cities which analyzed the use of funds from the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). UASI, which is part of the Homeland Security Grant Program, is intended to provide funding to high-threat urban areas for terrorism prevention and protection activities. 

The report analyzed 15 jurisdictions over the last year and found that the $7 billion spent on UASI jurisdictions over the last decade was spent on unnecessary programs and did not contribute to the nation’s counterterrorism efforts. The report also states that a lack of proper oversight by the Department of Homeland Security and Congress led to wasteful and inefficient spending by UASI jurisdictions and suggests the Department’s grant programs should be re-structured. For more information, the full report can be viewed here.
 
In FY2012, Las Vegas, NV was a Tier 2 UASI Area.