|MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010|
THE WEEK AHEAD
The SENATE convened at 2:00 p.m. today and for the fifth straight week, the Senate will work on the Restoring American Financial Stability Act (S. 3217). The bill would overhaul the nation’s financial regulatory system, and contains provisions that would create new safeguards to protect the financial system and prevent financial institutions from becoming “too big to fail.” The Senate adopted several amendments last week, including a pair of amendments related to credit ratings agencies and an amendment that would prevent credit card companies from charging unreasonable interchange fees for the use of debit cards.
The HOUSE is not in session today and is scheduled to convene at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to take up 17 measures under suspension of the rules. Wednesday, and for the balance of the week, the House is expected to take up 9 measures under suspension of the rules and two measures subject to a rule.
The House is expected to consider Senate amendments to the American Jobs, Closing Tax Loopholes, and Preventing Outsourcing Act (H.R. 4213) this week. The legislation, which originally passed the House in December on a vote of 241-181, would extend approximately $31 billion in tax code provisions that expired at the end of 2009, until the end of 2010. The bill would extend tax provisions related to disaster relief, charitable contributions, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles. The House is scheduled to consider Senate amendments on Thursday.
The Senate passed its version of the bill March 10 on a vote of 62-36. The House may also take up the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5116) again. The legislation is designed improve the nation's economic competitiveness by investing in science, technology, education, and math (STEM) education and energy research programs. The bill contains provisions that would encourage female students and underrepresented groups to participate in STEM education programs and would reauthorize the Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Energy.
KEY HEARINGS & MARKUPS
APPROPRIATIONS: The Defense Subcommittee of the Senate
Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing on proposed FY 2011
appropriations for programs under its jurisdiction.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related
Agencies Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will
hold a hearing on the Federal Housing Authority and its role in the
The Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee will
hold a hearing on proposed FY 2011 appropriations for programs under
The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a
hearing on proposals to invest in mine safety programs, focusing on
efforts to prevent mine disasters.
ARMED SERVICES: The House Armed Services Committee
will mark up the fiscal 2011 defense authorization bill.
COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION: The Senate
Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing
on the response efforts to the Gulf Coast oil spill.
EDUCATION AND LABOR: The House Education and Labor
Committee will hold a hearing titled “Research and Best Practices on
Successful School Turnaround.”
ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES: The Senate Energy and
Natural Resources Committee will hold hearings on current issues
related to offshore oil and gas development.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold a
hearing on pending renewable energy legislation (S. 2921).
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS: The Senate
Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the
federal response to the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
FINANCIAL SERVICES: The Capital Markets, Insurance
and Government Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee of the House
Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing titled “Accounting
and Auditing Standards: Pending Proposals and Emerging Issues.”
HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR & PENSIONS: The Senate
HELP Committee will hold hearings on the reauthorization of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
HOMELAND SECURITY & GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS: The House
Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing titled “Viewpoints
on Homeland Security: A Discussion with the 9/11 Commissioners.”
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE: The House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing
titled “Deepwater Horizon: Oil Spill Prevention and Response
Measures and Natural Resource Impacts.”
WAYS & MEANS: The House Ways and Means Committee
will hold a hearing on tax proposals related to legislation that
would legalize Internet gambling.
EXTENDERS BILL EXPECTED THIS WEEK IN HOUSE
An "extenders" package, which is anticipated to include significant funding for states through the federal-state Medicaid partnership, is likely to be released this week in the House.
The bill will likely include extensions of "enhanced FMAP" funding to state Medicaid programs, unemployment benefits for individuals, COBRA coverage to allow recently unemployed individuals to continue their health coverage, as well as the "Doc fix" - a five-year fix in the payment rate for physicians treating Medicare patients.
The offsets required to pay for the bill are still unclear, and some portions of the bill may not be offset at all, but rather treated as "emergency" spending. The House could reportedly vote on the package as early as Wednesday, although that vote could slip to Thursday or Friday.
A strategy and timeline in the Senate is also in doubt, with only two weeks remaining before the one-week Memorial Day recess and action on the financial services reform bill still pending on the floor.
Senate climate change legislation unveiled Wednesday drew unusual support from a wide range of industries and companies — going as far as earning statements of neutrality from business groups that led the fight last year against a House-passed bill.
The legislation is the result of six months of negotiations led by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT). The goal was to engineer a compromise to win bipartisan support by including caps on carbon emissions and concessions designed to promote offshore drilling, nuclear power and technology to burn coal cleanly.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the bill could form the basis for a House and Senate deal on the issue.
House Democrats want to send President Obama a measure to address global warming this year. Although the political climate has already been quite harsh following the passing of healthcare and the indecision on immigration, Pelosi said Democrats are willing to cast another vote on the controversial climate change legislation, which only eight House Republicans supported last year when the House passed its version of the measure by 219-212.
Despite having extensively worked with Senator Kerry and Senator Lieberman in the climate change negotiations, notably absent from Kerry’s press conference to unveil the bill was Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), or any other Republican Senator.
Graham — who withdrew from negotiations last month over a dispute about immigration legislation — was not present, although he did issue a statement praising the effort and expressing interest in “finding a pathway forward.”
However, Graham did add, “The problems created by the historic oil spill in the Gulf, along with the uncertainty of immigration politics, have made it extremely difficult for transformational legislation in the area of energy and climate to garner bipartisan support at this time.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he will sit down with key senators after the Memorial Day recess to decide whether and how to proceed with climate legislation this year.
Senate Banking Chairman Christopher J. Dodd faces a fight over states’ rights as he works to maneuver his financial regulatory bill through the Senate Floor, the foundation of which centers on the merits of nationally uniform regulations versus individual state regulations.
Proponents of localized, individually operate state oversight of financial services scored a victory last Wednesday when the Senate adopted, 90-9, an amendment from Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), that would keep community banks under the supervision of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, rather than transferring them to national regulators.
So far, discussion about whether the federal government should be allowed to pre-empt state laws has largely been overshadowed by debate over reining in large banks and the derivatives market. However, Dodd must now decide if the most effective way to assure his bill is shepherded through the Senate is by supporting the liberals in the Democratic Party who want to give states more power to enforce consumer protection laws, or moderates who seek to set national standards.
Consumer advocates argue that state regulators have done a better job than their federal counterparts.
Still, moderate Democrats — and some Republicans — are mounting a strong defense of federal pre-emption. Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), whose state is home to many financial companies, is leading the push. His followers contend that policy makers have established and nurtured a national banking system for decades and that giving states more individual power to set standards that work best for them will only further disrupt financial markets.
A number of Democrats and Republicans have signed on to the amendment, including John Ensign (R-NV), who agreed with Corker’s sentiment that Congress giving states the potential to have different banking laws would only take us backward.
Senator Voinovich (R-OH) introduced a bill in the Senate earlier this month that could potentially re-open the door for nuclear waste to make its way to Nevada and the Yucca Mountain repository.
The Act titled, “United States Nuclear Fuel Management Corporation Establishment Act of 2010,” is set to establish a federally-chartered Corporation for spent fuel management. Such a corporation, in theory at least, would insulate the work from the politics that influence federal agencies like DOE. Essentially, the concept of a “United States Nuclear Fuel Management Corporation” would probably be a considerable improvement to DOE and its Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management.
In an attempt to get a "fresh start" in the nuclear waste disposal debate, however, the Voinovich bill grandfathers all of the errors and mistakes of the past by incorporating the existing Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 (NWPA).
Under the NWPA, the only repository site allowed to be considered is Yucca Mountain. Therefore, the Voinovich bill would in essence grandfather in the Nevada site and allow the new Corporation to continue to pursue a repository at Yucca.
Complicating this is the fact that the same section of the proposed bill removes the prohibition on locating an interim storage or monitored retrievable storage site in Nevada that is currently contained in the NWPA. This would allow the Corporation to bring waste into Nevada for interim storage if it so chose.
The bill was introduced on May 6, 2010 and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works. No hearing is scheduled for the bill.
"COMPETES" ACT STALLS IN HOUSE
Late last week, House Democratic leadership postponed further consideration of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 following a Republican motion to recommit the bill to the Science and Technology Committee with instructions to add language to freeze authorization levels at FY 2010 levels for most programs and strike FY 2014 and FY 2015 funding from the bill. The motion was agreed to in a 292 – 126 vote. The $85.6 billion bill (H.R. 5116) would reauthorize the original 2007 legislation which provides federal support for various science and technology education and research programs at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Energy Department.
DOJ ISSUES PROPOSED REVISIONS TO SORNA GUIDELINES
Last week, the Department of Justice issued proposed revisions to the guidelines for implementation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). These revisions modify several requirements for compliance with SORNA and address concerns that have been raised by states as they attempt to implement the law.
For instance, the proposed revisions would give jurisdictions discretion to exempt juvenile offenders from public website posting and to modify the retroactive registration requirement to apply only to new felony convictions. The revised guidelines also provide information regarding the review process for determining that jurisdictions have substantially implemented the law and clarifies the mechanism for interjurisdictional information sharing and tracking.
The guidelines may be found at: http://www.federalregister.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2010-11665_PI.pdf. Comments on the proposed guidelines are due within 60 days.
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