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New Financial Services Committee Appointments Announced

Posted in Financial Services

Legislative Activity

Chairman Hensarling Announces Financial Services Committee Appointments

This week, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) announced Subcommittee Chairmen for the House Financial Services Committee for the 114th Congress, including:

  • Scott Garrett (R-NJ): Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises Subcommittee (current chair);
  • Randy Neugebauer (R-TX): Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee (currently chairs the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee and will replace Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), who has been elected to the Senate);
  • Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO): Housing and Insurance Subcommittee (will replace Representative Neugebauer, who will chair the Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee);
  • Bill Huizenga (R-MI): Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee (will replace Representative John Campbell (R-CA), who is retiring); and
  • Sean Duffy (R-WI): Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee (will replace Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who was recently named a member of House Republican leadership).

Chairman Hensarling also welcomed new members to the Financial Services Committee, including both returning members who had previously served on the Committee and newly elected Members: Representative David Schweikert (R-AZ), Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO), Representative Roger Williams (R-TX), Representative-Elect Bob Dold (R-IL), Representative-Elect Frank Guinta (R-NH), Representative-Elect French Hill (R-AR), Representative-Elect Mia Love (R-UT), and Representative-Elect Bruce Poliquin (R-ME).

Additionally, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) announced that Representative Ander Crenshaw (R-FL) will be the Chairman (or Cardinal) of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services for the 114th Congress.

Appropriators Continue to Work on FY 2015 Omnibus, Senate and House Take Up Various Measures

Posted in General Legislative

Budget & Appropriations

Appropriators continue to work on a FY 2015 omnibus appropriations measure, despite a conservative push to use the legislation to block any immigration-related executive action by President Obama, which could jeopardize passage of the 12-bill package.

Senate Legislative Activity

On Monday, November 17, following any Leader remarks, there will be a period of morning business until 5:30 pm. At 5:30pm, the Senate will proceed to roll call votes on adoption of the motion to concur to S.1086 and on various nominations.  The roll call votes include:

  1. Adoption of the motion to concur in the House amendment to accompany S.1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014;
  2. Cloture on Executive Calendar #856, Leslie Joyce Adams, to be U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Georgia;
  3. Cloture on Executive Calendar #857, Mark Howard Cohen, to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia; and
  4. Cloture on Executive Calendar #858, Eleanor Louise Ross, to be U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

House Legislative Activity

On Monday, November 17, the House will meet at 12:00 pm for morning hour and 2:00 pm for legislative business, with votes postponed until 6:30 pm.

The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  1. H.R. 5441 – To amend the Federal charter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States to reflect the service of women in the Armed Forces of the United States;
  2. H.R. 3608 – Grand Portage Band Per Capita Adjustment Act;
  3. H.R. 5162 – To amend the Act entitled “An Act to allow a certain parcel of land in Rockingham County, Virginia, to be used for a child care center” to remove the use restriction, and for other purposes;
  4. H.R. 4049 – Ashland Breakwater Light Transfer Act, as amended;
  5. H.R. 5040 – Idaho County Shooting Range Land Conveyance Act;
  6. H.R. 5069 – Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014, as amended;
  7. H.R. 5468 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1103 USPS Building 1103 in Camp Pendleton, California, as the “Camp Pendleton Medal of Honor Post Office”;
  8. H.R. 5331 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 73839 Gorgonio Drive in Twentynine Palms, California, as the “Colonel M.J. ‘Mac’ Dube, USMC Post Office Building”;
  9. H.R. 5386 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 11662 Gravois Road in St. Louis, Missouri, as the “Lt. Daniel P. Riordan Post Office”;
  10. S. 1499 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 278 Main Street in Chadron, Nebraska, as the “Sergeant Cory Mracek Memorial Post Office”;
  11. S. 1093 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 130 Caldwell Drive in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, as the “First Lieutenant Alvin Chester Cockrell, Jr. Post Office Building”;
  12. S. 885 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 35 Park Street in Danville, Vermont, as the “Thaddeus Stevens Post Office”;
  13. S. 1512 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1335 Jefferson Road in Rochester, New York, as the “Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende Post Office”;
  14. H.R. 5142 – To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 113 West Jackson Street in Rich Square, North Carolina, as the “Chief Joseph E. White, Jr. Post Office Building”; and
  15. H.R. 5544 – Low-Dose Radiation Research Act of 2014, as amended.

On Tuesday, November 18, the House will meet at 10:00 am for morning hour and 12:00 pm for legislative business.  Lawmakers will also consider H.R. 1422, the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2013 (Subject to a Rule).

On Wednesday, November 19, the House will meet at 10:00 am for morning hour and 12:00 pm for legislative business.

The following legislation will be considered under suspension of the rules:

  1. H.R. 5681 – To provide for the approval of the Amendment to the Agreement Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for Cooperation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defense Purposes;
  2. H. Res. 754 – Condemning the Government of Iran for its gross human rights violations;
  3. H.R. 3398 – Girls Count Act of 2014, as amended;
  4. H.R. 5448 – John F. Kennedy Center Reauthorization Act of 2014; and
  5. H.R. 4012 – Secret Science Reform Act of 2014, Rules Committee Print (Subject to a Rule).

On Thursday, November 20, the House will meet at 9:00 am for legislative business, with last votes expected no later than 3:00 pm. Lawmakers will also consider H.R. 4795, the Promoting New Manufacturing Act (Subject to a Rule).

No votes are expected in the House on Friday, November 21.

Cyber Legislation Possible in the Lame Duck; Comments Due on NIST Information Sharing Guide

Posted in Cybersecurity

Legislative Activity

Carper and McCaul Call for Cyber Legislation in the Lame Duck

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) Chairman Tom Carper (D-DE) recently urged Senate leaders to take up his cybersecurity legislation – the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center Act of 2014 (S. 2519). This legislation would codify the existing National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is considered to be relatively non-controversial. Chairman Carper is hopeful that the Senate will take up the legislation in the lame duck given that the House passed a similar bill in this summer – the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2014 (H.R. 3696) – which also sought to codify the NCCIC and establish DHS’s role in cybersecurity.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) also recently indicated that the House and Senate Committees with jurisdiction over cybersecurity issues are also working to reach a consensus on two other bills that the House passed this Congress but the Senate has yet to take action on to date. The bills would update the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) and enhance the hiring capabilities and cybersecurity workforce at DHS. The House previously passed a FISMA reform bill (H.R. 1163) in April 2013 and a cybersecurity workforce bill (H.R. 3107) in July 2014; HSGAC passed similar bills on both issues out of committee in June 2014.

It is expected that if any cybersecurity legislation were to be passed in the lame duck, it would have to be attached to another broader piece of legislation, such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator Carper has filed the text of S. 2519 as an amendment to the NDAA but it is unclear whether or not the Senate will choose to consider the amendment on the floor in December.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, November 19: The House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service and the Census will hold a hearing titled “Examining Data Security at the Postal Service.”

Regulatory Activity

NIST Draft Guide to Cyber Threat Information Sharing

Comments on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) draft Guide to Cyber Threat Information Sharing are due Friday, November 28.  Based on the comments it receives, NIST will issue a final guidance document next year regarding how to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of defensive cyber operations and incident response activities through increased information sharing.

 

Congress Concentrates on ISIL, Ebola and FY 2015 Funding

Posted in Defense

Iraq/Syria Crises

The Pentagon said last Monday the Obama Administration will not send an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq until Congress approves its $5.6 billion request to pay for the deployment. The Defense Department noted that while the White House has legal authority to send the troops to Iraq to fight ISIL, the Administration wants to first secure congressional approval. In testimony before Congress last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey indicated the U.S. may need to redeploy combat troops to Iraq. On Sunday, President Obama released a statement on the death of Peter Kassig, an American humanitarian aid worker in Syria who had been captured last year and reportedly beheaded by ISIL over the weekend.

Ebola

Last Friday, the Pentagon announced it is mobilizing approximately 2,100 Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

FY 2015 Funding

A potential presidential decision on immigration could prompt conservative Republicans to try to block the move by attaching a rider to any federal spending legislation, which would contain funding for the Defense Department. Such a move could possibly threaten passage of the bill.

Senate to Vote on CCDBG Reauthorization Bill; Dept. of Education Issues NCLB Waiver Guidance

Posted in Education

Legislative Activity

Senate to Vote on Child Care and Development Block Grant Reauthorization

Last week, the Senate voted 96-1 to move to consideration of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization legislation (S. 1086). The Senate previously passed S. 1086 in March; the House then amended the bill and passed it in September. Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Richard Burr (R-NC) have led the effort to reauthorize this legislation since 2012 and received input from a variety of stakeholders during the process given that the law has not been reauthorized since 1996.

Final Senate passage on the House version of the bill is the last legislative hurdle that the CCDBG legislation will have to take before becoming law. Efforts to pass the bill by unanimous consent stalled last week as Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) held up the bill until the Senate voted on his proposal to require background checks for teachers and other school employees in elementary and secondary schools. Leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee have agreed to allow Senator Toomey to have a hearing on his proposal but they did not agree to a floor vote without first giving the HELP Committee the chance to consider the legislation.  A final vote on the CCDBG bill is expected early this week and could occur as early as Monday evening.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, November 19: The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity will hold a hearing titled “The Role of the State Approving Agencies in Ensuring Quality Education Programs for Veterans.”

Regulatory Activity

Department of Education Issues No Child Left Behind Waiver Guidance

Last Thursday, Assistant Secretary of Education Deborah Delisle sent a letter to all chief state school officers noting that they can request a three-year renewal of their NCLB waiver to last through the 2017-18 school year. Additionally, the letter states that certain state educational agencies will be invited to request a four-year renewal if their waiver was approved beginning in the 2012–2013 school year and they are meeting their commitments to the timelines and principles proposed in their original waiver application. These states are also eligible to participate in an expedited review process if they submit their renewal requests by January 30, 2015.  All states must request a waiver renewal by March 31, 2015. The letter also included the ESEA Flexibility Guidance for Renewal Process, which provides information about the substantive requirements for receiving a renewal of a NCLB waiver, as well as information about the renewal process.

One area of contention surrounding the NCLB waiver guidance is that it does not remove the yearly testing requirements included in NCLB, even though it does allow states to waive the requirements for tying teacher and principal evaluations to test scores as they transition to new Common Core-aligned tests. Both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association spoke out about their concerns about the lack of attention that the Department paid to over-testing under NCLB in the waiver renewal guidance.

Also, the Department announced on Friday that it would grant the state of New Mexico a one-year extension of its NCLB waiver. Thirty-one states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have received waiver extensions since July 3, 2014. The only remaining state that is waiting to hear about its waiver extension is Louisiana.

White House to Host ConnectED Event

The White House announced on Friday that it would host an event titled “ConnectED to the Future” on Wednesday, November 19. The event is part of its ConnectED initiative that seeks to connect 99 percent of students to high speed internet and empower teachers to use technology in the classroom. Superintendents and other educators who are leaders in their schools and districts in the transition to digital learning will be in attendance. During the event, President Obama will host a digital pledge signing ceremony of the Future Ready Pledge with hundreds of superintendents to be joined virtually and in person at the White House.

 

Environment and Natural Resources

Posted in Environment and Natural Resources

Executive Branch Activity

U.S.-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have announced an unprecedented effort to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The target for the United States is to cut its GHG emissions by 26-28 percent below year-2005 levels by 2025. China is expected to increase its share of non-fossil fuels in energy consumption to 20 percent by 2030. The announcement also presumes a decrease in China’s CO2 emissions after 2030, when China is expected to reach its peak emissions.

Legislative Activity

Natural Resources Ownership

Potentially impacting an entire supply chain of natural resources, on Thursday, November 20, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, will begin a two-day hearing titled, “Wall Street Bank Involvement With Physical Commodities.” The hearing will investigate “the extent to which banks and their holding companies own physical commodities” including “oil, natural gas, aluminum and other industrial metals, as well as own or control businesses like power plants, oil and gas pipelines, and commodity warehouses.”

Natural Disaster Tax Implications

On Tuesday, November 18, the Senate Finance Committee, Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight, will hold a hearing titled, “Tax Relief after a Disaster: How Individuals, Small Businesses, and Communities Recover.”

Cyanotoxins

On Wednesday, November 19, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, will hold a hearing titled “Cyanotoxins in Drinking Water.” The hearing will examine the lethal effects of cyanotoxins, a by-product of blue-green algae, that can cause respiratory failure.

Regulatory Activity

Hydrogen Fueling for Fuel Cell Vehicles

On Tuesday, November 18, the Department of Energy will hold a webinar addressing hydrogen fueling infrastructure research and station technology. Emphasis will be on creating for fuel cell vehicle customers an experience similar to utilizing conventional gas stations with the expectation that more fuel cell vehicles will soon be on the market.

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program

On Thursday, November 20, the Department of Energy and the Department of Agriculture will hold a webinar titled “Energy Efficiency and Conservation Loan Program” (EECLP). This will be the first in series and will provide an overview of the Rural Utilities Service’s new loan program.

Lawmakers to Continue Debate on TRIA, SEC to Consider Reg SCI

Posted in Financial Services

Legislative Activity

Lawmakers to Continue Debate on TRIA

As mentioned in previous coverage, Congress will continue to debate reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), which is set to expire at year’s end. While the substance and timing of such legislation remains uncertain, various lawmakers are continuing to push for a short-term (6 to 12 month) extension.

House Republicans to Re-Elect Hensarling as Chair of Financial Services

This week, the House Republican Steering Committee is set to select committee chairs for the 114th Congress, including the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee. While Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK) had previously announced plans to challenge current Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) to lead the committee, he recently announced he would not do so.  As such, Representative Hensarling, who is now unopposed for the chairmanship, is set to be reappointed.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, November 18: The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance will hold a hearing titled “The Impact of International Regulatory Standards on the Competitiveness of U.S. Insurers, Part II.”
  • Wednesday, November 19: The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance will hold a hearing titled “Opportunities for a Private and Competitive Sustainable Flood Insurance Market.”
  • Wednesday, November 19: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Federal Housing Finance Agency: Balancing Stability, Growth, and Affordability in the Mortgage Market.”
  • Thursday and Friday, November 20-21: The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Wall Street Bank Involvement with Physical Commodities.”
  • Friday, November 21: The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection will hold a hearing titled “Improving Financial Institution Supervision: Examining and Addressing Regulatory Capture.”

Regulatory Activity

SEC to Consider Reg SCI, Hold Forum on Small Business Capital Formation

On Wednesday, November 19, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will hold a meeting to consider whether to adopt Regulation Systems Compliance and Integrity (Regulation SCI) under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and conforming amendments to Regulation Alternative Trading System (ATS) under the Exchange Act. Additionally, on Thursday, November 20, the SEC will host its 2014 Government-Business Forum on Small Business Capital Formation, which will provide a platform to highlight perceived unnecessary impediments to small business capital formation and address whether they can be eliminated or reduced.

FDIC, OCC to Hold Meetings

On Tuesday, November 18, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) will hold a meeting of the Mutual Savings Association Advisory Committee on the regulatory changes or other steps the OCC can take to ensure the continued health and viability of mutual savings associations. That same day, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) Board of Directors will meet in open session to adopt a final rule on revisions to the Deposit Insurance Assessment System. Additionally, on Thursday, November 20, the FDIC will hold a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Community Banking to discuss current issues affecting community banking.

ACA Begins Open Enrollment

Posted in Health Care

Legislative Activity

With the midterm elections now over, the attention of the health policy community has shifted to the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period, which began on November 15. Due to last year’s bungled rollout, as well as recently disclosed statements made by economist and White House consultant Jonathan Gruber, a renewed focus on the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act is sure to dominate conversations in Washington in the coming weeks.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers continue to probe the government’s response to Ebola and other public health threats. Hearings on this topic are planned in the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On Wednesday, November 19, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will meet in executive session to consider, among other agenda items, S. 2917, Adding Ebola to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act, and H.R. 669, Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, November 18: The House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations will hold a hearing titled “Fighting Ebola: A Ground-Level View.” The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold a hearing titled “Update on the U.S. Public Health Response to the Ebola Outbreak.”
  • Wednesday, November 19: The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Examining Medical Product Development in the Wake of the Ebola Epidemic.” The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Preparedness and Response to Public Health Threats: How Ready Are We?” The Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs will hold a hearing titled “Mental Health and Suicide Among Veterans.” The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold an oversight hearing titled “Protecting Our Children’s Mental Health: Preventing and Addressing Childhood Trauma in Indian Country.”
  • Thursday, November 20: The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging will hold a hearing titled “Why Are Some Generic Drugs Skyrocketing in Price?”

Regulatory Activity

HRSA Withdraws Proposed 340B “Mega Rule”

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) withdrew its plans to publish a 340B “mega rule” last week, stating on its website, “In 2015, HRSA plans to issue a proposed guidance for notice and comment that will address key policy issues raised by various stakeholders committed to the integrity of the 340B program. HRSA is also planning to issue proposed rules pertaining to civil monetary penalties for manufacturers, calculation of the 340B ceiling price, and administration dispute resolution.” This past July, HRSA released an interpretive rule, which required pharmaceutical manufacturers to discount orphan drugs when hospitals utilize them for conditions other than their specified condition. Previously, in May, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated an HHS regulation of the same nature.

Congress Remains Focused on Iran, Ebola, and ISIL; President Obama Returns to Washington

Posted in International

Presidential Trip

G-20 Summit. Over the weekend, President Barack Obama participated in the G-20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane, Australia. While the Summit agenda focused on the global economy, the global banking system and closing tax loopholes for multinational corporations, Western leaders also met and discussed the situation in Ukraine. On Sunday, the White House released a fact sheet on the Brisbane Action Plan of individual country commitments and collective actions that could increase the G-20’s combined output by 2.1 percent or more over the next five years. The G-20′s Leaders’ Communiqué is available here. President Obama returned to Washington late Sunday evening.

Climate Change. Essentially bypassing Congress – exercising his executive authority – President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China announced a climate change agreement last Wednesday in Beijing. The agreement calls for the United States to cut its carbon emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025; effectively placing the U.S. obligation on the President’s successor. On Friday, the President announced the intention of the United States to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), reflecting the U.S. commitment to reduce carbon pollution and strengthen resilience in developing countries.

Burma. Last Friday, the White House announced the United States, together with the Governments of Burma, Japan, and Denmark, and the International Labor Organization (ILO), launched the Initiative to Promote Fundamental Labor Rights and Practices in Myanmar. The Initiative will help modernize Burma’s labor code, improve compliance with international labor standards, and foster a dialogue between the government, business, labor and civil society. On Thursday, President Obama announced in Naypyitaw that the U.S. Peace Corps will open a program in Burma.

Russia/Ukraine Crisis

Ukraine accused Russia last Thursday of sending soldiers and weapons to help pro-Russian separatist in eastern Ukraine. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Friday that President Obama delivered a message to Russian Vladimir Putin during informal conversations in Beijing, calling on Russia to honor the September Minsk ceasefire agreement. At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council last Wednesday, Ukraine’s ambassador said Kyiv’s restraint was the only reason all-out war has not erupted. Meanwhile, EU and U.S. officials met in Brussels last Thursday to discuss additional sanctions against Russia and the pro-Russian separatists.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the G-20 Summit, President Obama said about Russia’s latest activities in Ukraine:

“We would prefer a Russia that is fully integrated with the global economy … [b]ut we’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles.  And one of those principles is, is that you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections.”

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Brisbane, warning Russia again to change course in Ukraine or face continued isolation. It remains unclear whether new sanctions may be imposed by Western countries.

Iran

Representatives of the P5+1 and Iran are set to meet in Vienna on Tuesday to try and finalize a permanent agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Last Thursday, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman suggested the P5+1 Talks may not be able to secure a deal on curbing Tehran’s nuclear program before the extended Joint Plan of Action deadline on 24 November.

  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade will hold a hearing on the Iranian nuclear talks.
  • On Thursday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold hearing to examine the impact of a nuclear Iran deal on global security.

Ebola Crisis

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Ebola last week, Africa Subcommittee Chair Chris Smith (R-New Jersey) said he intends to introduce a bill – the Ebola Emergency Response Act – to bolster U.S. efforts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. There was bipartisan support expressed for a robust international response and prudent containment measures. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee also held a hearing examining the U.S. response to the crisis and new funding request. Last Friday, the G-20 Leaders issued a statement on Ebola, inviting those governments that have yet to do so to join in providing financial contributions, appropriately qualified and trained medical teams and personnel, medical and protective equipment, and medicines and treatments. This week, Congress remains focused on Ebola, with the following hearings scheduled:

  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health will hold a hearing on a ground-level view of fighting Ebola.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will hold an executive session to examine, among other bills, S. 2917 – a bill to add Ebola to the Food and Drug Administration’s Priority Review Voucher Program Act.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. preparedness and response to public health threats.
  • This week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold two subcommittee hearings on the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis, and on medical product development – this Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Iraq/Syria Crises

The Pentagon said last Monday the Obama Administration will not send an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq until Congress approves its $5.6 billion request to pay for the deployment. The Defense Department noted that while the White House has legal authority to send the troops to Iraq to fight ISIL, the Administration wants to first secure congressional approval. In testimony before Congress last week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey said Iraq will need about 80,000 competent Iraqi security forces to retake the terrain it lost to ISIL and restore its border with Syria. He also indicated the U.S. may need to redeploy combat troops to Iraq. On Sunday, President Obama released a statement on the death of Peter Kassig, an American humanitarian aid worker in Syria who had been captured last year and reportedly beheaded by ISIL over the weekend.

  • On Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on countering ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
  • On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will hold a hearing on next steps for U.S. foreign policy on Syria and Iraq.

Trade

The Swedish Government is reportedly urging the new European Union Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom – a former Swedish official – to act quickly to conclude the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) talks with the United States in 2015 before the U.S. presidential election season commences. On the margins of the G-20 Summit, the leaders of the United States and the European Union, and the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Spain reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive and ambitious negotiations, leading to a high standard TTIP agreement.

According to U.S. trade officials, a deal announced by the United States and India last Thursday to resolve the impasse at the World Trade Organization (WTO) includes an agreement that the General Council will simultaneously adopt a protocol to implement the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The deal also includes a clarifying decision that the peace clause will remain unchanged until WTO members reach a permanent solution. The General Council is not likely to approve the protocol and clarification until a previously scheduled meeting on 10 December.

This week, the House Republican Steering Committee is set to select committee chairs for the 114th Congress, including the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  While it is expected that Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) will succeed current Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan), Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas) is also vying for the position.

Keystone XL Pipeline

Last week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted and approved a bill to advance the long-languishing Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada and several U.S. states to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries. The Democrat-controlled Senate is expected to vote this Tuesday on approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline. This is an unexpected turn of events for legislation that has failed for almost six years to advance in the upper chamber of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is allowing the vote in part to give Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu an opportunity to vote “yea” in an attempt to possibly boost her chances in the runoff election next month with Republican challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy. President Obama has indicated that he will veto the bill; and neither chamber of Congress appears to have the two-thirds majority to override a presidential veto.

Immigration

President Obama warned just after the mid-term elections that he will use his executive authority to change U.S. immigration policy; a move that is expected to further anger Republicans. Government officials have indicated the President could issue Executive Orders as early as this week. If President Obama moves forward with such action he could “poison the well” of bipartisanship, possibly impacting the FY 2015 government funding negotiations and the confirmation of Loretta Lynch, the President’s nominee to be Attorney General, during the lame-duck session of Congress that began last week.

  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere will hold a hearing to examine the Administration’s strategy for addressing unaccompanied alien children.

Central America

Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks last Friday at the Inter-American Development Bank Conference, “Investing in Central America: Unlocking Opportunities for Development.” The White House also released a fact sheet on promoting prosperity, security and good governance in Central America.

United Nations

In Geneva last Wednesday, the United States conducted its two-day periodic presentation to the Committee Against Torture, articulating a number of changes and clarifications of U.S. policy. Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov told reporters last week that moves by some U.S. states to legalize marijuana are not in line with international drugs conventions. He is in Washington this week and is expected to raise this issue with U.S. officials.

Other Congressional Hearings

  • On Tuesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Emerging Threats will hold a hearing to examine water sharing conflicts and the threats to international peace.
  • On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Anthony Blinken to be the next Deputy Secretary of State.
  • On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa will mark-up H.R. 5648, The U.S.-Jordan Defense Cooperation Act of 2014.
  • On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will mark-up the following bills: H.R. 2901, The Senator Paul Simon Water for the World Act of 2013; H.R. 5206, a bill to allow foreign service and other executive agency employees to designate beneficiaries of their death benefits; H.R. 5685, The Rewards for Justice Congressional Notification Act of 2014.
  • On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on Cybersecurity threats.

Looking Ahead

Washington will likely focus on the following upcoming matters:

  • 24 November: P5+1 Talks’ Joint Plan of Action deadline.
  • 11 December: FY 2015 Continuing Resolution funding expires.
  • 16-18 December: U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce & Trade (JCCT) convenes in Chicago, Illinois.
  • 3 January: The 114th Congress convenes in Washington.

 

Republicans to Select Chair of Ways and Means, IRS to Discuss Proposed Regulations on MMFs

Posted in Tax and Retirement

Legislative Activity

Lawmakers to Continue Debate on Tax Extenders

As previously reported, lawmakers are expected to continue debate on tax extenders legislation. While many suspect that the end result will be  a short-term extension (one or two years) of the expired tax provisions, there continues to be discussion of a blended approach, which would temporarily extend most of the expired provisions while making select provisions (such as the Research and Development Tax Credit) permanent. Given the fluid nature of discussions, it remains to be seen which approach will ultimately prevail.

House Republicans to Select Chair of Ways and Means

This week, the House Republican Steering Committee is set to select committee chairs for the 114th Congress, including the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.  While it is expected that Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) will succeed current Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI), Representative Kevin Brady (R-TX) is also vying for the position.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, November 18: The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Taxation and IRS Oversight will hold a hearing titled “Tax Relief After Disaster: How Individuals, Small Businesses, and Communities Recover.”

Regulatory Activity

IRS to Discuss Proposed Regulations on MMFs, Advisory Council to Meet

On Wednesday, November 19, the IRS will hold a meeting to discuss proposed regulations to provide a simplified method of accounting for gains and losses on shares in money market funds (MMFs) that distribute, redeem, and repurchase their shares at prices that reflect market-based valuation of the MMFs’ portfolios and more precise rounding than has been previously required. Earlier that same day, the IRS Advisory Council will meet to discuss a myriad of topics, including the IRS’s need for sufficient funding to ensure that it is able to “operate efficiently and effectively, provide timely and useful guidance to taxpayers, and enforce current law.”

President Obama Announces Nominee for Undersecretary for Domestic Finance

Last week, President Obama announced the nomination of Antonio Weiss, head of global investment banking at Lazard Ltd., to be Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance.  Mr. Weiss would take over for Mary Miller, who stepped down in September.  Presently, Matthew Rutherford serves as the Acting Treasury Undersecretary.  Notably, following President Obama’s announcement of the nomination, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) made clear that she will oppose Mr. Weiss’ nomination due to “growing concerns with the Administration being loaded with so many appointees from Wall Street.”