Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
The second session of the 113th Congress convenes today. On December 20, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Sen. Baucus (D-MT) as U.S. Ambassador to China. Sen. Baucus has yet to undergo the Senate confirmation process but it is expected he will be confirmed to the position. House Ways and Means Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) and outgoing Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus are expected to introduce – possibly as early as this week – Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation. TPA would give President Barack Obama expedited procedural power to submit non-amendable trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes.
Last Friday, January 3, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced its deadlines for its 2014 “Special 301” review process, which identifies countries with intellectual property protection concerns. Interested parties have until February 7 to file comments or testimony requests. Foreign governments can submit comments or testimony requests until February 14.
On December 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published final rules that allow for the import of apricots and avocados from Spain. The European Union had pressed for this action as part of a broader list of sanitary and phytosanitary barriers it wanted to the United States address in the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations.
On January 2, the United States published final rules implementing the revision of five categories of the U.S. Munitions List (USML). The rules are part of the Administration’s export control reform initiative that transfers certain items from these categories to the less stringent controls of the Commerce Control List. The rules cover the revision of USML:
- Category IV on missiles and launch vehicles;
- Category V on explosives;
- Category IX on military training equipment;
- Category X on protective personnel equipment; and
- Category XVI on nuclear weapons design and test equipment.
Late in December, the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a joint statement that security conditions in Syria had “constrained planned movements” and bad weather had foiled plans to move the chemical weapons out of the country by the target date of December 31. Once the chemical materials are transported to a Syrian port, the material will reportedly be transported by Danish and Norwegian ships – with support from Finland and security provided by Russia and China – to the MV Cape Ray, a U.S. ship, for neutralization.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has yet to disclose whether he intends to bring a floor vote on the Iran Sanctions legislation (S. 1881) sponsored by Foreign Relations Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). The Majority Leader has already implemented a procedural maneuver that would allow the bill to come directly to the floor.
Over the weekend, representatives of South Sudan’s government and rebel forces held peace talks in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, home of the African Union. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader, former Vice President Riek Machar, are under mounting pressure from African and Western powers to reach a deal. On December 15, the two main ethnic groups in South Sudan began fighting in Juba and the fighting quickly spread across the country. With the deteriorating security situation, on December 22, President Obama authorized U.S. military to be dispatched to assist with evacuating U.S. citizens from South Sudan. Last Friday, U.S. Marines evacuated remaining personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Juba. According to the United Nations, the fighting in South Sudan has killed more than 1,000 people and displaced 180,000 people.
Last Friday, the United Nations said more than 935,000 people – up from around 400,000 at the start of December – have been displaced in the clashes between Christian militias and the mainly Muslim Seleka rebel group in the Central African Republic. The Seleka group overthrew Central African Republic President François Bozizé in March.
Lawmakers are facing an extremely abbreviated timeline to move a $1.012 trillion appropriations measure for FY 2014 that would cover government operations through September 30. Both chambers have slightly more than a week to pass the likely omnibus measure – or a continuing resolution – before the current stopgap spending measure expires on January 15.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Thursday, January 9: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa will hold a hearing titled, “Will there be an African Economic Community?”
- Thursday, January 9: The House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade will hold a hearing titled, “International Impacts of the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Easing Program.”