A closer look at next week … Keystone, student loans and the farm bill

While Obama has approved the southern route of the pipeline, he has continued to delay approval of the northern route. The Northern Route Approval Act would get around that delay by deeming presidential approval unnecessary.

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The GOP will also move legislation to resolve what has become an annual headache for Congress about federal student loan rates. Without legislation, those rates will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent this summer.

Republicans have a new bill that includes language supported by Obama that would get Congress out of the business of setting the rate, and keying rates to the 10-year Treasury note.

Democrats are already claiming that this would allow rates to rise too much. But the bill includes a cap on rates, and support for a similar plan from Obama could prompt some Democrats to support it.

The main business of the Senate next week is the $955 billion farm bill. Senate leaders aren't expecting to finish work on the bill next week, but it will start the process of passing the nation's next five-year agricultural plan.

The bill would cut $23 billion from current spending levels over 10 years, but some Republicans have noted with a similar bill last year, that this cut is from post-stimulus levels. It also cuts $4 billion in food stamps, which has led to some Democratic opposition.

Still, the Senate seems likely to pass a version of the bill passed the Senate last year in a 64-35 vote.

The Senate may also find time to start work on the Gang of Eight's immigration plan, assuming the Senate Judiciary Committee approves it.

House and Senate committees are busy next week. On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the IRS scandal, following last week's House hearing. On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on the nomination of Anthony Foxx to be the next Transportation secretary, and the next day, it will vote on Penny Pritzker to be the next Commerce secretary.

In the House, Education Secretary Arne Duncan will testify on Tuesday on the administration's 2014 budget plan for his department.

Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:

Monday

The Senate starts at 2 p.m., and after "morning" business it will proceed to S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act, also known as the farm bill.

The bill is not expected to be completed this week and may be put aside if the Senate Judiciary Committee can approve the immigration bill.

At 5 p.m., the Senate will consider two district court judge nominations — Sheri Chappell for Florida, and Michael McShane for Oregon.

The House begins work at noon, and later in the afternoon, it will consider two suspension bills:

H.R. 258, Stolen Valor Act, and

H.R. 1073, Nuclear Terrorism Conventions Implementation and Safety of Maritime Navigation Act.

Tuesday

The House meets in the afternoon to consider more suspension bills:

H.R. 1412, Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act,

H.R. 570, American Heroes COLA Act,

H.R. 1344, Helping Heroes Fly Act,

H.R. 324, to grant the Congressional Gold Medal to the First Special Service Force, in recognition of its service in World War II,

S. 982, the Freedom to Fish Act, and

S.Con.Res. 16, authorizing the use of Emancipation Hall for the unveiling of a statue of Frederick Douglass.

Wednesday

The House starts at 10 a.m., and in the afternoon it will work on H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, which would approve the northern portion of the Keystone pipeline.

Members are expected to pass the rule for the bill, then the bill itself later in the day.

The House will also take up two last suspension bills:

H.R. 271, Resolving Environmental and Grid Reliability Conflicts Act, and

H.R. 1949, the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act.

Thursday

Starting at 9 a.m., the House will consider H.R. 1911, the Smarter Solutions for Students Act, this is the GOP's bill to resolve the annual fight over student loan interest rates.

Friday

The House is out, and starts its Memorial Day break.