Thursday: Budget, farm bill, doc fix, NDAA

The House on Thursday will make progress on a two-year budget deal, a one-month farm bill extension, a three-month "doc fix," and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

On Wednesday, the budget plan from the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget Committees won better than expected reviews from House Republicans. Some Republicans and some Democrats will oppose it, but the bill should pass by the end of today.

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The budget plan takes away $63 billion from the sequester cuts, and adds a mix of new fees and ways to prevent fraud and overpayments by the government. Those latter changes will offset the $63 billion and then some, allowing Republicans to say the deal cuts the deficit further.

Members will start in the afternoon by debating the rule for the budget deal, which takes the form of an amendment to a continuing resolution the Congress passed earlier this year, H.J.Res. 59.

The rule also makes in order another amendment on the "doc fix," which is the latest attempt to avoid congressionally mandated cuts to Medicare physicians. It's a three-month patch that would give Medicare doctors a 0.5 percent payment increase through the end of March.

It would also give Congress three months to permanently fix this problem, although Congress has been unable to do that for years now. The Congressional Budget Office said on Wednesday that the three-month bill would cost $8.7 billion.

After the rule passes, the House is expected to debate the budget plan for 70 minutes, and then vote.

The same rule that covers the budget also sets up floor consideration of two other bills. One is H.R. 3695, which extends farm programs for 30 days.

This bill is partly aimed at ensuring the continuation of dairy subsidies, in the hopes of avoiding a spike in dairy prices. But some say the extension is not needed, and Senate Democrats have said they won't consider the short-term bill.

Members are expected to start debate on this bill today, but finish work on it Friday.

The House will also consider up to three suspension bills today. One of them is the NDAA, authorizing more than $600 billion in defense spending.

The House has already passed this bill, but House and Senate leaders agreed to pass an amended version this week, starting with the House, in order to finish it up quickly.

The two other suspensions are:

— H.R. 1447, the Death in Custody Reporting Act, requiring states to report to the federal government on all deaths of people in custody, and

— H.R. 3509, the Assessing Progress in Haiti Act, requiring the State Department to report on U.S. aid efforts in Haiti.

The Senate will spend another day on nominations, after staying up until 1 a.m. to confirm Nina Pillard to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The late night was forced by Republicans who are angry at the Democratic decision to gut the GOP's ability to filibuster Obama administration nominees.

After that vote, the Senate stayed up all night to hear Republican complaints about ObamaCare and the Senate's use of the so-called "nuclear option" to advance nominees.

The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination of Chai Feldblum to be a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 9:15 a.m. Thursday, and then start the process of considering Elizabeth Wolford's nomination to be a district judge for New York.