Next week: Bring out the budget

The House returns for one of the busiest weeks it has all year — budget week.

Republicans have proposed a budget that would cut $5.1 trillion in planned spending over the next ten years. The GOP notes this would allow spending to increase every year and still balance after a decade, but Democrats have said it would hurt millions of Americans who rely on social programs.

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This timeless fight over how much government should tax and spend will let the two parties — and factions within the two parties — practice arguments many will still be making by the mid-term elections. But by the end of next week, the House will have passed the budget blueprint from House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

Several other budget alternatives will be considered. In past years, GOP leaders have allowed votes on budget plans from the Democratic minority, the Republican Study Committee, the Progressive Caucus, and the Congressional Black Caucus.

The House will also consider two budget reform bills during the week that Republicans say will help Congress in its effort to balance the budget. One of these would prevent Congress from using the prior year's budget plus inflation as a starting point for the next year's budget.

While Democrats in the House complain about the need to preserve federal programs, Senate Democrats will start the week off by voting on a bill to extend emergency unemployment benefits. This bill is several months in the making, and it took many discussions before enough Senate Republicans could support the latest compromise.

The bill extends emergency benefits that expired in late December for five months, and Senate passage will put even more pressure on House Republicans to act.

As of this week, however, GOP leaders continued to indicate that they would not consider the Senate bill, and instead want to focus on things like deregulation and streamlining job training programs to help create jobs.

Once the Senate finishes unemployment, it's expected to start work on a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. This bill poses another possible political problem for Republicans, especially if the Senate is able to pass it.

In recent weeks, Republicans have answered calls to raise the minimum wage by saying Congress should focus on ObamaCare, which is forcing employers to cut worker hours. Last week, Republicans acted on this by passing a bill to end ObamaCare's 30-hour workweek rule, which 18 Democrats supported.

Speaking of the healthcare law, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will testify in the Senate Thursday on President Obama's 2015 budget. But this will likely turn into a back and forth about ObamaCare.

Below is a more detailed look at the week ahead:

MONDAY

The Senate begins at 2 p.m., and at 5:30 p.m., it will hold a final passage vote on the bipartisan bill to extend federal emergency unemployment benefits. That is the Senate-amended H.R. 3979, or S. 2149.

The House is in at noon for speeches, and in the afternoon it will consider a budget bill and up to three suspension bills. The budget bill is:

H.R. 1871, the Baseline Reform Act, which would prohibit automatic inflation increases in budgets from one year to the next.

The suspension bills are:

H.R. 3470, the Naval Vessel and Arms Export Control Amendments Act, authorizing the transfer of surplus ships to Mexico and Thailand.

S. 404, the Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act, preserving an area of Washington state affected by last month's mudslide. The Senate passed this bill this week.

H.R. 4323, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act, reauthorizing grants to states to conduct DNA analyses of samples collected from crime victims.

TUESDAY-THURSDAY

The House will use these days to work on the budget resolution today, which is H.Con.Res. 96. The House Rules Committee planned to meet Monday night to write a rule for the budget and determine which alternative budgets will get a vote.

Members of the House will start by debating and passing that rule, and then will begin debate on the various budget proposals that the rule makes in order.

Also during this part of the week, the House will work on another budget reform bill:

H.R. 1872, the Budget and Accounting Transparency Act, which aims to make budget accounting more accurate, in part by requiring.

The Senate is in session for the rest of the week, and is expected to begin work on a Democratic bill to increase the minimum wage. The bill from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), S. 1737, would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, and then index the wage to inflation.

The Senate is also expected to do more work on Executive Branch nominations during the week.

FRIDAY

The House and Senate are not expected to be in, and both will be out for a two-week spring recess.

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