This week: Lawmakers to debate appropriations, VA, student loans

 

The House will consider 2015 appropriations this week, while the Senate may take up student loan refinancing and a Veterans Affairs Department reform bill.

Legislation to provide $52 billion in funding for the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development will be first on the House's agenda. The measure, known in Capitol Hill parlance as THUD, will be the fourth 2015 appropriations bill to hit the House floor this year.

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The House already passed 2015 appropriations for the Department of Veterans Affairs and military construction, legislative branch and the Departments of Commerce and Justice. Meanwhile, the Senate is not expected to start work on any appropriations bills until the week of June 16.

Last year, consideration of the THUD appropriations bill symbolized the meltdown of the appropriations process when it was pulled from the floor once it became clear it didn't have the votes to pass.

The measure this year will still be controversial. Transportation and urban development programs will overall get a $1.8 billion spending reduction due to a revenue shortfall from the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

After completing work on THUD, the House will take up the $20.9 billion Agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal 2015. A provision that would waive nutrition standards backed by first lady Michelle Obama for some schools is likely to dominate debate, along with funding for nutrition assistance programs.

Tax extenders

The House may also consider two bills to permanently extend tax credits that expired at the end of 2013. 

One measure would make permanent the deductions small businesses can make for investments in new equipment and property. Small businesses would be able to expense up to $500,000 per year under the permanent extension.

The second bill would extend the tax break that enable businesses set up as S-corporations to reduce the time they have to hold built-in gains from 10 years to five. S-corporations are corporations that pass along income, losses and credits to their shareholders for tax purposes.

The House passed a permanent extension of the research and development tax credit last month that would cost $156 billion over ten years with no offset.

Student loans

After finishing work on nominations, the Senate may consider a bill that would allow the nearly 40 million people with more than $1 trillion in student loans to refinance to current lower interest rates.

The student loans bill is part of Senate Democrats' "fair shot" 2014 agenda that included an unemployment insurance extension, minimum wage increase and pay equity for women. But it is unlikely that enough Republicans will join Democrats to advance the bill, which is paid for by raising taxes on millionaires.

VA reform

The Senate may also debate a bipartisan measure that would overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

The legislation, struck by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), would give the VA secretary expanded authority to fire executives, allow some veterans to seek healthcare outside the VA and hire more doctors.

McCain said last week that the compromise measure, if passed, would be conferenced with the VA reform measure that the House passed last month.

 

Monday

The Senate will convene at 2 p.m. At 5:30 p.m., it will vote to end debate on the following nominations:

- M. Hannah Lauck to be a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of Virginia.

- Leo T. Sorokin to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Massachusetts.

- Richard Franklin Boulware II to be a U.S. district judge for the District of Nevada.

Meanwhile, the House will vote at 6:30 p.m. on the following bills under suspension of the rules. Another vote series is possible later Monday night as the House begins consideration of the THUD appropriations bill.

H.R. 2072, to require the VA inspector general (IG) to notify the VA secretary and Congress of any departmental failure to adopt recommended reforms outlined in an IG report. 

H. Res. 600, to urge the Afghan government to pursue a "transparent, credible and inclusive" run-off presidential election on June 14.

H.R. 4412, to authorize 2014 appropriations for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) programs.

S. 1254, to authorize $20.5 million annually through 2018 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reduce the effects of algal blooms and hypoxia in bodies of water.

H. Con. Res. 100, to authorize the use of the Capitol rotunda for a ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

- S. Con. Res. 36, to authorize the use of the Capitol rotunda for a ceremony to award the Congressional Gold Medal to Raoul Wallenberg.

- H.R. 3211, to modify the definition of "points and fees" associated with a mortgage used for the qualified mortgage rule created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law.

- H.R. 1679, to apply the length time periods established for certain bank deposits to the American Samoa.

- H.R. 4228, to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security's acquisition program. 


Tuesday

The House will wrap up consideration of the 2015 THUD appropriations bill, if it is not completed Monday night. Members will also vote on two bills under suspension of the rules:

- Draft legislation to allow veterans to seek care from non-VA doctors if they live more than 40 miles from the closest VA facility or if wait times for medical care at VA hospitals are too long.

H. Res. 608, to condemn the May 23 mass shooting in Isla Vista, Calif.

At 10 a.m., the Senate will vote to confirm the three district court judge nominations. Afterward, it will vote to invoke cloture on the nomination of Lael Brainard to be a member of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors.

Wednesday

The House will likely consider the 2015 Agriculture appropriations bill.

The Senate will finish work on Brainard's nomination. It may also consider the nominations of Jerome Powell to be a member of the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors and Stanley Fischer to be the board's chairman.

If the Senate finishes work on nominations quickly, it may turn to the student loan refinancing bill or the VA reform measure.

Thursday

The House is expected to vote on two tax credit extension bills. 

The Senate may still be working through nominations, or it may have moved to the student loan or VA bills.

 

- Ramsey Cox and Martin Matishak contributed.