This week: Budget talks go down to the wire

Lawmakers are in for a busy week as they race to finish deals on the budget and farm bill before the holiday recess.

Budget negotiators say they are closing in on a compromise that would avert the sequestration cuts for two years, and they could unveil an agreement early next week.

The conferees have until Dec. 13 to strike a deal.

Meanwhile, a farm bill deal could emerge early in the week, once policymakers receive scores from the Congressional Budget Office about a compromise proposal combining House price-based farm subsidies and Senate calculation methods.

On Tuesday, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) will likely be confirmed as the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The Senate is expected to vote on the pick that day, and a recent change to Senate rules should mean the once-blocked nominee will cruise to confirmation.

President Obama’s pick to head the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, will likely receive a confirmation vote later in December.

The president’s pick to take over the Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen, will receive a vetting from the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. The former Freddie Mac official aims to take over the agency after multiple officials were forced out over the improper treatment of Tea Party groups.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday about the state of the international finance system.

One day later, the House panel will commemorate the Federal Reserve’s upcoming 100th anniversary by discussing the central bank’s mandates and whether Congress should adjust the bank’s goals. Republicans have long contended the Fed’s dual mandate of maximizing employment and minimizing inflation should be cut in half to allow the central bank to focus solely on controlling prices.

The Senate Banking Committee has a full slate of hearings on tap. On Tuesday, the panel will continue its debate on housing finance reform, focusing on how to manage and transfer credit risk. It will follow that up with a Wednesday hearing devoted to rebuilding American manufacturing, and a Thursday debate on the recent nuclear deal struck with Iran.

Financial regulators will take a big step toward making the Dodd-Frank law a reality on Tuesday when they vote to finalize the “Volcker Rule.” The Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency are all holding their own meetings that day to vote and finalize the rule.

The provision, a central piece of the Wall Street reform law, will crack down on risky trading by banks, and rules implementing it have been in the work for years.

Lawmakers may also unveil a bill next week that would give the president “fast track” authority to negotiate trade agreements free of congressional amendments, something the White House has advocated. The bill would allow TransPacific and EU trade deals the administration is negotiating to enjoy fast track procedures on the House and Senate floors