Congress to resume budget, spending battles

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The Federal Reserve will provide an update on its monetary policy on Wednesday, after a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). The Fed is still in the midst of a bond-buying spree, the third of its kind, in an attempt to boost the economy, and the central bank has committed to keep it up until it sees substantial improvement in the labor market. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will explain the monetary policy update with a press conference afterward.

The Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday will vote on two nominees to lead a pair of the nation’s financial regulators.

The panel is set to consider Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Richard Cordray to continue on as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The pair appeared before the panel the week before, and while White seemed to emerge unscathed and on track for confirmation, Cordray continues to face staunch GOP opposition. While Republican lawmakers say they personally appreciate his work, they intend to block any nominee to lead the bureau unless major changes are made to its structure. Both nominees should clear the Democratic-controlled panel, but Cordray’s path before the full Senate looks iffy.

After that vote, the panel will hold a hearing to talk about forging a compromise on housing finance reform.

Former Republican Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.), co-chairman of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Housing Commission, will testify, along with Janneke Ratcliffe, a senior fellow for the Center for American Progress. Last month, the center released a report that suggested eliminating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of a winding-down of the federal government’s involvement in the mortgage finance business.

That same day, the House Financial Services Committee will also dig into housing, holding a hearing to explore the financial state of the Federal Housing Administration and Fannie and Freddie. The former is potentially facing billions in losses on failed mortgages, while the latter pair has needed nearly $200 billion in government support to stay afloat since the financial crisis, but has recently begun turning a profit again.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will take a look at how this year’s trade agenda is shaping up, with an eye on how to increase export opportunities for U.S. businesses, which could boost economic growth.

There is plenty to talk about — the 11 nations involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership want to wrap up work on the trade deal this year, although that target could change if they decide to allow Japan to join the discussions. There is also the expected start of negotiations in June on a U.S.-EU trade deal and a potential international services agreement. The panel will discuss several in-house issues, including the renewal of trade promotion authority and trade adjustment assistance.

The next day, the committee will explore ways to reform the delivery of healthcare via new approaches to Medicare and Medicaid.

The House Ways and Means Committee will continue its tax reform debate on Tuesday as well, holding a full committee hearing to discuss how the federal tax code affects state and local governments, and what impact reform to that code could have.

House appropriators have a range of hearings on tap throughout next week. Funding for programs, including the FBI, the General Services Administration and NASA, will be among those being examined.