The Week Ahead: Rangel on trial

Congress’s lame-duck session begins Monday — along with Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) ethics trial.

The biggest item on the legislative agenda: whether to renew the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. President Obama has signaled he’s open to talks on Republican wishes for an across-the-board extension, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has said she’s against extending tax cuts for the wealthiest individuals.

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The government needs to be funded either through spending bills or another continuing resolution — the current resolution runs out Dec. 3.

There could also be action on extending federal unemployment benefits, as the program expires Nov. 30; stopping a scheduled 23 percent cut to Medicare's payments to doctors, which is set for Dec. 1; passing the annual defense authorization bill, which — for now — includes a repeal of the military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy; and ratifying the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia.

There could also be a vote on the DREAM Act, a scaled-back immigration bill. Lawmakers have until year's end to fix the alternative minimum tax.

Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats in each chamber will hold their leadership elections. And Obama will host the congressional leadership at the White House.

Newly elected lawmakers will also be in town to begin learning the ropes.

Monday, Nov. 15

Freshman orientation for new lawmakers begins. The members-elect will get lessons in congressional ethics and Capitol security and learn details about their office furnishings and equipment. 

Rangel, who fired his legal team in October, faces the ethics panel at a 9 a.m. trial expected to last all week. 1310 Longworth.

Sens.-elect Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) are sworn into office. Both won special elections last week.

Rep. Tim Bishop’s (D-N.Y.) legal team is expected back in court to argue for a full hand recount of all 181,000 ballots cast in his district. Bishop was originally declared the winner, but further vote counts handed the lead to Republican Randy Altschuler. Altschuler leads by fewer than 400 votes.

Off the Hill, the conservative Americans for Prosperity group is hosting a “November Speaks” event calling on lawmakers to not pass “any new legislation from the Left’s agenda” in the lame-duck session. Expected speakers include GOP Reps. Mike Pence (Ind.) and Michele Bachmann (Minn.), as well as newly elected members Morgan Griffith (Va.), Frank Guinta (N.H.) and Sean Duffy (Wis.). The event takes place at 11:30 at the corner of Independence Avenue and 1st Street SE.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan addresses the American Enterprise Institute at 10:30 a.m. at an event called “Bang for the Buck on Schooling.” 1150 17th St. NW.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks to the National Business Coalition on Health's annual conference at 12:30 p.m. at the JW Marriott Hotel, 1331 Pennsylvania Ave. NW.

The Brookings Institution holds an event from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on “Internet Governance and Regulation: What Should Government’s Role Be?” with a keynote by Comcast executive vice president David Cohen. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

Tuesday, Nov. 16

New-member orientation continues with House Parliamentarian John Sullivan going over House rules and procedures. He’ll show incoming lawmakers around the House floor and explain the voting system. Incoming freshmen will also meet with their respective party’s caucus and conference and begin to learn the tunnel system that runs underneath the Capitol and House office buildings. They’ll also get a tour of the Capitol Visitor Center.

The Senate Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference hold their leadership elections. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are expected to keep their jobs.

The Senate Republican Conference is scheduled to vote on imposing a moratorium on earmarks.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee meets at 2:30 p.m. for a hearing on "Closing the Gaps in Air Cargo Security" in the wake of the Yemeni parcel bomb plot. 342 Dirksen.

Obama awards Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry in a 2 p.m. ceremony at the White House.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies co-hosts a discussion, “A Strategic Review of the Gulf Oil Spill,” at 5:30 p.m. with National Incident Commander Thad Allen. 1800 K St. NW.

The final tally of absentee and provisional ballots is expected in Rep. Melissa Bean’s (D-Ill.) House race.

Wednesday, Nov. 17

Newly elected members will continue their caucus and conference meetings. In the evening, returning members of the House and their spouses have been invited to join the members-elect for snacks at the Botanic Garden. And The Hill will host a reception in honor of the incoming lawmakers.

The Democratic Caucus holds its leadership elections. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is running for minority leader; Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.) said Sunday he would challenge her if she does not step aside, though he doesn’t have the votes to win. The race for the No. 2 spot of minority whip had pitted Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) against Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), but a deal has been struck under which Clyburn will apparently assume a newly created No. 3 role — Assistant Leader. Rep. John Larson (Conn.) is expected to remain caucus leader.

On the Republican side, current Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is expected to be elected Speaker and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) is expected to become majority leader. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) is unchallenged for majority whip, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas) is expected to be conference leader.

The House Judiciary Committee meets at 10 a.m. for a hearing on "Foreclosed Justice: Causes and Effects of the Foreclosure Crisis." 2141 Rayburn.

The Senate Finance Committee holds a 10 a.m. hearing on “Strengthening Medicare and Medicaid: Taking Steps to Modernize America’s Health Care System.” Donald Berwick, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is scheduled to testify. 215 Dirksen.

A House Science and Technology subpanel takes up climate change at a 10:30 a.m. hearing. 2325 Rayburn.

Brookings holds a forum on “The Politics of Entitlement Reform and the Budget Deficit.” The event runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is being held at Brookings's headquarters.

Thursday, Nov. 18

Newly elected members continue their caucus and conference meetings.

Obama hosts Boehner, Pelosi, Reid and McConnell for a luncheon and meeting at the White House.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing at 9 a.m. on U.S. global competitiveness and national economic security. 419 Dirksen.

The Senate Small Business Committee meets at 10 a.m. to discuss "Next Steps for Main Street: Reducing the Regulatory and Administrative Burdens on America's Small Businesses." 428-A Russell.

In the evening, Obama leaves for Lisbon, Portugal, where he will attend a NATO summit.

Friday, Nov. 19

Incoming freshmen lawmakers will try their luck at getting the best digs on Capitol Hill as they take part in an all-day office lottery, which gives them first choice of available offices in any of the three House buildings based on the random number they pick.

—Ben Geman, Julian Pecquet and Jordy Yager contributed to this article