Thursday’s Big Story:
The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to unveil its plan to fund the government after March 4, when the current funding mechanism expires.
The continuing resolution to be laid out by the panel is already drawing fire from Democrats, who believe cuts in the proposal would damage important programs. On the other hand, the new plan doesn’t seem likely to satisfy the most conservative Republicans, who will offer deeper cuts during a floor amendment fight next week.
House Republicans announced last week that they would slash $32 billion in non-security related discretionary spending. The cuts they announced on Thursday were compared to President Obama’s 2011 budget plan, which was not approved by Congress.
And according to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, those cuts "will represent the largest reduction in discretionary spending in the history of our nation.”
So far, the largest decreases to be announced are to the EPA ($1.6 billion) and the Federal Buildings Fund ($1.7 billion). Also on the chopping block: energy efficiency ($899 million), the Energy Department Loan Guarantee Authority ($1.4 billion) and the National Institutes of Health ($1 billion).
For their part, Democrats are sure to target the $1.3 billion in cuts to community health centers and a $758 million cut in women and infant nutrition programs. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said in a statement that “the Republican plan will cost jobs, undercut American innovation and clean energy, jeopardize our safety by taking cops off the street, and threaten investments in rebuilding America – at a time when our economy can least afford it.”
What Else to Watch For:
CPAC!: The Conservative Political Action Conference has gotten snarled in something of a row centering on social issues. But, when it comes to influence over the economy, it has heavy hitters like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the Budget Committee chairman and Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, lined up.
Tea Party-backed lawmakers who have been banging the drum for decreased spending will also be featured on Thursday, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has called for $500 billion in cuts. (Also on the schedule: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Hearing Time: With the appropriations panel continuing its focus on 2011 funding, the House Budget Committee continues to ramp up its preparations for 2012.
On Thursday, Douglas Elmendorf, the director of the Congressional Budget Office, is slated to present the details of his office’s $1.5 trillion budget deficit estimate to the panel. With President Obama’s budget proposal due out Feb. 14, Republicans are likely to use the estimates to call on him to go beyond the five year spending freeze he said he would put in it.
As for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, it will dive into what regulations might be impeding job creation. After Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked the business community what regulations were getting in their way, he received over 1,600 pages of complaints. Now, with the help of some top business lobbyists and conservative think tankers, Issa wants to talk about how to relieve that burden.
Elsewhere: The House Agriculture Committee will hear from Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, about how his agency is progressing on the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. That law handed the CFTC the large task of overseeing the derivatives market, but Gensler has repeatedly warned that his agency does not have sufficient resources to keep an eye on that trading.
The House Financial Services Committee, meanwhile, will gather Wednesday morning to go over its oversight plan for the 112th Congress. And inspectors general from NASA and the Securities and Exchange Commission are expected to appear before House Appropriations subcommittees to discuss where government waste can be found and ferreted out.
Finally: The U.S. High Speed Rail Association will enter day two of its summit to discuss how to promote its cause, with participants expected to make the trek to Capitol Hill to talk with lawmakers.
-- The Labor Department is set to drop weekly unemployment insurance claims.
-- The Census Bureau is scheduled to release data on monthly wholesale sales and inventories.
-- The National Association of Realtors is slated to circulate monthly data on home sales
-- And the Treasury Department will issue its monthly data on its receipts, outlays and the nation's deficit or surplus
Drip, Drip: The Wall Street Journal has uncovered more parts of the president’s upcoming budget, including a reported steep cut to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Agricultural subsidies, the Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean water fund are also said to be taking hits.
Recapping the Hill: In a busy day of hearings, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, told the House Budget Committee that a measure to prioritize payments if Congress does not raise the debt limit could help, but stressed that it’s better to raise the ceiling.
At a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Republicans declared government should stay out of housing, while Democrats maintained that it must play a role.
Over at House Ways and Means, Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative, said a free trade agreement with South Korea would soon be sent to Congress, amid pressure from panel Republicans.
Not surprisingly, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), now overseeing a Financial Services subcommittee overseeing the Fed, found the central bank lacking.
And bankruptcy and bailout (for states) were not too popular at a House Oversight subcommittee on TARP.
What You Might Have Missed:
On the Money’s Wednesday:
-- A House Democrat accuses one of those Ron Paul witnesses of having ties to a hate group.
-- A liberal group is alarmed by all the debt panel talk.
-- Lawmakers are getting set to go after China for its currency again.
-- Homeowners are struggling to stay above water.
-- Timothy Geithner says Republicans have a dark vision when it comes to investments.
-- Geithner’s calendar is filling up with Hill hearings
-- While Jack Lew is also set to make the rounds.
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