This week: Lawmakers to tackle budget, farm bill battles in conference committee

A rare pair of conference committees will draw attention next week at the Capitol, as lawmakers search for compromise on a fiscal 2014 budget and the farm bill.

 

On Wednesday, lawmakers from both parties and both chambers will huddle to try and settle on a budget and an integral piece of farm legislation. In the hotly divided Congress, conference committees have been few and far between. But after the drama of the government shutdown and the debt-limit fight, lawmakers will give it another go. The budget panel has until Dec. 13 to try and come up with an agreement.

 

In what is shaping up to be a busy day on the fiscal front, the Federal Reserve will release its latest policy statement, also on Wednesday. The Fed surprised markets in September when it decided not to begin winding down its “quantitative easing” program. And with the economy shaking off the pain of the shutdown, many are now expecting the Fed to keep its foot on the gas following its late October huddle.

 

Elsewhere, the Capitol is getting back into full swing with both chambers back in session for the first time since the shutdown. A number of hearings are on tap as lawmakers refocus their energies on policy projects that fell by the wayside in recent weeks.

 

 

 

In the Senate, the Banking Committee will continue chatting about housing finance reform on Tuesday and Thursday, exploring first how to ensure a remade system still works for consumers, following that up with a debate on the role of a government guarantee in the marketplace. A subcommittee will devote Wednesday to getting an update on the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS) Act aimed at helping startups raise capital.

 

The House Financial Services Committee will be talking housing on Tuesday as well, focusing specifically on the financial woes of the Federal Housing Administration with its head, Carol Galante. That afternoon, a subcommittee will explore legislative ways to revamp the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a longtime GOP target.

 

On Wednesday, the Senate Finance Committee will discuss the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and lawmakers top priorities for an agreement. A majority of House and Senate lawmakers are pushing for negotiators to include currency manipulation provisions.

 

President Obama and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman have reiterated that their aim is to wrap up talks this year. The hearing also could provide insight into how parallel talks are going between the U.S. and Japan and where lawmakers stand on crafting a bill for fast-track authority.

 

The House Ways and Means Committee will take its crack at dissecting the technical problems surrounding ObamaCare on Tuesday. And the House Armed Services Committee will spend the day discussing the last 25 years of acquisition reform.