This week: Lawmakers try to make progress before Thanksgiving

It’s crunch time for lawmakers as they seek to wrap up major negotiations before the Thanksgiving recess.

Top appropriators from both parties are pushing the budget conference to strike a deal before the holiday, and will be watching next week for any signs of a possible breakthrough.

The budget conference has no public hearings scheduled, however, and its leaders have given no indication that an agreement is at hand. The panel’s official deadline for finding a deal is Dec. 13.

Meanwhile, farm bill negotiators are seeking to finish up their talks by reaching an accord on agriculture subsidies and food stamps.

Participants in the farm bill talks have been trying to clear the way for floor action in early December. Without a farm bill, the nation heads over the "dairy cliff" of exploding milk prices in January.

Tax reform efforts are also continuing behind the scenes.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has scheduled a bipartisan meeting of his panelTuesday. The group was supposed to huddle last week, but Republicans expressed concern that the discussions drafts that Baucus would like to release could be hijacked Democrats on the budget conference.

There’s also a busy schedule for congressional committees.

The Senate Banking Committee will continue its deep dive into how to overhaul the housing market with a pair of hearings. On Tuesday, the panel will talk with several government officials and outside experts on how to properly transfer risk in any remade mortgage market.

On Thursday, the committee will explore how to empower regulators with the tools they need to safely monitor the market after a congressional overhaul.

The Senate Banking Committee might also vote this week on Janet Yellen’s nomination to take over the Federal Reserve, thought a hard date has not yet been set.

On Monday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will begin the virtual currency debate with the first-ever hearing devoted to Bitcoin.

The discussion will continue the next day at a Senate Banking subpanel. Regulators and financial crime experts will testify alongside people pushing online, anonymous currencies aimed at competing with the dollar.

On Wednesday, another subcommittee will explore how to regulate banks attempting to purchase and hold their own physical commodities.

That same day, the Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to vet a pair of the president’s nominees. Sarah Bloom Raskin has been tapped to serve as a deputy secretary in the Treasury Department, while Rhonda Schnare Schmidtlein has been picked to serve on the International Trade Commission.

The House Financial Services Committee has a trio of subcommittee hearings lined up. One Tuesday hearing will discuss the use of “disparate impact,” a contentious method used by the Justice Department to build discrimination cases, while another will debate the implementation of flood insurance reforms. The third, slated forThursday, will explore a bill that would alter how investors are protected from fraud.

The Small Business Committee will be chatting Wednesday about how to best encourage startups in the U.S. economy.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday will release the minutes of its October meeting. The day before, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver remarks on communication and monetary policy before the National Economists Club. 

Bernanke has tried to provide more communication to markets about the bank’s thinking and policy goals, to mixed results.