By Vicki Needham - 11/21/13 06:48 PM EST
FRIDAY'S BIG STORY:
Running out of time: The House and Senate are on their way out the door to head home for the Thanksgiving break, with plenty of big agenda items left to be resolved when they return in December.
Leaders of a House-Senate farm bill conference committee tried and failed to hammer out a final deal on the $1 trillion bill on Thursday despite hours of intense talks.
Food stamp funding remains a prickly issue, with a huge gap between the House and Senate figures. House conservatives want $39 billion in cuts from the $750 billion program, while a Senate-passed bill makes $4 billion in cuts on top of the $11 billion that went into effect on Nov. 1.
The 2008 farm bill expired on Oct. 1.
The Senate is headed out home for a two-week break, and the House adjourned on Thursday for a 10-day Thanksgiving recess, leaving only eight days on the GOP's legislative calendar when they return.
"I am very disappointed we didn't come to an agreement, so we're just going to keep working on it," Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said.
Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders ramped up pressure on Republicans to reach a budget deal before the end of the year.
A group of House Democrats on Wednesday said they thought a budget deal was the best place to put a yearlong reauthorization of federal unemployment benefits.
Yet, there is plenty of doubt about whether they can meet the Dec. 13 deadline. If they don't, House-Senate budget conferees will probably have to push their negotiations into next year.
The biggest argument for getting it done: consumer and business confidence heading into the holidays and into the new year. Business groups have repeatedly said that policy uncertainty is the biggest hurdle for the economic recovery and that Congress needs to make a series of short- and long-term fiscal decisions to steer the economy toward stronger growth.
Besides the budget and farm bill conferences, there's the push for continuation of federal unemployment insurance along with the Medicare "doc fix."
"No budget, no vacation," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee and a negotiator in the budget conference.
"We should not be adjourning as a Congress in mid-December until we have completed work on the budget."
For his part, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that he's hopeful the negotiators will reach a deal by the Dec. 13.
Without a deal, GOP leaders are prepared to move a short-term continuing resolution at current spending levels — which includes the sequester cuts — to prevent a government shutdown.
Replacing sequester cuts has been a big target for Democrats in the budget talks and could be the biggest casualty if budget conferees can't reach a deal.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday that continuing the sequester "will hurt our country, will hurt our economy and will put at risk our national security."
WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING
More on housing reform: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing on Friday on planning for a smooth transition in any housing finance system overhaul, which includes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
On the road: Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is in Munich, Germany, on Friday to meet with business leaders to chat about the country's dual system of education and workforce training.
JOLTS: The Labor Department will release on Friday the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that evaluates the labor market's data on job openings, hires and separations.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Senate panel approves Yellen for Fed chief
— Manchin explains Yellen opposition
— Rubio will vote against Yellen Fed nomination
— Senate rule change bolsters Watt's chances to become top housing regulator
— Baucus puts tax breaks on chopping block
— US government will sell off final GM stock by year's end
— Justice moves in on financial cases
— Jobless claims drop 21,000 to prerecession levels
— Wall Street warns of threat to investors
— Insider trading probe hits wall
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