By Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson - 03/03/14 05:59 AM EST
President Obama will release his fiscal 2015 budget on Tuesday, and the rest of the week in Congress will be dominated by that action.
Even though the budget will essentially be dead on arrival with the Republican-led House, its release will renew debate in Congress over the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook.
The White House has pledged to show more deficit reduction than in past budgets, but Obama, primed for the midterm elections, is abandoning the most significant entitlement reform in last year’s budget: a switch to the chained consumer price index that would have reduced Social Security payments.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will hit Capitol Hill to sell the president’s budget, appearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. He’ll follow that with a repeat performance Thursday before the House Ways and Means Committee.
Meanwhile, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, head of the Office of Management and Budget, will testify on Obama’s blueprint Wednesday before the House and Senate Budget Committees.
On Friday, the jobs report for February will be the focus.
The last few months have disappointed on the jobs front, and Friday’s report could offer clues as to whether that was a weather-related blip or a sign the recovery is slowing down.
In the Senate, Democrats will be searching for a way to reestablish extended unemployment benefits after they expired at the beginning of the year. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he wants to hold more votes on a measure but has yet to offer a specific timeline. The nation’s long-term jobless have been without extended benefits for two months, after they were put in place in 2008.
The embattled former IRS official at the center of the Tea Party targeting controversy will back be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday for what promises to be a contentious chat.
Lois Lerner, who set off the heated debate over IRS power when she apologized for improper targeting, has been summoned to appear again before the House Oversight Committee. Lerner previously refused to answer questions, citing her Fifth Amendment rights, but committee Republicans insist she waived those rights by making a statement defending herself.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has called the retired Lerner back to testify, but she has vowed through her attorney to refuse to answer questions unless she is granted immunity from prosecution.
The Senate Banking Committee will look to fill a number of open seats at the Federal Reserve on Tuesday.
Three nominees for the Federal Reserve Board are slated to testify, including Stanley Fischer, the man tapped to fill the No. 2 spot emptied out by new Fed chief Janet Yellen.
The other two nominees are Jerome Powell, already serving on the Fed and seeking a full term, and Lael Brainard, a former top Treasury Department official.
The panel will also consider Gustavo Velasquez Aguilar to join the Department of Housing and Urban Development as an assistant secretary, and J. Mark McWatters to join the National Credit Union Administration Board.
The budget’s release will put appropriators into high gear. Several subcommittees on the House Appropriations panel have hearings lined up to discuss the funding needs of everything from the Congressional Budget Office to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Eight different hearings are on tap.
The House Financial Services Committee has a pair of subcommittee hearings lined up. On Tuesday, lawmakers will discuss what the growing number of financial regulations is doing to international competitiveness, followed by a Wednesday debate about protecting financial data.
The House will again be looking to pass a bill that tweaks the nation's flood insurance program. Top Democrats and Republicans are looking to craft a compromise package, even as some conservatives have opposed the efforts.
—Vicki Needham contributed.