This week: Appropriators get down to business

The budget debate is shifting to the appropriations committees as lawmakers begin work on their annual spending bills.

While lawmakers will continue to debate President Obama’s budget request, lawmakers have made clear they will ignore the administration’s demand for $56 billion in higher spending.

Against that backdrop, a slew of spending subcommittees next week will spend time discussing fiscal policy with top administration officials, with each touting their own agency’s funding requests.

ADVERTISEMENT
The House Budget Committee will welcome Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Wednesday as he makes the rounds to sell the president’s plan.

That same day, the House Ways and Means Committee will discuss the funding requests for the Department of Health and Human Services with Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in what will likely become another contentious debate over ObamaCare.

Appropriators will be busy digging into various funding requests for a host of agencies. Senate appropriators will talk about the budget request for the Congressional Budget Office on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday and the departments of Transportation and State on Thursday.

The latter hearing will mark the return to Congress of former Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), now appearing on the other side of the dais to defend his new agency’s funding needs.

House appropriators will eye Homeland Security’s request on Tuesday, State and Transportation on Wednesday, and Defense and Housing and Urban Development on Thursday. They’ll cap off a busy week by exploring the Agriculture Department’s request with a rare Friday hearing.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is searching for a path forward on resuming extended unemployment benefits for the nation’s long-term jobless. Republicans are developing their own proposal, which could lead to a compromise.

The Senate Banking Committee will try again to vet a trio of Federal Reserve nominees on Thursday, after the original confirmation hearing was postponed due to winter weather.

The biggest name on the slate is Stanley Fischer, who has been tapped to fill the No. 2 spot at the central bank left vacant by new Fed chief Janet Yellen.

Jerome Powell, who already is serving on the Fed board and seeking a full term, and Lael Brainard, a former top Treasury Department official, are both also on tap.

The Banking panel will also consider Gustavo Velázquez 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.

Before getting to the nominees, the panel has to work through three subcommittee hearings. On Tuesday, they will discuss how insurers should be regulated, with a pivot later in the day to the state of retirement security for the middle class.

On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee has scheduled a hearing on how innovative ideas could help the middle class. A number of economists and experts have been invited to testify.

The House Judiciary Committee will be discussing ways to handle sales taxes in the Internet era. The Senate passed legislation on the matter in 2013, but the House has yet to act on it.

The House Financial Services Committee will continue its yearlong review of the Fed on Wednesday, with a subcommittee hearing devoted to how the central bank has helped allocate credit across the U.S. economy.

More in Banking/Financial Institutions

Liberals turn to Fed in populist push

Read more »