By Vicki Needham, Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson - 03/26/14 06:44 PM EDT
THURSDAY'S BIG STORY:
It's about that time: The Senate is expected on Thursday to pass a Ukraine aid package and send the measure back to the House.
On Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) praised Senate Democrats for nixing International Monetary Fund reforms from the package, which includes aid for Kiev and sanctions on Russia.
There was an air of optimism on Capitol Hill that the this measure has a chance to reach President Obama’s desk soon.
“Now I hope we’ll be able to get our friends in Ukraine the aid they need without much delay,” Boehner said.
Still, Boehner has not said whether the House would simply accept the latest Senate version or try to attach additional Ukraine assistance and sanctions against Russia that the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved on Tuesday.
“We’re in conversations with the Senate in terms of how do we clear through this,” he said. “But our goal is to work together and to get this bill done as quickly as possible.”
The House passed a bill in early March to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine, which is already part of the Senate package.
Whether the measure can get the all-clear from Congress by the end of the week remains to be seen.
The House Foreign Affairs bill is different from the Senate measure, including language reprimanding the Obama administration for failing to sanction Russians for proliferation to Iran and Syria under existing law.
The Senate will vote on the House-passed Ukraine bill that provides $1 billion in loan guarantees, after taking a vote on an amendment authored by Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders, Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), that adds sanctions against Russia.
The amendment would impose sanctions against anyone deemed by the president to have undermined Ukraine's security or independence, or to have engaged in corruption in Ukraine or Russia.
The sanctions codify steps already being taken by the Obama administration and expand the criteria for possible targets.
Obama has called for aid to Ukraine since Russian forces moved to the Crimean Peninsula weeks ago. Russia annexed Crimea last week.
WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING
Keep it up: House appropriators will maintain their feverish pace of examining various budget requests on Thursday, including hearings with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy. Other hearings will cover budgets for the Army, the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration.
A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee will chat with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr. about his agency's budget, too.
On the Senate side, appropriators will hear from FBI Director James Comey Jr. and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
U.S.-Japan talks: Acting Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler will meet on Thursday with Ambassador Hiroshi Oe of Japan in Washington to continue bilateral market access negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
When in Rome: President Obama will visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis on Thursday, and then he will meet with Italian leaders President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
UI vote on Friday: Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) a lead sponsor of a bill to renew federal unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, tweeted on Wednesday night that a vote on his bill — co-sponsored by five Republicans and four other Democrats — will take place on Friday. The bill is expected to pass the upper chamber but faces a high hurdle in the House, where Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has said he feels the bill is "unworkable" based on what state unemployment directors have told congressional leaders.
But those state leaders and other advocates for passing the five-month bill have said that their technical issues with the measure have been blown out of proportion and, in the end, are probably solvable.
Revisiting Volcker: A new item from American Action Forum is taking financial regulators to task for failing to spend enough time thinking about the “Volcker Rule” before finalizing it. After an analysis from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency found the new trading restrictions could cost banks up to $4.3 billion, the conservative shop criticized regulators for rushing the Dodd-Frank centerpiece out the door.
In a new piece, AAF contends that while proposed regulations were open for several years to public comment, regulators themselves only had days to review the final product, and the administration should have done more to weigh the costs of such rules before moving ahead.
April Fools: Well, maybe not. Uncertainty around plans to roll out a House budget resolution waned on Wednesday as an apparent plan came into focus. Lawmakers said the House Budget Committee will hold its annual 12-hour marathon markup of the document on April 2. If past is prologue, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the panel's chairman, will unveil his 2015 budget blueprint on April 1 — April Fools Day.
Mark your calendars: Senators on the Finance Committee said that the panel will mark up a measure next week to revive some, if not most, of the dozens of temporary tax breaks that expired at the end of last year.
Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), declined to get into the specifics of their tax extenders legislation. But Hatch suggested the measure could be a two-year extension of a variety of expired incentives, and that the cost of the measure would not be paid for.
The research and development credit and the production tax credit prized by the wind industry are among the more prominent extenders.
Initial Claims: The Labor Department will release its weekly claims for first-time jobless benefits.
GDP: The Commerce Department will release its third estimate of the nation's economic activity for the fourth quarter.
Pending Home Sales: The National Association of Realtors will release its index for February that gauges contract signings, a forward-looking indicator of home sales.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Bank of America strikes $9.3 billion deal with housing regulator
— Fed approves 25 bank capital plans, rejects Citi and four others
— Senate Dems: Payday loans a growing problem
— House counsel: Lerner can be held in contempt
— Obama, EU leaders say trade deal should provide broad benefits
— Biden touts wage hike over soul food
— Conservative lawmaker accuses former Biden economist of Marxism
— Panel to probe CFPB discrimination charges
— House Republicans push to make Dodd-Frank tweak law
— GOP floats contempt charge for IRS chief
— US triumphs over China in minerals dispute
— Murray rolls out working-class tax cut
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