By Vicki Needham, Peter Schroeder, Bernie Becker and Erik Wasson - 02/08/12 11:05 PM EST
House Democrats are bristling that the floor-ready version, crafted by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), does not require "political intelligence" firms to register in a similar fashion to lobbyists. Instead, the bill requires a government study on that growing industry, similar to the version of the bill that hit the Senate floor.
Democrats accused Cantor of bowing to industry pressure against the provision; they were joined by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who pushed the amendment adding the registration requirement to the Senate bill.
Cantor's office countered, saying the provision is too broad and that members in both parties have their concerns about it.
The House Republican leader also touts areas he says strengthen the bill from earlier versions, such as expanding restrictions and disclosure requirements to members of the executive branch, and blocking members from getting special access to initial stock offerings.
So, while lawmakers are still trading barbs on the bill, it looks like a smooth flight to passage on Thursday, with votes expected to finish up before lunch time rolls around.
Democrats will then try to push their political intelligence provision in a potential conference committee to rectify differences between the two versions.
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR
Building up the housing market: The Senate Banking Committee will turn its eye yet again on the housing market tomorrow. Thursday's hearing will continue the exploration for ways to get that ailing market chugging along again, and lawmakers will be tapping the brains of economists and other experts while on the hunt, including the ever-busy Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Christopher Mayer, professor at Columbia's Business School, and Phillip Swagel, a professor at the University of Maryland.
When we get behind closed doors: It might be easier to reach an agreement on a payroll tax deal. Maybe. After a string of contentious public meetings, GOP members of the payroll tax conference committee suggested the panel might soon be doing more of their work behind closed doors.
The cameras haven't exactly brought out the best negotiating skills of lawmakers so far.
“We haven’t made any progress with meeting in public,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), one of the GOP conferees and chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. “So maybe if we do one private meeting, we can actually make some progress.”
GOP conferees pow-wowed on their own Wednesday, with Senate Democrats away for their retreat.
No public meeting has been scheduled for Thursday and the House is scheduled, right now, to be out of session on Friday.
The day off comes after what proved to be a fairly bitter Tuesday when it came to the payroll tax, with GOP leaders accusing Democrats of trying to milk the debate for political gain and Democrats saying Republicans are rooting for the economy to sputter.
The conference committee now has exactly three weeks — one of which they will be out of session — to extend the payroll tax cut, emergency unemployment benefits and the Medicare reimbursement rate for doctors.
Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) did say after the Republicans’ Wednesday gathering that he was hopeful the GOP would see a promised Democratic proposal on more contentious unemployment insurance issues by tomorrow.
No word from Democrats on that front, though.
Kyl could not say whether the Democratic offer, which Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Tuesday would be coming soon, would also include proposed offsets.
Conferees sparred on Tuesday over how to pay for what could be a $160 billion package, with Republicans saying some of their proposed offsets — like continuing a federal pay freeze — had won bipartisan support before.
“At some point, we’ve got to start having a few yeses,” Kyl told reporters.
But Democrats are still pushing for a surtax on millionaires, and have said that the GOP needed to realize that they didn’t want to use their preferred offsets in a short-term measure.
“I think the last meeting we had was a good exchange for Republicans to learn that,” Rep. Henry Waxman of California, a Democratic conferee, told reporters on Wednesday.
Shedding the excess: The House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management will hold a field hearing at the Old Post Office Building in downtown Washington, D.C., on disposing of federal property. News emerged this week that the federal government will sell the mostly vacant building to Donald Trump, who is planning a luxury hotel and spa.
A look at inequality: The full Senate Budget Committee full committee looks at inequality in U.S. society, assessing inequality, mobility and opportunity. Former Biden adviser and stimulus architect Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, testifies.
Long-term budgeting: Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, is headlining a National Economists Club lunch on the 10-year budget and economic outlook.
Initial Claims: The Department of Labor releases its weekly filings for jobless benefits. Claims have been reflecting a strengthening job market in recent weeks. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent last month.
Wholesale Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its wholesale trade report that includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures say little about personal consumption and therefore do not move the market.
This ain't no conga line: The House on Wednesday passed a measure that would provide modified line-item veto authority to the president over the objections of appropriators and most House Democratic leaders. The bill heads to the Senate, where Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.) plan to spring it as an amendment to must-pass legislation. With the support of the White House and 43 co-sponsors, it just might pass.
Four House Democratic leaders broke with the White House — Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.), Assistant Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — and voted against bipartisan legislation jointly authored by GOP budget architect Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) initially voted "no" on the bill before switching her vote to "yes."
Supporters of the legislative line-item veto bill being voted on in the House on Wednesday are planning a showdown with appropriators in the Senate soon on that chamber's version of the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has not staked out a position on the bill, and the Senate Budget panel hasn't scheduled a markup. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, does support the bill, his office said Wednesday.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— House Democrats blast housing regulator for stance on reducing mortgage principal
— Capitol Police request significant FY13 funding boost despite budget cutbacks
— FEMA to forgive debts from Hurricane Katrina
—Treasury, IRS flesh out measure cracking down on tax evasion
— Carper will introduce legislation to shed excess federal properties
— Mortgage applications pick up as rates hit record lows
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