Week ahead: Senate to act on highway fund

Senators this week are expected to take up a bill to extend the Highway Trust Fund, approving transportation funding until next spring and avoiding a critical shortfall.

House lawmakers passed a nearly $11 billion short-term measure for infrastructure funding last Tuesday, which would keep the fund, scheduled to run out of money in August, afloat until next spring.

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The Obama administration has pressed lawmakers to act on the highway fund, warning that allowing it to run out could cost 700,000 construction jobs and delay critical projects during the busy summer travel season.

Democratic senators had balked at the House proposal, preferring a long-term measure, but the Obama administration’s endorsement of that bill earlier this week paved the way for a deal.

President Obama had demanded a multiyear funding package, but the White House said they would accept the House bill to avoid letting the highway fund go bankrupt.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said he intends to allow votes on the House version and two competing Senate Democratic bills.

The highway bill is only one of a number of tough issues on Congress’s to-do list, with time running out before the August recess. Lawmakers must also tackle Export-Import Bank reauthorization and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.

Escalating tensions overseas surrounding the downed Malaysia Airlines flight will also reverberate on Wall Street and in Congress, as the administration weighs its response.

The Obama administration could face pressure to ramp up sanctions against Russia, even as business groups warn that further penalties could also hurt American companies.

Incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said the House could take up reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which failed a whip count earlier this month.

Republicans are split over a number of proposed changes to the act, which provides a federal backstop for terrorism insurance, including changing the conditions that would trigger support and the threshold for action.

House Republicans are also planning to keep up pressure on Export-Import Bank officials as the reauthorization fight continues. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), chairman of the House Financial Services subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has asked Ex-Im Chairman Fred Hochberg for the bank’s board of directors meetings and to make top officials available for interviews by committee staff.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) still haven't introduced their Ex-Im reauthorization bill, as the clock ticks down to the Sept. 31 deadline.

Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, the Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on Investigations will put big banks in the hot seat, when execs from Barclays and Deutsche Bank testify on Tuesday at a hearing dubbed "Abuse of Structured Financial Products: Misusing Basket Options to Avoid Taxes and Leverage Limits."

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee will have a hearing coinciding with the four-year anniversary of Dodd-Frank. House Financial Service's subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises will have a hearing on Thursday dubbed "Oversight of the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance."

Meanwhile, mid-week, big tech companies, including Apple and Facebook, will report second-quarter earnings.

Economists will get some new information on the housing recovery next week, too, when the National Association of Realtors releases its monthly existing home sales tally on Tuesday; and the Census Bureau releases its new home sales report on Friday.

 

Recent stories:

House GOP ramps up pressure on Ex-Im: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/212628-house-gop-ramp-up-pressure-on-ex-im-officials

GOP senator open to short-term change on ‘inversion’ tax deals: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/212589-hatch-open-to-short-term-fix-on-offshore-tax-deals

Justice: No need for IRS special prosecutor: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/212559-justice-no-need-for-irs-special-prosecutor

US imposes new sanctions on Russia:http://thehill.com/policy/finance/212485-us-imposes-new-sanctions-on-russia

Senate votes to renew terrorism insurance: http://thehill.com/policy/finance/212566-senate-approves-extension-of-terrorism-insurance