This week: Paul Ryan, Dems set to spar on sequester replacement


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On the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is set to take up legislation Tuesday that would extend lower student loan interest rates. The bill would pay for the $6 billion extension by changing the tax laws governing S corporations, which pay taxes according to the income, rather than corporate, tax code.

House Republicans have advanced a competing student loan bill that offsets the cost by tapping funds from the healthcare reform law. President Obama has threatened to veto it.

Congress is also beginning its last full week of work before the end of a moratorium on postal closures. The Senate passed a bill on the issue in late April, and top senators have urged the House to act before the May 15 deadline. But House Republicans have yet to schedule floor consideration of their bill, and have called May 15 a manufactured deadline.

In the House, the floor debate on spending will shift into high gear with consideration of the appropriations package for the departments of Commerce and Justice, as well as a number of scientific agencies. The House Rules Committee is set to meet on the bill Monday, setting the stage for a floor debate starting Tuesday.

The House Agriculture Committee has set a pair of hearings for Tuesday and Thursday to discuss the 2012 farm bill. The Senate Agriculture Committee has already cleared its version of the closely watched legislation, where it now waits for a full Senate vote.

On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee will take a closer looking at expanding mortgage refinancing with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan.

Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) have released a discussion draft outlining proposed changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) to provide streamlined financing for homeowners who are current on their payments and have loans through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

During an April 25 hearing, Menendez chided the Federal Housing Finance Administration, the regulator of Fannie and Freddie, for failing to move at a faster pace to open up refinancing to more borrowers.

The banking committee will follow that up with a subcommittee hearing Wednesday on extending the National Flood Insurance Program, which is set to expire at the end of May.

On Tuesday, a House Financial Services subcommittee headed by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) will discuss a slew of legislative proposals that would reform, or eliminate, the Federal Reserve. Paul, a longtime Fed critic, plans to push his own bill abolishing the central bank, but a range of proposed Fed tweaks from across the political spectrum will also be up for discussion.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver remarks Thursday on the state of bank lending.

The Senate Finance Committee will devote a hearing Tuesday to a trio of White House nominees. Mark Mazur has been tapped to be the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for tax policy, and Matthew Rutherford to be its assistant secretary for financial markets. Lawmakers will also consider Meredith Broadbent, who has been picked to serve as a member of the U.S. International Trade Commission.