Week ahead: Senate sets economic agenda

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On the floor, the Senate will be trying to come up with some way to address the National Flood Insurance Program, which expires May 31. Expiration would throw the housing market in many states into chaos since sales cannot be completed without NFIP coverage.

Four choices are on the table: a 30-day extension that passed the House on Thursday, a seven-month extension sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), a five-year extension passed by the Senate Banking Committee, or an amended Banking Committee bill that the committee may produce Monday.

Key players include Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has been blocking the seven-month extension in order to get some immediate reforms. A likely outcome could be passage of a short-term bill in the Senate next week and an agreement on how to consider the five-year bill in June or July. The House bill has some policy riders that the Senate may strike out in order to have a clean extension.

Insurers and real estate agents have "flooded" Capital Hill in recent days demanding a five-year reform bill that raises premiums to put the program on a sounder fiscal footing and reduce the deficit. An added wrinkle is that some Democrats want to use NFIP changes in any year-end deficit deal. Passing it now would take $4.9 billion off the table, but sources are mum on whether this is a factor in the talks.

Meanwhile, the Senate still has some work to do on an Iran sanctions package. Leaving town on Thursday without a resolution, a possible compromise could be in the offing early next week.

The final hurdle is over whether to add language reiterating that the United States is prepared to use force to stop any nuclear weapons program getting off the ground in Iran.

Several Republicans argued on the floor that adding a "use of force" provision reflects President Obama's policy that all options are on the table when it comes to Iran exploring nuclear weapons capability and a provision must be included along with the economic sanctions.

On Thursday, the Senate Banking panel will discuss a measure to help homeowners with government-backed loans refinance into lower interest rates.

The measure, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Barbara Boxer (Calif.), is attracting industry support and several Republicans have signaled they may support the bill with some tweaks. Bill Emerson, chief executive of Quicken Loans, and Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics, give their opinions to lawmakers.

A subcommittee from that panel will spend Wednesday discussing America’s economic relationship with China.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee is slated to mark up its State Department bill Tuesday. House Appropriators passed a bill cutting $5 billion from the budget, including for the war on terror, on Thursday. That bill contained controversial gun and anti-abortion riders, including reinstating the global gag rule that would prevent non-governmental organizations funded by the United States fom discussing abortion with clients.

The Senate’s taxwriters will be talking healthcare on Wednesday, as the Finance Committee will be talking innovations in medicine with industry professionals.