This week: The last week before sequester

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Elsewhere, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his semiannual Humphrey-Hawkins testimony on the nation’s monetary policy to both chambers.

The central bank head will visit the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, followed by the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday. The Fed is still trying to stimulate the economy, buying up billions of dollars of bonds a month, but officials are beginning to search for an exit to that accommodation. With Republicans long wary of the Fed’s active approach, Bernanke will face plenty of questions about how it plans to unwind its $3 trillion portfolio.

Bernanke will also deliver remarks Friday at a conference hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

The nation will get an updated picture of the economic recovery Thursday, when the Commerce Department provides the second of three estimates on the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in the fourth quarter of 2012. The advance estimate drew headlines in January, when it found that the economy actually shrank by 0.1 percent at the end of the year, but many experts expected future readings would show a rosier picture. Either way, the new data should feed into the hot sequester debate.

House appropriators will dive into work this week, with a number of hearings on tap. The Defense subcommittee will hear from the nation’s top military brass about the Defense Department’s fiscal challenges on Tuesday, and the legislative subcommittee will discuss the CBO’s budget with Director Douglas Elmendorf Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hear from Elmendorf and other fiscal experts about the nation’s budgetary and economic outlook over the next decade.

With the sequester just days away, the Senate Budget Committee will explore that same day how federal investments boost people, communities and long-term economic growth.

The president’s budget has not yet hit Capitol Hill, but that’s not stopping the House Agriculture and Ways and Means committees. The panels will spend Tuesday putting together their budget views and estimates for fiscal 2014, to be used by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in putting together his proposal. Obama’s budget is expected to come out sometime in mid-March.

The Senate Banking Committee will discuss the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) troubled finances with experts on Thursday. Slammed by the housing downturn, the FHA is facing what could amount to billions of dollars in losses.

On Thursday, the House Small Business Committee will talk about how small businesses can overcome trade obstacles to trade and improve their ability to export their products and compete globally.

Small-business owners and experts will discuss policies that can open up new foreign markets, streamline the process and provide protections against unfair trade practices.

Vicki Needham, Erik Wasson, and Bernie Becker contributed.