This week: IRS scandal continues to grip Congress

Congress’s probe into the inappropriate scrutiny applied to Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service will continue in earnest this week, headlining a busy stretch before the Memorial Day recess.

The House Ways and Means Committee kicked off the grilling with a hearing Friday, and the Senate Finance Committee is next up with a Tuesday hearing on the matter.

The House Oversight Committee will tackle the matter Wednesday, hearing from former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman. Lois Lerner, the IRS official who apologized for the practice and set off the scandal, has also been invited to testify.

Meanwhile, the Senate is slated to take up the 2013 farm bill this week.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hopes to complete the bill before the Memorial Day recess. The Senate Agriculture Committee reported out the $955 billion bill on Tuesday with a bipartisan 15-5 vote.

Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) predicted a strong vote in line with the 64-35 vote the farm bill enjoyed last year. That 2012 bill died after House GOP leaders refused to take up a farm bill in the last Congress.

The floor action is expected to feature amendments on the U.S. sugar program, as well as ones targeting $4 billion in food stamp cuts included in the bill, with liberals looking to reverse the cuts and conservatives looking to deepen them.

The Senate is also slated to vote on the nomination of Richard Cordray to continue as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Republicans have vowed to block the nomination as they demand structural changes to the agency.

A Senate panel will chat on Thursday with President Obama's nominee to lead the Commerce Department.

Penny Pritzker, the billionaire Chicago businesswoman, faces her first hurdle toward confirmation in a nomination hearing. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will discuss a broad swath of issues, from creating jobs and increasing exports to manufacturing and weather forecasting.

Pritzker has garnered broad support from Democrats and groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable.

Top regulators will also be appearing before committees this week to discuss a range of economic issues.

The Joint Economic Committee will hear testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who will give members an update on the nation’s economic picture.

Bernanke will once again face critiques from Republicans wary of the Fed’s efforts to boost the economy, which they warn are ineffective and encourage inflation.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew will also be testifying on the Hill next week, as he delivers the annual report for the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

He will appear before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday, followed up by a House Financial Services Committee visit Wednesday.

While the topic at hand is the state of financial markets, Lew will likely also have to field questions about the ongoing dissection of the IRS scandal.

The House Appropriations Committee will meet Tuesday to approve a controversial outline for its 12th annual spending bill. A leaked copy of the so-called 302b allocations shows labor and health programs getting cut 18 percent below sequester levels and the State Department getting a 16 percent cut below the sequester.

In the Senate, appropriators have a number of hearings lined up to discuss spending for military, agriculture and foreign operations needs.

On Tuesday, the House Agriculture Committee will discuss the reauthorization of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

On Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee will discuss the nomination of Brian Deese to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

The agency is rife with vacancies: it lacks both deputy directors, an executive associate director and an office of information and regulatory affairs head. Starting this week, the OMB won’t have a controller since Danny Werfel is set to become acting IRS Commissioner.

The Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday will discuss bipartisan legislation that would strengthen the trade facilitation and enforcement efforts of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The legislation reauthorizes CBP and ICE and directs them to dedicate resources to customs facilitation and trade enforcement, while establishing new tools and high-level trade positions to bolster trade efforts.

The Senate’s permanent investigatory subcommittee will delve into offshore tax shelters Tuesday. Top Apple executives will be on hand to defend their business practices, which include extensive offshore activity.

A House Financial Services subcommittee will discuss qualified mortgages and the ability of borrowers to repay their loans in a Tuesday hearing.

The new rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau require lenders to compile documentation from potential homeowners to determine their ability to repay a loan.

A separate subcommittee for the panel will discuss Wednesday whether big Wall Street banks are effectively “too big to jail.”

Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress that the Justice Department faces challenges in bringing charges against large banks, but later said he was misunderstood, and did not mean it is impossible to prosecute big banks.

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