Week ahead: Senators dive into the tax code

After a series of tough legislative battles, lawmakers are eyeing a leaner stretch in the coming week, with a handful of key financial and economic items on the agenda.

Congress this week was able to avoid another near-shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security with a last-minute funding measure. With no other deadlines immediately looming, lawmakers are beginning to lay the groundwork for future legislative efforts.

{mosads}The Senate Finance Committee will convene in full for a pair of hearings.

On Tuesday, the committee will delve back into the long-running conversation on tax reform. With just weeks to go before Tax Day, the panel will hold a hearing on the benefits that could come from a simpler code, and how the current rules can be difficult to understand, follow and enforce.

Speaking of Tax Day, Thursday’s Finance hearing will focus on the various pitfalls taxpayers can face around this time of year. Top Treasury Department and other tax officials will testify about how best to guard against schemes and scams that pop up, ranging from identity theft to stolen refunds.

The Congressional Budget Office will release updated baseline projections on Monday. Those projections, which provide the outlook for federal spending, revenue and deficits over the next decade, were originally due out Friday, but were postponed due to winter weather.

Senate appropriators have a full docket next week. The Senate Appropriations Committee has several hearings lined up on funding requests for various branches of the federal government. On Wednesday, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro will testify before a subcommittee, as will John McHugh, the secretary of the Army.

The chiefs of the Food and Drug Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Drug Enforcement Administration will all be testifying at various subcommittee hearings on Thursday.

A Senate Banking subcommittee on Tuesday will hear from financial regulators and market experts. Lawmakers will be exploring the issue of venture exchanges and small cap companies, and what role they play in the financial marketplace.

On Monday, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee and a 2016 hopeful, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will appear at the National Press Club. Sanders has made economic and income inequality the centerpiece of his nascent campaign.

The nation’s mayors will descend on Washington for a National League of Cities conference, and the Credit Union National Association will welcome members for a conference.

On the economic indicator front, the jobs picture will get a touch clearer Tuesday when the Labor Department releases its monthly update on Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTs). Data on wholesale trade, exports/imports, retail sales and consumer sentiment will also be out this week.

Away from the Capitol, negotiating teams from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) countries, which spans from Latin America to Asia, are scheduled to meet in Hawaii.

The United States will host a chief negotiators meeting, March 9-15, to hash out details of a massive trade deal.

Vicki Needham contributed.



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