The Week Ahead: April 16-22, 2012

April 16, 2012 01:17 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

TOPICS: Surface transportation | Tax reform | Budget reconciliation | Farm bill | Buffett Rule | Energy bills

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Congress returns from a two-week long Easter recess to focus on budget matters, highway bills, and tax reform, with much of the action relegated more to votes ahead of November elections rather than legislation passed by both chambers -- including symbolic action by the House Ag Committee on Wednesday relative to budget reconciliation which will have no real impact on a new farm bill.

After several aborted attempts, the House this week could consider surface transportation extension legislation, but several past attempts have either failed to result in any action, or have led to a change of plans.

On farm bill matters, the Senate Ag Committee could release language regarding the omnibus measure, but it will not likely be marked up until the week of April 23.

On budget matters, the House Ag Committee on Wednesday will mark up its portion of budget savings relative to the House-passed Ryan budget plan. The Ag Committee will likely cut $33 billion all from food and nutrition program funding. This will largely be a symbolic move because the measure is going nowhere in the Senate, so the budget-cutting action will have no impact on the farm bill. The House Ag Committee will likely hold up to seven additional hearings in Washington, all or mostly all at the subcommittee level. After those hearings are completed, and assuming the Senate Ag Committee moves on its farm bill version, the House Ag Committee will then consider its own version.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) will unveil his budget this week, even though Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will. not bring it to the floor.

The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote today on the Fair Share Act (S 2230), which includes a measure to set a higher phased tax rate on the wealthy, a measure endorsed by President Obama -- this is the so-called Buffet Rule, named after billionaire Warren Buffett, which seeks to set a minimum tax rate of 30 percent for households earning more than $1 million per year. It would also modify the charitable contribution deduction to prevents its value from being reduced via the new tax. Charitable contributions could be deducted from adjusted gross income before the 30 percent tax is applied.

The House will consider the Small Business Tax Cut Act (HR 9), legislation introduced by the Republican leadership which would give businesses tax deductions as an incentive to hire new workers. Under the legislation, businesses with fewer than 500 employees would be eligible for a tax deduction of up to 20 percent of taxable income. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) sponsored the measure, which could cover 99 percent of American businesses, making 22 million small businesses eligible for such a deduction. It would create a one-year hiring incentive to businesses and would cost an estimated $46 billion. The top deduction would be capped at 50 percent of W-2 wages paid by the business.

The House Ways and Means Committee has scheduled a Tuesday hearing on tax reform and retirement savings. The Joint Economic Committee has planned a hearing to examine how taxes on capital affect growth and employment. And, the impact of tax policies on the commercial applications of renewable energy technology will be considered on Thursday at a House Science joint panel hearing. The House Small Business Committee on Wednesday will look at the tax outlook for small businesses.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power this week will mark up two pieces of energy legislation. The Gasoline Regulations Act would require analyses of the impacts of certain rules and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency on gasoline and diesel fuel prices, jobs, and the economy. A second measure, the Strategic Energy Production Act, would provide for the development of a plan to increase oil and gas exploration, development, and production under oil and gas leases of federal lands.

This week's Washington-related agenda: The agenda for congressional committees features hearings on tax outlook and reform, domestic energy sources, U.S. manufacturing and exports, and a farm bill field hearing.

Monday, April 16
G24: The Group of 24's committee of the whole, the umbrella group for the largest developing countries, meets in Washington. There will be several G24 meetings this week.
World Bank:
The international agency is expected to choose its next president.
Subcommittee markup. House Energy and Commerce â€" Subcommittee on Energy and Power Subcommittee Markup. Pending legislation: Gasoline Regulations Act | Strategic Energy Production Act -- statements only.
Economic reports:
Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve) | Retail Sales | Treasury International Capital Report | Empire State Mfg Survey | Business Inventories | Housing Market Index.
USDA reports:
Export inspections (AMS) | Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook (ERS) | Hatchery Production - Ann. (NASS) | Turkey Hatchery (NASS) Potato Stocks (NASS) | Sugar and Sweeteners Outlook (ERS) | Aquaculture Data (ERS) Crop Progress (NASS).

Tuesday, April 17
EPA deadline to issue fracking rule: The EPA faces a court-ordered deadline today to finalize rules regulating hydraulic fracturing. The rules will cut by 95 percent the allowable amount of natural gas fumes and other air pollutants that escape during fracking, in which a mixture of water, chemicals and sand is pumped into a well at high pressure to fracture rock and allow natural gas to escape.
Spain: Spain auctions more Treasury bills amid concerns about rising funding costs and whether the country can control its finances. An auction of 10-year Treasury bonds is set to follow two days later.
IMF: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will release a report on its outlook for world economic growth.
Energy: Subcommittee markup. House Energy and Commerce â€" Subcommittee on Energy and Power Subcommittee Markup. Pending legislation: Gasoline Regulations Act | Strategic Energy Production Act.
Promoting American competitiveness:
Subcommittee hearing. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation â€" Subcommittee on Competitiveness, Innovation, and Export Promotion.
Ex-Im Bank reauthorization:
Committee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Oil resources and job creation:
Committee hearing. House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
SEC cost-benefit analyses:
Subcommittee hearing. House Oversight and Government Reform â€" Subcommittee on TARP, Financial Services and Bailouts of Public and Private Programs.
Safety net programs:
Committee hearing. House Budget Committee.
North Korea, Post Kim Jong-Il:
Committee hearing. House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API).
Economic reports: ICSC-Goldman Sachs Store Sales | Housing Starts | Industrial Production.
USDA reports: Livestock and Poultry (FAS).

Wednesday, April 18
The IMF will issue a report on global financial stability.
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF, will speak at the Bertelsmann Foundation in Washington.
Accountability and oversight in transportation toll facilities:
Subcommittee hearing. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation -- Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.
Budget reconciliation:
Committee markup. House Agriculture Committee.
FDA user fees:
Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce -- Subcommittee on Health.
Energy Department budget oversight:
Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce â€" Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Using E-Verify to prevent document fraud in employment authorization:
Subcommittee hearing. House Judiciary -- Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
Tax outlook for small businesses:
Committee hearing. House Small Business Committee.
Agricultural trade with Asia Pacific region:
Subcommittee hearing. Senate Finance -- Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness. Witnesses include Isi Siddiqui, chief agriculture negotiator, Office of the US Trade Representative; Darci Vetter, deputy undersecretary of Agriculture, Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services; Robert Hormats, undersecretary of State for economic growth, energy and the environment.
Commerce and trade with Asia-Pacific Region:
Subcommittee hearing. House Homeland Security â€" Subcommittee on Transportation Security.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | MBA Purchase Applications.
USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery (NASS).

Thursday, April 19
IMF: The International Monetary Fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, holds a press briefing at 8:45 a.m. EDT in Washington.
G20 trade ministers: Trade ministers of the Group of 20 will meet (through Friday) in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Impact of rising sea levels: Committee hearing. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
OMB nomination: Confirmation hearing. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee confirmation hearing on the nomination of Joseph Jordan to be administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
Tax policies and renewable energy: Subcommittee joint hearing. Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee and Energy and Environment Subcommittee of House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Domestic fuel protection: Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce â€" Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.
Small business equity finance: Subcommittee hearing. House Small Business â€" Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access.
Fiscal 2013 Appropriations, Agriculture - FDA: Subcommittee hearing: Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee. Topic: Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Witnesses: .Peggy Hamburg, commissioner, FDA; Patrick McGarey, assistant commissioner for budget, FDA.
Transportation: Weekly Traffic of Major Railroads (Assn. Of American Railroads).
Energy reports: Weekly US underground natural gas stocks (EIA).
Economic reports: Jobless Claims (Labor Dept.) | Weekly Mortgage Rates (Freddie Mac) | ICI weekly money market mutual fund data | Phila. Fed Survey | Existing Home Sales | Leading Indicators.
USDA reports: Export Sales (FAS) | Grain Transportation Report (AMS) | Milk Production (NASS) | Wheat Data (ERS) Feed Grains Database (ERS).

Friday, April 20
IMF/World Bank spring meetings: On Friday through Sunday, the IMF and the World Bank will have their spring meetings in Washington.
New farm bill: Committee field hearing. House Ag Committee field hearing at Magouirk Conference Center, 4100 W. Comanche, Dodge City, Kan.
Energy: Monthly Petroleum Statistical Report (API).
USDA reports: Livestock Slaughter (NASS) | Peanut Prices (NASS) | Catfish Processing (NASS) | Catfish Feed Deliveries (NASS) | Cattle on Feed (NASS) | Cold Storage (NASS).

Sunday, April 22
France holds its presidential election:
The incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, is seeking a second term against several candidates. If necessary, a runoff election will be held on May 6.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.






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