The Week Ahead: Feb. 6-12, 2012

February 5, 2012 03:12 PM
Untitled Document

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

TOPICS: Surface transportation | Budget reform | Payroll tax holiday extension | Energy subsidies | Insider trading | Bernanke testifies

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

Continued work on the surface transportation bill, Senate consideration of FAA reauthorization conference report, budget reform bills in the House and more conference work on extending the payroll tax holiday are the focus in Congress this week.

The Senate is widely expected to clear the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (HR 658) conference report. The House, on a 248-169 vote, agreed to the conference on Feb. 3. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that once the FAA bill clears, it will allow the Senate to consider other infrastructure development issues, including a pending highway and transit reauthorization bill, but the Senate's eventual transportation bill will look considerably different than the House version.

The Senate may also take up a bill (S 2064) that would terminate certain energy tax subsidies and lower the corporate tax rate.

The House will consider congressional insider-trading legislation and additional budget reform measures, including a bill (HR 3521) regarding line-item veto power. The expedited rescission proposal would give the president, through the end of 2015, the power to send back to Congress for reconsideration a list of individual spending items in a bill he had signed. Under current law, the president can ask Congress to rescind previously approved spending authority, but lawmakers are under no obligation to act. The proposal would change that by requiring an up-or-down vote within a specific time frame, without amendments.

Another budget bill (HR 3581) would bring greater transparency to the US budget. The Budget and Accounting Transparency Act of 2012 would make certain items not currently counted in the federal budget an explicit part of the process, including government-sponsored enterprises and the Postal Service.

Insider trading bill. The House will consider a measure (S 2038), known as the STOCK Act. President Obama, during his Jan. 24 State of the Union address, urged lawmakers to send him legislation that would end insider trading based on non-public information available to members and staff on Capitol Hill. The Senate approved its version of the bill on Feb. 2, 96-3, after adopting several amendment, including language prohibiting bonuses for senior executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while the companies remain under conservatorship.

The House will not be in session on Friday.

Conferees will meet regarding a longer-term extension through the end of the year for the payroll tax holiday. The current extension expires Feb. 29, and there is an unofficial Feb. 17 deadline to give both chambers time to act.

Key hearing topics include a House Ways and Means hearing on accounting and tax policy; Senate Budget hearing on the economic and budget outlook; House Financial Services on financial regulatory; protection of the global positioning system (GPS); and conferees will meet on the payroll tax holiday/extension. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will return to Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning to testify before the Senate Budget Committee on the outlook for US monetary and fiscal policy.

Key events and reports this week include:

Monday, Feb. 6
Federal Reserve:
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks about inflation targeting.
Markets are closed in Mexico.
Economic reports:
Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve)
USDA reports:
Export inspections (AMS).

Tuesday, Feb. 7
EU: German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks about Europe's future.
Republicans hold caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, and a primary in Missouri, to choose a presidential nominee.
U.S. Treasury: Treasury begins the first of three refundings, which some observer predict could see some pressure in light of the upbeat employment report and heavy supply.
Keystone XL pipeline: Committee markup. House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up legislation (HR 3548) that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to approve a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. This bill will likely be folded into the Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act when that measure reaches the floor.
Monetary and fiscal policy outlook: Committee hearing. Senate Budget Committee. Witness: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Maritime security and trade issues: Subcommittee hearing. House Homeland Security — Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a series of hearings titled "Balancing Maritime Security and Trade Facilitation: Protecting our Ports, Increasing Commerce and Securing the Supply Chain."
Payroll tax, unemployment, medicare fix: Conference committee. House and Senate conferees will meet to consider resolving differences on payroll tax relief, unemployment insurance, Medicare physicians payment fix and other items on HR 3630 — Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API)
Economic reports: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales | Consumer Credit.

Wednesday, Feb. 8
Federal Reserve:
San Francisco Fed President John Williams speaks about the economy.
The European Commission presents in Brussels its first Alert Mechanism Report (AMR) under its new surveillance procedure for monitoring EU member economies. The AMR assesses which countries require further study over possible imbalances.
Accounting principles and tax policy:
Committee hearing. House Ways and Means Committee will hold a series of hearings on the interaction of tax policies and financial accounting rules, as well as the burden that businesses face in dealing with tax accounting.
Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Topic: What EPA's Utility MACT [Maximum Achievable Control Technology] Rule Will Cost US Consumers.
Report of Commission on America's Nuclear Future:
Committee hearing. House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing titled "Assessing America's Nuclear Future - A Review of the Blue Ribbon Commission's Report to the Secretary of Energy." Note: The House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Environment and The Economy held a hearing on the report on Feb. 1 and the Senate Energy Committee held one Feb. 2.
Extraterritorial impact of the Dodd-Frank Act:
Subcommittee hearing. House Financial Services — Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises hearing on legislative proposals that would limit the extraterritorial impact of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (PL 111-203).
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | Beige Book (Federal Reserve).
USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery (NASS).

Thursday, Feb. 9
ECB: The European Central Bank (ECB) is expected to hold short-term interest rates steady, but some predict the Bank of England will unveil another round of quantitative easing, of as much as 75 billion euros ($99 billion).
Transportation: Weekly Traffic of Major Railroads (Assn. Of American Railroads).
President Barack Obama meets in Washington with Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti.The White House says discussions will include the Italian government’s steps to restore market confidence and reinvigorate growth, as well as Europe’s wider debt crisis.
Agricultural guestworker programs: Subcommittee hearing. House Judiciary — Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
Economic inequity and mobility: Committee hearing. Senate Budget Committee.
State of the housing market: Committee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Witnesses: Mark Zandi, chief economist, Moody's Analytics; Christopher Mayer, professor of real estate, finance and economics, Columbia Business School
Energy reports: Weekly US underground natural gas stocks (EIA) | OPEC monthly oil market report.
Economic reports: Jobless Claims (Labor Dept.) | Weekly Mortgage Rates (Freddie Mac) | ICI weekly money market mutual fund data | Wholesale Trade.
USDA reports: Grain Transportation Report (AMS) | Export Sales (FAS) | World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (ERS) | Cotton Ginnings (NASS) | Cotton: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | World Agricultural Production (FAS) | Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Grains: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Season-Average Price Forecasts (ERS) | Cotton, Grains, Oilseeds and World Ag Production Data (FAS) | Crop Production (NASS).

Friday, Feb. 10

Federal Reserve: Fed Chairman Bernanke speaks at the home builders' conference.
Economic reports: International Trade | Consumer Sentiment | Treasury Budget.
USDA reports: Dairy Product Prices (NASS) | Peanut Prices (NASS) | Oil Crops Outlook (ERS) | Rice Outlook (ERS) | Latest US Agricultural Trade Data (ERS).

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






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