The Week Ahead: July 23-29, 2012

06:49AM Jul 23, 2012
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Jockeying for Nov. 6 elections, rather than solutions

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

The Senate takes up competing tax bills while the House this week considers a regulatory reform package – both topics which have more to do with Nov. 6 elections than actual legislation that will not likely be signed into law at this juncture. Meanwhile, as the U.S. drought continues, farm-state lawmakers and others are using that as potential leverage on House GOP leaders to debate the farm bill, but to date the topic is not on the full House floor agenda. Some farm-state senators are continuing to try to leverage the ongoing drought to pass an extension of the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program.

In the Senate, two tax bills are on the calendar, one a revised version of middle class tax relief (S 3412), a plan pushed by President Obama that would extend tax cuts for middle class households making less than $250,000 per year, and another to extend Bush-era tax cuts (S 3413) – the measure would extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, including those items that benefit millionaires.

House members will consider several bills before moving on to an oil and gas lease sale plan (HR 6082) that would replace President Obama's 2012-2017 oil and natural gas lease sale plans. The legislation cleared the House Natural Resources Committee July 18 on a vote of 24-17. The measure would authorize 29 oil and gas offshore lease sales over the next five years, 14 of which would be consolidated into a single "multisale" environmental impact statement. The other 15 comprise the whole of President Obama's lease sale plan from 2012 to 2017.

The House will also debate a regulatory reform legislative package (HR 4078). That bill proposes a moratorium targeting all pending rules that could significantly affect the economy, including a "midnight rule" proposal that would bar President Obama and future presidents from proposing or finalizing economically significant rules in the final months of their terms of office. Under the legislation, that moratorium would end only if the US unemployment rate falls to 6 percent or lower. The package also targets regulations issued by the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of those rules requires that the benefits of any Commodity Futures Trading Commission rules outweigh costs, and another would streamline environmental permitting.

Federal Reserve focus. The House will also likely consider a bill (HR 459) sponsored by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) that would require the Government Accountability Office to audit the Fed's board of governors and the dozen reserve banks. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke warned the bill could have a chilling effect on deliberations on monetary policy held by the Fed's policy-setting panel, the Federal Open Market Committee.

Other House bills up for debate include the use of child labor of family farms and legislation (HR 4157) and a bill (HR 5986) to make changes to the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is scheduled to appear before the House Financial Services Committee Wednesday morning to present the Financial Stability Oversight Council Annual Report to Congress. The committee also is expected to examine updates on the LIBOR (London interbank offered rate) rate-fixing scandal. Geithner returns to Capitol Hill Thursday morning to testify before the Senate Banking Committee on the financial stability report and the LIBOR scandal.

The House Agriculture Committee will hold a Wednesday morning oversight hearing on the swaps and futures markets, focusing on recent events and impending regulatory reforms.

Energy loan guarantees. The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to markup the No More Solyndras Act, which is designed to phase out the Department of Energy's loan guarantee program.

Natural gas and transportation is the topic of a Tuesday morning Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing. Panel members will focus on opportunities for, the current level of investment in, and barriers to the expanded usage of natural gas as a fuel for transportation.

This week's Washington-related agenda: The agenda for congressional committees features hearings on the Department of the Treasury's financial stability report, tax incentives for education, the 10th anniversary of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, regulatory reforms to the swaps and futures markets, and President Obama's moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, July 23
EU foreign ministers meet: EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, with events in Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan on the agenda.
Energy security: A two-day conference on global energy security staged by the Global Diplomatic Forum begins in London. Topics include the economics and politics of energy security, the social responsibility of the sector, and renewable and alternative forms of power.
Economic reports: Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve).
USDA reports: Export inspections (AMS) | Chicken and Eggs (NASS) Crop Progress (NASS).

Tuesday, July 24

Federal Reserve: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks at the Children's Defense Fund National Conference in Cincinnati, via prerecorded video.
Greece debt/reforms: Experts from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank are due to begin a visit to Athens to review debt-stricken Greece’s progress with reforms agreed as part of its €10 billion bailout.
Use of natural gas as a transportation fuel: Committee hearing. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Taxation of internet sales: Committee hearing. House Judiciary Committee.
Minimizing the cost of disasters: Subcommittee hearing. House Transportation and Infrastructure — Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management.
Impact of Dodd-Frank Act - Insurance industry: Subcommittee hearing. House Financial Services — Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity.
Loan guarantee program overhaul: Subcommittee markup. Opening statements only. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
Combating global hunger, a coalition of food action groups: Panel discussion. The 1,000 Days Action Network, the Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, CARE, Congressional Hunger Center, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Save the Children, World Food Program USA and Women Thrive Worldwide will co-host an event to launch "A Roadmap for Continued U,S, Leadership to End Global Hunger," highlighting three years of progress in US efforts to promote food security around the world and featuring key recommendations to continue the fight against hunger.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API).
Economic reports: ICSC-Goldman Store Sales | PMI Mfg Index.

Wednesday, July 25
WTO: The World Trade Organization's general council holds a two-day meeting in Geneva.
Zoellick: Robert Zoellick, former World Bank president, gives the Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. Zoellick will address the relationships between economics and security as they affect international relations.
Loan guarantee program overhaul: Subcommittee markup. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power.
Tax-exempt organizations: Subcommittee hearing. House Ways and Means — Subcommittee on Oversight.
Financial Stability Oversight Council report: Committee hearing. House Financial Services Committee.
GAO report on administration health care expenses: Committee hearing. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Oversight of swaps and futures markets: Committee hearing. House Agriculture Committee.
Gulf drilling moratorium oversight: Oversight hearing. House Natural Resources Committee.
Chinese threat to the United States: Committee hearing: House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Drought information system oversight: Committee hearing. House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Water use efficiency and energy use: Subcommittee hearing. Senate Energy and Natural Resources — Subcommittee on Water and Power.
Job growth through exports: Committee hearing. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | New Home Sales.
USDA reports: Poultry Slaughter (NASS) Food Price Outlook (ERS) Broiler Hatchery (NASS) Agricultural Chemical Usage-Fruits (NASS).

Thursday, July 26
Housing and treatment of egg-laying hens: Committee hearing. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee.
Impact of Sarbanes-Oxley disclosure regulations: Subcommittee hearing. House Financial Services — Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises.
Financial Stability Oversight Council report: Committee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Barriers for small agriculture exporters: Subcommittee hearing. House Small Business — Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy and Trade.
Transportation: Association of American Railroads issues Weekly Traffic of Major Railroads | Grain Transportation Report (AMS).
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 | Durable Goods Orders.
USDA reports: US Export Sales (FAS) | Citrus: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Monthly Milk Cost of Production (ERS).

Friday, July 27

Economic outlook: The Rocky Mountain Economic Summit and Retreat takes place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The event assembles leading US economists and entrepreneurs to discuss national and global economic topics.
Economic reports: GDP | Consumer Sentiment.
USDA reports: Peanut Prices (NASS).


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