The Week Ahead: June 25-July 1, 2012

June 25, 2012 01:43 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

Supreme Court ruling on health care reform | Ag spending bill | USDA reports | GDP

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

The Supreme Court this week is expected to rule on the Democrats' health reform law. As for Congress, key topics in the House this week include floor debate and votes on appropriations bills, a student loan bill and a highway measure. The Senate will consider bills on flood insurance, student loans, and surface transportation.

The House is in a pro forma session today; members return for legislative work on Tuesday. Activities on the congressional calendar include Wednesday evening's annual White House picnic for Congress, and Thursday's congressional baseball game. During those two events, no votes will take place. Congress will after close of business Friday for the July 4 recess, returning on July 9. There are less than 30 full legislative days between now and the election.

Word broke late Friday that the House may not take up the Fiscal Year Agriculture appropriations bill this week. Last week the House Agriculture Committee postponed markup of its version of the farm bill until July 11 in order to focus on the Ag appropriations measure. Sources say that markup will still take place July 11. The House initially planned this week on considering two spending bills. The House Appropriations Committee has cleared the spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration (HR 5973), and a bill (HR 5972) that funds programs in the Transportation Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department. Democrats argue that the Ag spending bill cuts the Commodity Futures Trading Commission by $25 million, a 12 percent reduction from current levels that would make it harder for the agency to implement the Dodd-Frank financial reforms. Democrats are also expected to protest a $250 million cut to the Food for Peace Program, which would make it harder for the government to buy up U.S. commodities to help feed people around the world.

The Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending bill would cut $3.9 billion from current levels, and spend a total of $51.6 billion in the next year. Democrats are objecting to key provisions and are pressing for higher spending levels, particularly in the area of transportation infrastructure upkeep.

Approval of the two spending bills would bring to seven the number of FY 2013 appropriations measures passed by the House — just over half of the 12 spending bills.

Veto threats have been lodged by the White House against several pending appropriations measures – including Agriculture. President Obama will not sign bills that do not reflect last year's debt limit agreement totals for discretionary spending, the administration has said. While the Budget Control Act (BCA) called for total discretionary spending to be set at $1.047 trillion, House GOP leaders later rejected that figure and instead are following a budget plan setting spending at $1.028 trillion. To achieve that, Republican leaders are spreading most of the roughly $19 billion in cuts among domestic spending bills. Meanwhile, senators from both parties — including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have endorsed allocations for the Senate versions of the 12 bills at the BCA levels.

A lot of Senate work this week will be on the five-year flood insurance reauthorization bill, which could take at least three days of floor time. A student loan deal between the House and Senate looks likely because rates on certain needs-based loans are set to double without action.

FDA user fees. Meanwhile, lawmakers are scheduled to take a cloture vote on a motion to agree to the House amendment to a bill (S 3187) extending the Food and Drug Administration's user fee programs for prescription drugs and medical devices.

The highway and mass transit programs currently are operating under a short-term law which is set to expire June 30. Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair John Mica (R-Fla.) last week signaled they were close to finalizing a deal on the transportation-policy portion of the transportation bill. But Boxer acknowledged other issues are unresolved. House GOP leaders continue to demand language requiring construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Other issues include coal ash and the revenue raisers that would pay for the transportation measure. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) previously said Republicans would introduce a temporary measure to extend surface transportation programs if conferees do not reach an agreement. Boehner wants a six=month extension if a deal is not closed by week's end.

Both chambers will likely work on the student loan bill before a July 1 deadline, when federal loan interest rates are scheduled to double.

House members also could consider a privileged resolution finding U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee June 20 approved the contempt report on a 23-17 party line vote.

On the hearing front, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson will appear before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee during a Thursday morning hearing on her agency's regulations. Committee members will focus on the EPA's practices and foundations for regulations that affect the US economy. The House Small Business Committee will consider Wednesday afternoon whether compliance under the EPA's Regulatory Flexibility Act is failing small businesses.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Wednesday morning will hold a hearing on the Superfund Common Sense Act (HR 2997). The bill would provide that manure is not considered a hazardous substance or pollutant under that law. Subcommittee members also will review a draft of a separate legislative proposal that would increase manufacturing competitiveness through improved recycling.

Intellectual property rights is the topic of a Wednesday morning House Judiciary panel hearing. The Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition, and the Internet will focus on enforcement measures abroad in order to protect patents, trade secrets, and market access.

On the financial front, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology will hold a Thursday afternoon hearing on fractional reserve banking and the Federal Reserve, focusing on the economic consequences of high-powered money.

On the agriculture report agenda, weather will be the key focus as areas of the Corn Belt are dry and the Climate Prediction Center sees much of the Corn Belt under drought conditions into September. This will have traders looking for another downturn in the corn and soybean condition ratings in today's Crop Progress report. Monday will also bring the update on food prices from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS). Demand news always can get traders’ attention, particularly with tight old-crop supplies and worries about new-crop production, so the Weekly Export Sales report Thursday will be important. But the big focus will come with Friday morning’s June Acreage and Grain Stocks reports. Traders do expect higher acreage levels, but the stocks figures will probably still be a guessing game. The quarterly Hogs & Pigs report arrives Friday afternoon as well.

On the financial report front, a European summit is on tap late this week, which is expected to see key leaders push for an aid plan totaling more than $160 billion for the euro in an effort to spur the euro zone economy. In the wake of the FOMC meeting, any Fed officials appearing next week will be listened to as markets keep pining for some additional or bolder stimulus actions from the Fed. There’s a smattering of economic data on tap, with New Home Sales on Monday, the Case-Shiller housing price index Tuesday, Durable Goods data comes on Wednesday along with Pending Home Sales figures. Thursday will be an important day with the next update on second quarter GDP due and the week will be capped off with Personal Income and Expenditures on Friday. China can always be a factor traders react to as well if the country takes any moves relative to its economy.

This week's Washington-related agenda: The agenda for congressional committees features hearings on tax treatment of capital gains, Environmental Protection Agency regulations, intellectual property rights, and privacy protections.

Monday, June 25
This week:
The Supreme Court is expected to render judgment on President Obama’s health care law this week. The ruling is expected to come either shortly after 10 a.m. ET today, the last scheduled day of the term, or on an extra day later in the week. Check Scotusblog for updates on the ruling.
European assembly meets:
Sali Berisha and Zoran Milanovi, the prime ministers of Albania and Croatia respectively, address the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg (until June 29). The assembly will debate the impact of Europe’s economic crisis.
Impact of gas prices on small businesses in Illinois:
Subcommittee field hearing. House Small Business — Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Tax and Capital Access field hearing in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
Economic reports:
Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve) | New Home Sales | Dallas Fed Mfg Survey.
USDA reports:
Export inspections (AMS) | Poultry Slaughter (NASS) | Food Price Outlook (ERS) | Monthly Milk Cost of Production (ERS) | Crop Progress (NASS).

Tuesday, June 26
House members return for legislative work.
OECD Economic Survey of the U.S.:
News conference with Richard Boucher, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) deputy secretary-general and Karen Kornbluh, US ambassador to the OECD.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API).
Economic reports: Consumer Confidence | ICSC-Goldman Store Sales | S&P Case-Shiller HPI.

Wednesday, June 27
Geithner visits India:
Timothy Geithner, US Treasury secretary, begins a two-day visit to India. He will be in Delhi for the third annual meeting of the US-India Economic and Financial Partnership, and then travel to Mumbai to meet Duvvuri Subbarao, Reserve Bank of India governor, and business leaders.
Fiscal 2013 appropriations - Interior and Environment:
Committee markup. House Appropriations Committee will mark up draft legislation that would make fiscal 2013 appropriations for the Department of the Interior, the EPA and related programs and agencies.
Role of research universities in US economy:
Subcommittee hearing. House Science, Space and Technology — Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.
Resource agencies impact on electricity prices:
Committee oversight hearing. House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing titled "Mandatory Conditioning Requirements on Hydropower: How Federal Resource Agencies are Driving Up Electricity Costs and Decreasing the Original Green Energy."
Petroleum Reserve carriers review:
Subcommittee hearing. House Transportation and Infrastructure — Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation hearing titled "A Review of Vessels Used to Carry Strategic Petroleum Reserve Drawdowns."
Impact of welfare and tax benefits on work:
Subcommittee hearing. House Ways and Means — Subcommittee on Human Resources.
Agriculture Committee activity report:
Committee business meeting. House Agriculture Committee to vote on the Agriculture Committee 3rd Quarter Activity Report.
EPA compliance with Regulatory Flexibility Act:
Committee hearing. House Small Business Committee hearing titled "Regulatory Flexibility Act [RFA] Compliance: Is EPA Failing Small Businesses?" The RFA requires that federal agencies assess the economic impact of their regulations on small businesses, small non-profits and small governmental jurisdictions and, if the impact is significant, consider alternatives that are less burdensome. The session will focus on specific RFA compliance issues in the context of several EPA regulations.
Weather satellite programs oversight:
Subcommittee joint hearing. House Science, Space and Technology — Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | Durable Goods Orders | Pending Home Sales.
Canada reports: Preliminary Estimates of Principal Field Crop Areas
USDA reports: Broiler Hatchery (NASS) | Peanut Stocks and Processing (NASS).

Thursday, June 28
European Union summit: EU leaders hold a two-day summit in Brussels in another attempt to resolve the sovereign debt crisis impacting the euro zone.
Capital gains taxation: Committee joint hearing. Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee (joint hearing on proposals relating to the taxation of capital gains as a part of a broader overhaul of the tax system.
EPA oversight: Committee hearing. House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing titled "Strengthening the Scientific Backbone of the EPA: An Examination of Agency Practices and Foundations for Regulations Affecting the American Economy." Witness: Lisa P. Jackson - administrator, Environmental Protection Agency.
'American Energy Initiative': Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Topic: EPA Proposal to Tighten National Standards for Fine Particulate Matter. Witness: Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, EPA.
Transportation: Association of American Railroads issues Weekly Traffic of Major Railroads | Grain Transportation Report (AMS).
Africa's market potential: Subcommittee hearing. Senate Foreign Relations — Subcommittee on African Affairs.
Energy reports: Weekly US underground natural gas stocks (EIA).
Economic reports: GDP | Jobless Claims (Labor Dept.) | Weekly Mortgage Rates (Freddie Mac) | ICI weekly money market mutual fund data.
USDA reports: Cherry Production (NASS) | US Export Sales (FAS) | Agricultural Prices (NASS) | Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook (ERS) | Vegetables and Melons Outlook (ERS).

Friday, June 29

'American Energy Initiative': Subcommittee hearing. House Energy and Commerce — Subcommittee on Energy and Power. Topic: Current, pending and potential future EPA greenhouse gas regulations under the Clean Air Act. Witness: Gina McCarthy, assistant administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, EPA.
Trade policy: The WTO is expected to announce its ruling on the US appeal of the case against its mandatory country-of-origin labeling (MCOOL) provisions.
Economic reports: Personal Income and Outlays | Chicago PMI | Consumer Sentiment.
USDA reports: Grain Stocks (NASS) | Rice Stocks (NASS) | Acreage (NASS) | Egg Products (NASS) | Peanut Prices (NASS) | Quarterly Hogs and Pigs (NASS).

Saturday, June 30
Five powers, including China, Russia and the U.S. expected to meet in Geneva on Syria.

Sunday, July 1
Mexicans go to the polls to pick a president.
Front-runner is Enrique Peña Nieto of Institutional Revolutionary party.


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






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