The Week Ahead: Oct. 17-23, 2011

October 17, 2011 05:04 AM
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via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

House is recess, so focus is on Senate

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

The House is in recess this week, but plans to hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. The House will return the afternoon of Oct. 24.

The congressional focus will be on the Senate, which this week will take up a Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations measure that incorporates three spending bills totaling about $138 billion in discretionary spending, the so-called 'minibus': Agriculture (HR 2112), Commerce-Justice-Science (S 1572) and Transportation-HUD (S 1596). Appropriators are waiting for congressional leaders to decide how to divide the $1.043 trillion in discretionary funds allocated for the 12 annual spending bills, a step often referred to as the 302(b) process. Those allocations currently differ by chamber. The continuing resolution (CR) funding the government for the 2012 fiscal year expires Nov. 18.

The House has passed six of its 12 bills, while the Senate so far has passed only one, the Military Construction-VA measure (HR 2055). Among the three spending bills up for Senate debate this week, only the Agriculture measure has seen floor action in the House, and the outcome was not bipartisan as no Democrats voted for the House version of the bill when it passed 217-203 on June 16, primarily because of the deep cuts it proposed for programs that feed low-income Americans. Nineteen Republicans voted against the measure, largely because they wanted deeper spending cuts.

The key unknown is how many amendments will be allowed via the minibus debate, and which ones will pass. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the No. 3 Republican leader and a senior appropriator, indicated that amendments would be restricted to relevant parts of the three-bill spending package. Some possible amendments include one possible attempt from Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to bar the Food and Drug Administration from using funds to approve the genetic engineering of fish. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Maine Republicans, might offer an amendment opposing an effort by USDA to limit potatoes in school lunches. There could be an attempt by some lawmakers to include language modifying the corn-based ethanol mandate relative to corn stocks-to-use data.

Another key focus will be on authorizing committee recommendations to the Super Committee regarding spending cuts and/or revenue of at least $1.2 trillion over ten years. The recommendations from the Ag Committees had still not officially been sent by the weekend, according to contacts. The Super Committee will meet this week, and it will also meet next week when the Senate is scheduled to be out. The panel wants to reach a deal before month’s end. The panel continues to meet in secrecy, with members pledging not to talk about their deliberations. Sources signal the committee is focusing on some of the deficit-reduction ideas considered by the previous working group Vice President Joe Biden led. The Biden Commission identified around $33 billion in cuts to agriculture-related programs. Whatever the joint committee proposes will be subject to an up-or-down vote on the House and Senate floors with no possibility of amendment or Senate filibuster. Sources inform they expect the Super Committee will produce new, broad spending caps and will give appropriators and other standing committees,including the Agriculture panels, the responsibility of writing the fine print. This could also include the tax-writing panels in the House (Ways & Means) and Senate (Finance).

The Senate will likely approve several nominations, including a handful related to trade posts.The Senate will also consider the nomination of Heather Higginbottom, who President Obama nominated to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Neb.) has been trying to bring the nomination to the floor since Higginbottom was nominated in late January.

The White House is pushing for Congress to take up an aid package for state and local governments. “I’m urging members of Congress to vote on putting hundreds of thousands of teachers back in the classroom, cops back on the streets, and firefighters back on the job,” President Obama said in his weekly address. White House spokesman Josh Earnest and economic policy aide Jason Furman on Sunday indicated that Obama wants to see approximately $35 billion from his jobs proposal for aid for teachers, firefighters and police officers to be the first piece to move.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is scheduled to vote Tuesday on position limits. The rule will focus on excessive speculation to prevent market manipulation, a key issue in derivatives reform via the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul. The rule would cap the amount of futures contracts that a single trader or firm can hold on certain commodities. The limits would apply to trading on 28 commodities, while existing position limits apply to only nine items. CFTC received 13,000 comment letters from both industry lobbyists and consumer groups. Industry groups say speculators are needed to keep liquidity flowing, and that regulators lack data tying speculative trading to price distortions.

This week's Washington-related agenda: The agenda for congressional committees features hearings on tax reform, jobs and the economy, the upcoming G20 meeting, and housing finance reform. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner testifies before Senate Small Business on jobs.

Monday, Oct. 17

Food security: International investment in agricultural land and its possible dangers to indigenous populations are discussed by the UN Committee on World Food Security meeting in Rome (until October 22).
US school nutrition and health issues:
White House news conference to discuss to discuss the HealthierUS School Challenge, a program intended to promote healthier school environments by providing nutrition education, nutritious food and beverage choices, physical education and opportunities for physical activity.
Economic reports:
Selected Interest Rates (Federal Reserve) | Empire State Mfg. Survey | Industrial Production.
USDA reports:
Export inspections (AMS) | Aquaculture Data (ERS) | Crop Progress (NASS).

Tuesday, Oct. 18

Federal Reserve: Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, speaks at a conference hosted by the Federal Reserve of Boston.
GOP presidential candidate debate: Another Republican presidential candidate debate takes place, this time in Las Vegas.
Tax overhaul options: Committee hearing. Senate Finance Committee.
Jobs programs: Committee hearing. Senate Small Business Committee. Witness: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The committee will discuss the impact one year after the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.
Review of 2011 flood season: Committee hearing. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Oil spill response capabilities: Committee hearing. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the status of response capability and readiness for oil spills in foreign Outer Continental Shelf waters adjacent to US waters.
Pipeline safety issues: Subcommittee hearing. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation — Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security.
Energy reports: Weekly National Petroleum Report (API).
Economic reports: Producer Price Index | Treasury International Capital | Housing Market Index | ICSC-Goldman Store Sales.
USDA reports: Livestock, Dairy and Poultry Outlook (ERS).

Wednesday, Oct. 19

Exchange-traded funds: Subcommittee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs — Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance, and Investment.
Energy reports: Weekly Petroleum Status Report (EIA) | Weekly ethanol plant production (EIA).
Economic reports: Weekly mortgage applications (Labor Dept.) | MBA Purchase Applications | Housing Starts | Beige Book.
USDA reports: Meat Price Spreads (ERS) | Milk Production (NASS) | Broiler Hatchery (NASS) | Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade (FAS).

Thursday, Oct. 20

Federal Reserve: Fed governors from Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis speak separately at conferences.
EU agricultural reform plan: The EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council discusses reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and conservation of fish stocks in the Baltic and North seas, at a two-day meeting in Luxembourg.
European bonds and debt: Europe’s sovereign debt crisis and debt restructuring are among the topics to be discussed at the two-day European Government Bond Conference in Brussels.
Housing finance issues: Committee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
G20 and global economic and financial risks: Subcommittee hearing. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs — Subcommittee on Security and International Trade and Finance.
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 | Existing Home Sales | Phila. Fed Survey | Leading Indicators.
USDA reports: Export Sales (FAS) | Grain Transportation Report (AMS) | Catfish Feed Deliveries (NASS) | Catfish Processing (NASS).

Friday, Oct. 21

EU: European Union Finance ministers meet ahead of the EU summit.
USDA reports: Livestock Slaughter (NASS) | Dairy Products Prices (NASS) | Peanut Prices (NASS) | Cattle on Feed (NASS) | Cold Storage (NASS) | Tree Nuts: World Markets and Trade (FAS) | Chickens and Eggs (NASS) | Wheat Data (ERS) | Feed Grains Database (ERS).

Sunday, Oct. 23

EU debt crisis summit: European leaders meet in Brussels to discuss solving the sovereign debt crisis, plus preparations for next month’s G20 summit and Durban conference on climate change.
US bankers meeting:
The American Bankers Association holds its Annual Convention, Business Expo and Directors’ Forum in San Antonio, Texas (until October 26).

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






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