Preview Of This Week's Washington Soap Opera

Goldman's Alec Phillips summarizes the playbill for this week's theatrical performance out of DC, where "a modestly busy schedule in what would normally be a quiet holiday week, with the release of the Senate Democratic budget blueprint, more (but as yet unscheduled) debt limit talks, a Senate vote on Libya, and a few relevant hearings…" Less than a month to go until the debt ceiling D-Day and still nothing. It is getting exciting to see just what "they" come up with the 11th hour and 59th minute.

Tuesday, July 5

  • Today – Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) briefs Democratic leadership on finalized budget proposal.   The proposal will be released as soon as later today, or otherwise in the next day or two. This release will have important informational value, but is ultimately symbolic since the final budget deal is likely to be crafted by the president, Speaker of the House, and Senate Majority Leader. Conrad is likely to offer an outline of over $4 trillion in deficit reduction over ten years. This will come in the form of the FY2012 budget resolution, which is about three months behind schedule (and almost as long behind the House’s, which passed that chamber in mid-April).  It is likely to involve some cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, but will probably stop short of reducing benefits or increasing cost sharing.  It is also likely to involve significant reduction in defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and will probably raise revenues through limitation of tax expenditures.  Since this proposal will come in the form of a budget resolution, which is a non-binding outline of spending and revenue levels that  leaves the specific policy decisions used to achieve them to the committees of jurisdiction, the proposal may not provide a lot of detail on specific changes.
  • 5:00 pm -- Senate votes on authorizing use of force in Libya. Today’s vote is a procedural one, with 60 votes required. If it crosses that threshold, final passage would come Thursday.  The committee vote was a fairly lopsided 14-5, so passage seems likely.
  • 6:30 pm -- House votes on FY2012 Defense Appropriations.  Medium-term defense cuts are coming, and will probably be included in the eventual debt limit compromise. However, FY2012 should be mostly immune.

Wednesday, July 6

  • President Obama town hall meeting. Hosted by Twitter…
  • FDIC open meeting on the Orderly Liquidation Authority (OLA) and resolution plans…

Thursday, July 7

  • FDA Commissioner Woodcock on PDUFA reauthorization. In the House Energy and Commerce Committee
  • Mortgage settlement hearing. In the House Financial Services Committee.  The chairs of the House Financial Services and Oversight Committees, along with several subcommittee chairs, sent a letter two weeks ago to the Treasury requesting all documents and communication between Treasury CFPB adviser Elizabeth Warren and State Attorneys General, services, or other interested parties. The deadline for providing the information was July 5.
  • EPA testifies on the ethanol “blend wall.”  In the House Science Committee. Refiners and consuming industries will also testify. EPA decided earlier this year to allow up to 15% ethanol content in gasoline sold to consumers (up from 10% previously), but with the intention that it be used only in 2001 model year and later vehicles.  There are still a number of technical issues unresolved, which EPA may address at the hearing.

Friday, July 8

  • Proposed Social Security benefit changes. In the House Ways and Means Committee.  The hearing could shed some light on the current discussion of switching to a chained CPI for indexing benefits, as has been discussed in the recent budget talks.