Morning Action: Congress is Back from Recess

HOUSING. Lawmakers are back from recess and on working a housing finance bill offered by Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Sen. Michael Crapo (R-ID) 82%.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% has no interest in revamping the current housing system (sub. req’d):

The main event this week is the Senate Banking Committee markup on Tuesday of legislation to fundamentally remake the housing finance system.

The bill would gradually liquidate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and replace them with a new government reinsurance system. Instead of the mortgage giants’ implicit government guarantee, the market would operate with an explicit government backstop, which would kick in only after a cushion of private capital was exhausted.

Wrangling over the final text continues even as Chairman Tim Johnson , D-S.D., and ranking member Michael D. Crapo , R-Idaho, prepare to offer a manager’s amendment (PDF) on Tuesday to similar legislation ( S 1217) by Tennessee Republican Bob Corker and Virginia Democrat Mark Warner .

And amid all the last-minute maneuvering, it’s still not clear exactly who is on board.

SHAHEEN-PORTMAN.  The Senate may find it increasingly difficult to pass energy legislation this year (sub. req’d):

Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev., signaled this month that he’d like to try to move not one but two tricky energy-related bills through the chamber during the new work period: the efficiency package ( S 2074 ) sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) 2%, andSen. Rob Portman (R-OH) 28%; and the tax extenders bills that moved through the Finance Committee with a two-year lease on life for the renewable production tax credit.

The efficiency measure enjoys broad support across the political spectrum, but the likelihood of controversial amendments — related to energy or otherwise — has been its primary obstacle the past three years. The bill was derailed in September by GOP demands for a vote on the health care law.

Since then, Shaheen and Portman have used the time to carefully build up support by folding negotiated amendments into the base bill, with the idea of having 60 votes ready to defeat a filibuster should another materialize. Reid told reporters this time around he has “everyone’s word” that the amendment process would be restricted to germane issues.

WATER BILL. A conference report on the water bill could be coming soon (sub. req’d):

Tuesday could be a key day for the water projects bill now in conference. The House Transportation and Infrastructure panel is scheduled to review new “chief’s reports” from the Corps of Engineers on proposed construction projects. A conference report on the water bill could be just weeks away, though there could still be hitches,  reports CQ Roll Call’s John Boyd . The reports are important because every project authorized by the pending Water Resources Development Act must first be cleared through all corps reviews.

IMMIGRATION.  Some speculate that the issue of immigration and amnesty is not quite dead (sub. req’d):

The House Republicans who have been leading the effort to overhaul immigration laws claim the issue is actually gaining some steam, reports CQ Roll Call’s David Eldridge . Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) 35%, says recent comments from Speaker John A. Boehner are indications that momentum has shifted on the issue.  Agribusiness interests would like to think that is the case. The path to enactment won’t get any easier next year should Republicans take control of the Senate. But the odds are still very much against passage in the House this year.’

DEFENSE.  House Armed Services subcommittees will start marking up defense bills this week (sub. req’d):

As Congress returns from a two-week recess, defense legislating begins in earnest: The spending bill for military construction and veterans programs hits the floor, House Armed Services subcommittees start marking up the annual defense authorization measure and other defense and intelligence oversight panels are also in full swing.

 Milcon-VA Due on Floor Shortly: The House will take up the $71.5 billion spending bill ( HR 4486 ) Wednesday or Thursday. The chamber is expected to proceed under a rule that opens the bill to amendments. A provision in the measure barring construction of prisons for detainees now housed at the Navy base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for example, could spark some floor debate. The bill, which came out of Texas Republican John Culberson ’s subcommittee, would largely ratify the administration’s plan to spend more in fiscal 2015 at the Department of Veterans Affairs and allocate considerably less for military construction and family housing. 

EX-IM BANK.  The Heritage Foundation produced a graphic demonstrating why the Export-Import Bank should not be reauthorized.  Share the graphic here.

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