Congress Is Back: Here's What's Coming Up

Senate cloture voteC-SPANWe’re back!

And we’re back!

The Senate returns today after being off since December 20 while the House comes back in session having been off since December 13.

After the nasty fiscal cliff fight at the end of 2012, lawmakers (and journalists) were happy to have a few weeks off to return to their districts and spend time with their families over the holidays.

Now that that’s over, Congress has a few things to take care of in the next few weeks.

Here are the details:

Omnibus Spending Bill – Passage of the Murray-Ryan budget deal didn’t ensure that we would avoid another government shutdown. Each house must still pass a major spending bill that uses the top line spending number agreed upon in the budget deal to appropriate where the money goes. Congress must pass the bill by January 15 to avoid another shutdown, although it could (and might) pass a short continuing resolution to give lawmakers a few more days to work out the legislation.

Farm Bill – House and Senate Agriculture Committee negotiators are also working against the clock to complete a five-year farm bill as well. The sides are working to compromise over the House and Senate passed bills. Speaker John Boehner struggled to pass a comprehensive farm bill last year, forcing him to break it into two separate bills – one for farm programs and another with $US40 billion in cuts to food stamps. The Senate bill cut food stamps by $US4 billion. If the sides do not come to an agreement, food stamps will be unaffected, but milk prices could rise significantly and various farm subsidies will be altered.

Unemployment Insurance – The Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program that allowed unemployed workers to collect benefits for up to 73 weeks (instead of the normal 26) expired on December 28. Senate Democrats are bringing up a bill today that would extend the EUC program for another three months, at a cost of $US6.4 billion. Only one Republican, Dean Heller, supports the bill, though other say they are open to it if Democrats include a spending offset.

Obamacare Security – The House returns this week and immediately gets to work on a bill that would require the federal government to inform an individual if their personal information was breached on the federal exchange website. The Obama administration maintains that no such breaches have occurred, despite repeated warnings from Republicans, and that the House bill is fear mongering to scare potential Obamacare enrollees.

Janet Yellen Confirmation – Janet Yellen’s nomination for chairman of the Federal Reserve will receive a vote in the upcoming days, possibly as soon as today. Yellen passed through the Senate Banking Committee by a 14-8 vote in November and is certain to be confirmed. She needs just a bare majority (51) of votes after Democrats changed the Senate rules to eliminate the filibuster for executive and judicial branch nominees last year.

Other than that, Democrats are still holding out hope that Boehner will bring up some form of an immigration bill, or many small bills in the coming months. Congress will also have to raise the debt ceiling sometime in the spring.

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