Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Congress this week seeks elusive debt ceiling deal

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Senate,Treasury,Debt Ceiling,PennAve,Economy,Budgets and Deficits

The House and Senate this week will vote on the future of military retirement pay, whether to delay new financial reform regulations, and legislation aimed at boosting small business stock trading. But lawmakers will also be working intensely behind the scenes to strike a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling before a Feb. 27 deadline.

The Senate, meanwhile, will take up a measure aimed at restoring a planned one percent cost-of-living reduction to military pensions with a test vote scheduled for Monday. The bill includes no offset for the $6 billion cost, so it is unlikely to win enough Republicans to clear a 60-vote hurdle.

The House schedule is more uncertain.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told lawmakers that the chamber may consider a bill this week to lift the $17.2 trillion debt ceiling, but no vote is scheduled yet.

And there won’t be much time.

The House is only in session from Monday until Wednesday, because Democratic lawmakers are leaving town midweek for their annual issues retreat.

With the week-long President's Day recess beginning on the following Monday, Feb. 17, the House is not scheduled to return to session until Feb. 25. That's just two days before a Feb. 27 debt ceiling deadline set by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who warned lawmakers in recent letter that he's running out of “extraordinary measures” to shuffle around money and will soon be unable to fully fund the federal government.

House Republicans are weighing a number of legislative proposals for raising the debt ceiling but there is no final deal yet. One plan calls for restoring the proposed military pension cuts and patching a loophole in the law that regularly reduces the reimbursement rates for doctors treating Medicare patients. The cost would be offset by extending mandatory spending cuts. In exchange, lawmakers would agree to lift the debt ceiling until early 2015.

While House Republicans debate the debt ceiling behind closed doors, they’ll vote on a series of bills under special House rules that limit debate, exclude amendments and require two-thirds votes for passage:

— The Consumer Financial Protection Safety and Soundness Improvement Act would delay implementation or set aside final regulations developed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and would require the agency to consider a new rule’s impact on financial institutions.

— The Small Cap Liquidity Reform Act would create a pilot program for small businesses to loosen trading rules in order to spur trading activity in their company stock.

— A bill to give the airline pilots union a say in any new tests or regulation for sleep disorders among pilots and air traffic controllers.

— The National Integrated Drought Information System Act, which would authorize $13.5 million annually through 2018 for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to maintain a system providing early warnings of droughts.

— A resolution regarding Ukraine would call on the government in Kiev to respect protesters who support ties with the European Union and would call on the U.S. to employ targeted sanctions if the government uses violence against the protesters. The Senate passed similar language last month.

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