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Is another debt ceiling fight brewing?

While the legislation passed last year extended the $17 trillion debt ceiling limit until Feb. 7 of this year, when precisely the Treasury will hit the ceiling is not clear. Last week Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said he believes it will come in February.

Lawmakers will have to address the issue, viewed as must-pass legislation, in a tight time frame with Congress out this week and back for three weeks before the weeklong Presidents Day break.

The big question is whether or not this debt ceiling debate will be another messy partisan affair or whether Republicans will want to avoid the type of brinksmanship we have seen over the subject before, particularly as we head towards the mid-term elections.

While some in the GOP caucus in both chambers are always ready for a fight over this issue, and despite almost the entire caucus being adamantly opposed to hiking the debt ceiling without spending cuts, some Republicans are already hinting that they will not go to the mat on the debt ceiling this go around.

House Republicans will meet next week and Senate Republicans are planning to meet early next month to discuss strategy, including the debt ceiling, but there is deep skepticism that they can win cuts from Democrats.

Polling indicates just how dicey the debt ceiling can be. The public recognizes that raising the debt ceiling is important for the economy, but many Americans also say they realize how problematic debt is—even though the limit represents debts Congress has already incurred.

White House to release budget late

According to law, President Obama is supposed to submit his budget to Congress by the first Monday in February. The White House, however, announced this week that President Obama’s budget would not be ready until March 4 – a month late.

Last year, President Obama delivered his budget more than two months late – on April 8 – and blamed the delay at the time on the fight over the “fiscal cliff.” Since being elected in November of 2008, President Obama has only met the official budget deadline once.

The Republican controlled House has said it will once again produce a budget blueprint, but it is unclear if the Senate will follow suit. Last year the Senate passed a budget for the first time in four years.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said this week that it will release its annual budget update — which serves as a yardstick to measure competing budget proposals — on Feb. 4.
 
Click here to view this week's Washington Business Brief, Debt Ceiling, Immigration Reform and SOTU Preview. 

Boehner to release immigration principles

While the prospects for comprehensive immigration reform seem to have completely evaporated, there continues to be hope among immigration reform advocates that some pieces of the puzzle could be solved in the Congress.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is poised to release his Principles for Immigration Reform before the President delivers his State of the Union next week.

The House Republican immigration principles reportedly will cover how the U.S. border should be protected, how immigration laws should be enforced, and – most controversially - how many of the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants can embark on a path to legalize their status.

The inclusion of a path to legalization for any undocumented immigrants is particularly significant given that it is one of the pivotal reasons that plans last year to pass a comprehensive immigration reform law broke down in the House of Representatives after it passed in the Senate in June. 

Democrats to bring back push on unemployment

While there has been no movement on a possible deal to extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, Democrats – aided by organized labor – plan to make a public push on the issue.

Senate Democrats have been unable to strike a deal with a sufficient number of Senate Republicans on benefits for the long-term unemployed that expired at the end of last year. While there was significant optimism in early January that the 60 votes required to overcome a GOP filibuster could be reached, efforts fell short.

Democratic affiliated groups and organized labor plan events and campaigns aimed at Republican Senators like Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA). 

State of the Union will focus on poverty and income inequality

President Obama’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address will focus heavily on issues like poverty and income inequality. It has become clear over the last few weeks that Congressional Democrats in both chambers hope to use these issues to build political momentum for their candidates in the run up to this year’s critical mid-term elections.

President Obama is expected to call income inequality “the defining challenge of our time,” and will roll out a litany of proposals to help ameliorate the growing income gap between the haves and have nots.

Among the proposals he is expected to roll out in his State of the Union are an increase in the federal minimum wage, universal pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, extension of unemployment benefits, workplace leave policies, college affordability, and money for job training.

Political bits

House

Massachusetts 6th Congressional District: Richard Tisei (R-MA), an openly gay former state legislator who narrowly lost to Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) in 2012, announced his candidacy on Thursday of this week.

Virginia 10th Congressional District: Ultra-conservative State Senator Dick Black (R-VA) made the surprise decision to end his candidacy for the GOP nomination just two days after announcing his bid. His exit paves the way for State Senator Barbara Comstock (R-VA) who is seen as Republican’s best hope to hold this district.
          
Senate            

Arkansas: Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR) narrowly outraised incumbent Senator David Pryor (D-AR) in the 4th quarter of last year.

Oklahoma Special Election: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin set the special election to fill Coburn’s seat to coincide with others this cycle: the primary will be held June 24, with a possible runoff on Aug. 26 and the general election on Nov. 4.

Oklahoma Special Election: Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) announced he will run for the seat being left vacant by the resignation of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). 
      
A look ahead

House

Tuesday, Jan. 28 – The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing on A Progress Report on the War on Poverty: Expanding Economic Opportunity, at 10:00 a.m. in 210 Cannon.

Tuesday, Jan. 28 – The House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Keeping College Within Reach: Sharing Best Practices for Serving Low-income and First-Generation Students, at 10:00 a.m. in 2175 Rayburn. 
        
Senate            

Tuesday, Jan. 28 – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the nominations of Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to be ambassador to China; Arnold Chacon to be director general of the Foreign Service; and Daniel Bennett Smith to be assistant secretary of State for intelligence and research, at 10:00 a.m. in 419 Dirksen.

Washington by the numbers

67 - The percentage of Americans who are dissatisfied with the country’s wealth distribution.

73 - The percentage of Americans who think President Obama’s NSA changes will have no impact on their privacy.            

They said what?

“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice.” -- Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., in a controversial memoir released last month. (The Washington Post)            

Washington humor

"Chris Christie is getting a lot of support from New Jersey's Hispanic community. Some Hispanics like his moderate conservatism while others believe if you hit him he'll break open and spill out candy." –Conan O'Brien 
                      

 

 Steven C. LaTourette, President | 202.559.2600

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