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Capitol Hill Update, 28 October, 2013

Capitol Hill Update, 28 October, 2013

House & Senate/Schedule: Currently the House is scheduled to be in session until Wednesday evening, and will then recess through next week until after Veterans’ day, November 11th. The Senate is in session this week and may recess for a week in November (with the exact week TBD).

House/Financial Services: The House is scheduled to vote Tuesday on H.R. 2374, Retail Investor Protection Act.  Sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO), this bill would effectively delay the Department of Labor from putting forth an expected new rule that would affect how retailers are able to get advice from their financial advisors.  The bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to make a ruling first, that would specify the net impact any new regulations would have upon consumers’ and retailers’ ability to get financial advice.

House/Financial Services: On Wednesday the house is scheduled to vote on H.R. 992, the Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act, sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL).  Effectively what this bill would do is allow swap transactions by investment banks to be bailed out under Dodd-Frank, while these institutions would also keep their FDIC deposit insurance.  In a nutshell, this means that investment banks would be able to risk their investors’ money on the sort of risky exchanges that helped lead to the 2008 financial collapse, with the government promising to insure both their transactions and their investors’ savings in the event that these transactions go south.  This appears to be exactly the kind of government-sponsored moral hazard that led to our current “too-big-to-fail” environment, and this bill is not a good idea.  Unfortunately, it is currently expected to pass with a massive majority.

House & Senate/Debt Ceiling: Both chambers of Congress will vote this week on resolutions of disapproval regarding the debt ceiling suspension passed by Congress in the deal to reopen the government a few weeks ago.

As Dean Clancy explained last week, the particular technique used to suspend the debt ceiling until February 7th is uniquely dangerous because it effectly causes the debt ceiling to cease to exist until the deadline, meaning that President Obama has effectively been made king of the debt until then. Unfortunately, the Congress has given Obama this massive executive power with no check but this resolution of disapproval, which would have to pass both chambers and be signed by the President to take effect, rendering it impotent.

House/Health Care: The House Committee on Energy & Commerce will be holding an important hearing this Wednesday at 9 AM on the implementation of ObamaCare, in which Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will be testifying. Given that Secretary Sebelius repeatedly assured Congress and the public that the exchanges would work fine upon launch, the questions will be hard, and her answers possibly fascinating.

Senate/Energy: Although not confirmed, there has been mention of S. 761, the Shaheen/Portman "Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act" could come to the floor as soon as this week. FreedomWorks has opposed this bill (including a Key Vote NO) because it lures states into accepting still more expensive federal energy mandates.