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Author
The Associated Press
Date
January 5, 2014

Fed chairman, farm bill on Congress’ to-do list

Congress’ agenda for 2014 extends from must-passed legislation and nominations to several maybes in a politically charged election year.

MUST DO:

—Senate confirmation of Janet Yellen to become chairman of the Federal Reserve. A vote is scheduled for Monday and the Senate is expected to approve President Barack Obama’s nominee. Yellen would be the first woman to head the Fed, replacing Ben Bernanke. His second four-year term as chairman will end Jan. 31.

—A short-term spending bill to keep the government running. The current measure ends Jan. 15. The budget bill passed last year gave House and Senate Appropriations Committees time to work on an omnibus, trillion-dollar-plus measure to run the government through September 2014.

—Raising the nation’s borrowing authority, which the Treasury Department says must be resolved by late February or early March. Obama has said he won’t negotiate with congressional Republicans, but the GOP is seeking concessions on spending.

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TANGLED UP, VOTES POSSIBLE:

—Renewal of the nation’s farm bill, the five-year, roughly $500 billion measure. Compromise has been elusive for months as the House and Senate disagree over cuts to the $80 billion-a-year food stamp program. The House-passed bill would cut $4 billion annually; the Senate bill $400 million.

—Legislation to delay increases in flood insurance for policyholders. Sen. Mary Landerieu, D-La., and other lawmakers representing coastal states have pushed for the measure.

—A new round of penalties against Iran. Twenty-six senators back legislation that could raise sanctions on Iran and compel the United States to support Israel if it launches a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian nuclear program. Obama has pleaded with Congress to hold off, fearing it would undermine the nuclear deal that world powers reached with Tehran last year.

—An extension of unemployment benefits. An estimated 1.3 million people were cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments ended Dec. 28. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a vote Monday night on whether to move ahead on legislation by Sens. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., to extend jobless benefits for three months. Some Republicans are looking for the cost of extending benefits to be offset with spending cuts elsewhere.

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TO BE DETERMINED:

—An overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. The bipartisan Senate bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security has stalled in the House. Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has spoken about a piecemeal approach, but some Republicans fear that will lead to negotiations with the Senate and an inevitable final product with some sort of citizenship.

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