Morning Action: Senate to Vote on Confirmation of Janet Yellen as Fed Chair
FEDERAL RESERVE. The U.S. Senate is poised to confirm Janet Yellen as chairwoman of the Federal Reserve:
The U.S. Senate, kicking off its 2014 session on Monday, intends to waste no time making history as it moves to approve Janet Yellen to be the first woman to head the Federal Reserve.
A Senate vote is set for 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Yellen, 67, who has been vice chair of the U.S. central bank since 2010.
If confirmed, Yellen would succeed Ben Bernanke, whose second four-year term ends on January 31.
In an early sign that Yellen commands enough support to win confirmation, the Democratic-controlled Senate voted 59-34 on December 20 to move forward with the nomination.
Read our key vote of her nomination here. Under Janet Yellen’s leadership, the Fed would likely become more politicized, and as the Heritage Foundation explains, a more politicized Fed threatens to… place partisan concerns above sound monetary policy.”
IMMIGRATION. Some immigration reform advocates fear 2014 may not be the year for comprehensive immigration reform and amnesty:
veterans of Capitol Hill and Republican aides — even those sympathetic to advocates’ hopes — warn that in reality even if Boehner is able to move legislation it won’t look much like the Senate’s bipartisan bill and that a narrower compromise could be worse than no action at all.
“There’s just no way they’re going to get it,” said Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and who has worked with a number of immigration reform groups.
“My worst fear is the speaker gets his act together and moves some of these [smaller bills] … and then they tell the Senate ‘take it or leave it,’” he argued.
The Heritage Foundation explains what a good step-by-step approach actually is:
A good “step-by-step” reform should focus where there is widespread agreement—reforming our legal immigration system to work better and restoring the integrity of U.S. law by enforcing current immigration laws.
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% will invoke cloture on unemployment insurance (sub. req’d):
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he will seek a fast start to the second session of the 113th Congress by rallying support to move a three-month extension of expanded unemployment compensation.
Reid said Friday that he was relying on Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island and RepublicanDean Heller of Nevada to persuade lawmakers to support cloture Jan. 6 on a motion to proceed to Reed’s short-term extension of broader jobless aide (S 1845). It will be the first legislative battle of the new session, and Reid has signaled his desire to build momentum for other domestic issues in the weeks ahead.
Whatever its fate in the Senate, the measure faces certain opposition in the House, where conservatives question the need for another extension of more generous benefits and want offsets to the bill’s $6.4 billion cost.
OMNIBUS. Appropriators and their staffs are timing the closing of the final details of the fiscal 2014 omnibus strategically (sub. req’d):
Top appropriators hope to strike a delicate balance as they close in on the final details of a fiscal 2014 omnibus: They must release the $1.012 trillion measure with enough time for it to clear Congress ahead of a Jan. 15 deadline, but not so early that it would enable opponents to pick it apart and potentially endanger its passage.
The chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Appropriations panels are expected to meet early this week to resolve as many remaining policy and funding disputes within the omnibus as possible, and the quartet will have little time to waste.
The veteran appropriators will have slightly more than a week to work through any differences, sell the draft to their caucuses and allow adequate time for passage in both chambers before Jan. 15, when the current CR expires (PL 113-46) and agencies will need a fresh round of cash to avoid another government shutdown.
OBAMACARE. Obamacare is not the least costly option for young people in many states, which is making it difficult for the administration to reach a sufficient number of young people on the Obamacare exchanges:
Catastrophic health policies are intended to attract young consumers to the Obamacare health insurance exchanges by offering cheap coverage, but the plans offered in Cook County and 12 other counties in Illinois don’t charge the lowest premiums, according to a Crain’s analysis.
Four states, including Texas and Florida, also offer catastrophic plans that aren’t the lowest-cost alternative, according to an analysis of more than 2,700 plans offered in 36 states where the federal government is running the exchanges.
The furor over the cost of coverage prompted the Obama administration to adopt stop-gap measures to ease sticker shock for existing insurance customers, including expanding catastrophic coverage to include older consumers.
Young people, who generally have low medical bills, are key to the economics of the exchanges. Insurers expect profits from those policies to offset the higher costs they expect to pay on older people.
Yet early indications are that a higher proportion of older people have signed up for insurance. The administration has not published a breakdown by age.