Dispatch from the Front: The Week of November 15

The 111th Congress returns to Washington, President Obama recovers from his Asian travels, and the debate over extending the current tax rates will continue with no resolution expected this week.

The Senate elects leadership positions on Tuesday, and House leadership elections are Wednesday.

President Obama hosts Congressional leaders at a White House dinner Thursday. The rest of his public schedule this week has not been released.

John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, speaks Thursday at the Valley Industrial Association in Wheaton, Ill., and the Tooling and Manufacturing Association in Streamwood, Ill.

The Senate convenes at 2 p.m. today, and Vice President Biden is there for the 4 p.m. swearing-in of new Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Chris Coons (D-DE). (Hey, where’s Mark Kirk?) On Wednesday, the Senate will vote on cloture for S. 3815, the Promoting Natural Gas and Electric Vehicles Act. Cloture votes could follow on S.3772, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and S.510, the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act. See the Democratic cloakroom for more details on the floor schedule, and the Daily Digest for the full committee hearing schedule.

The House convenes at 2 p.m. today and has 27  bills on suspension this week. The new era of fiscal restraint is inaugurated by a vote on H.R. 5987, the Seniors Protection Act, to send Social Security recipients a $250 check. On regular order is a motion to concur in the Senate amendment to H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement Act. For the week’s full floor schedule, see the Majority Leader’s report.

Other topics that may arise in the lame duck include the further extension of extended unemployment benefits, Senate confirmation of the U.S.-Russia START agreement, the DREAM Act immigration bill and judicial candidates and other Presidential nominees, including Jacob Lew for OMB Director. Trade agreements may also be talked about in a purely theoretical fashion.

Senate HearingsTuesday – The full Senate Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on air cargo security, reacting to the Yemen-originated parcel bomb plot. Wednesday – The full Senate EPW Committee considers the Water Resources Development Act, focusing on inland waterways. Senate Commerce holds an oversight hearing on the Transportation Security Administration. The Small Business Committee examines small business access to capital, including commercial real estate. Senate Finance reviews Medicare and Medicaid, with testimony from CMS Administrator Donald Berwick. Homeland Security considers “Securing Critical Infrastructure in the Age of Stuxnet,” referring to the computer worm. Thursday – Senate Foreign Relations holds a hearing on U.S. global competitiveness and “economic security.” Senate Commerce considers NASA’s reauthorization. Senate Judiciary marks up numerous judicial nominees and legislation, including S. 3728, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Protection Act, and S. 3804, Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act. Small Business holds a hearing on reducing the regulatory and administrative burdens on small business. A Senate Finance subcommittee holds a hearing, “International Trade in the Digital Econom,” with testimony from Greg Slater, Intel’s director of trade and competition.

House Hearings: Monday A House Ethics subcommittee begins its hearing/trial of Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) for ethics violations. The House Science and Technology Committee holds a field hearing in Chicago on “onsite renewable energy integration.”  Wednesday – A House Education and Labor subcommittee holds a hearing on developments in state workers’ compensation systems. House Judiciary holds a hearing on the foreclosure crisis. A Science and Technology subcommittee holds what it bills as “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.”

Executive Branch: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke speaks today at The Americas Competitiveness Forum in Atlanta. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addresses the National Business Coalition on Health’s annual conference at the JW Marriott in D.C. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s stop in Shanghai today includes a tour of GE’s China Technology Center. The Consumer Product Safety Commission meets Wednesday to vote on the product safety complaint database, which could be used to damage company reputations. Panama’s minister of commerce and industry, Roberto Enriquez, meets with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk on Thursday. (USTR schedule.)

Economic Reports: The Commerce Department today releases retail sales for October and business inventories for September. On Wednesday, the  Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for October, and the Federal Reserve releases industrial production for October. For more, see The New York Times’ week ahead.

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