Capital Thinking Update - June 20, 2011

    View Authors 20 June 2011

    General Legislative

    On Monday, June 20, the House will meet at 10 a.m. in pro forma session. Beginning Tuesday, the House will consider several measures to rename U.S. Postal Service facilities and then turn to the Election Support Consolidation and Efficiency Act (H.R. 672). The Senate will convene at 2 p.m. on Monday for a period of morning business. On Tuesday, June 21, the Senate will vote on the nomination of Leon E. Panetta to be Secretary of Defense and, thereafter, the Senate will vote on whether to end debate on the Economic Development Revitalization Act (S. 782).


    Budget, Appropriations

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • House Appropriations Activity. During the week of June 13, the House passed two FY2012 appropriations bills – Military Construction-Veterans Affairs and Agriculture. The FY2012 Financial Services appropriations bill also received subcommittee approval last week and the Defense and Energy and Water bills were approved by the full committee. The full committee is scheduled to mark up the Financial Services bill on Thursday, June 23; the Energy and Water bill is tentatively scheduled for consideration on the House floor the week of July 4.
    • Senate Budget Resolution. While still delaying a release and markup of a budget resolution pending the deficit reduction negotiations, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said he again amended his plan. According to the Chairman, he dropped the proposal to impose a surtax on millionaires, but retained the elimination of tax expenditures in order to raise revenue.
    • House Judiciary Committee Approves Joint Resolution Proposing Balanced-Budget Constitutional Amendment. On June 15, the House Judiciary Committee approved a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 1) proposing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution which would require a two-thirds vote of each chamber to run a deficit, increase revenue or raise the debt limit. It would also cap federal spending at 18 percent of the gross domestic product. Senate Majority Whip and Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Richard Durbin (D-IL), said that he will hold hearings on the Senate balanced budget amendment resolution (S.J. Res. 10) in response to a written request from Senate Republicans.

    OTHER BUDGET, APPROPRIATIONS NEWS

    • Deficit Reduction Efforts. The bi-partisan “Biden Group” met three times last week in an effort to present an agreement to Congressional leaders by July 1 – and in advance of a scheduled golf outing on June 18 for President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). The group is scheduled to meet four times this week. Vice President Joe Biden reports that they are working on a plan to reduce deficits by $4 trillion over the next 10 years, but still face differences on how to get there. Democrats are advocating for revenue increases and Republicans are pushing for significant changes to entitlement programs, while strongly opposing any tax increases.

     

     

    Education

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • ESEA Reauthorization. On June 16, Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, introduced the second in a series of education reform bills planned by the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s Republicans. The Empowering Parents through Quality Charter Schools Act (H.R. 2218) would provide incentives to states to support the development and expansion of successful charter schools.
    • Higher Education Regulations. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved legislation on June 15 to repeal two controversial Department of Education regulations set to take effect July 1, 2011. The regulations seek to set the definition of a credit hour and expand state oversight of institutions of higher education through authorization requirements. No Democratic amendments offered on the bill were accepted, and the Committee approved the measure mostly along party lines with Republicans in favor. While likely to pass the full House, the legislation is expected to face opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
    • Patent Reform. After opposition by key Republican House leaders concerning language included in Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) patent overhaul bill (H.R. 1249) surfaced, negotiations quickly got under way to find a compromise on how to handle the fees collected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Negotiators are expected to reach a deal in time for floor consideration this week.
    • Transportation Research. The House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation held a hearing on June 14 to review "Transportation Research Priorities." The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) Administrator Peter Appel appeared as a witness and provided insight on the future of the University Transportation Center (UTC) Program. He and other witnesses argued for an open competition process, which would encourage collaboration and reduce duplicative research. A Request for Proposals for the FY2011 competition is expected soon.

    REGULATORY ACTIVITY

    • ESEA Reauthorization. As efforts stall in Congress to reform the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA or No Child Left Behind law), the Administration is preparing to provide relief to states, likely in the form of waivers, which will not meet requirements established by the outdated law. Department of Education officials estimate that could be as many as 82 percent of U.S. schools. While Congressional lawmakers would like to provide reform through legislation, Education Secretary Arne Duncan insists the Department will have to implement relief measures if Congress does not act before the start of the 2011-2012 school year. In July, educators and parent activists also plan to demonstrate their frustration with a lack of movement on reform by organizing a “Save our Schools” march on Washington.

     

    Energy

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • Energy Taxes. On Thursday, June 16, 33 Senate Republicans joined 38 Senate Democrats to end a long-standing ethanol tax credit, by a 73-27 vote. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the Republican party’s third highest ranking leadership official, indicates he is working to draft legislation that would reduce or eliminate “permanent subsidies for mature technologies,” where funds could be used to pay down the national debt or conduct additional energy-related research and development. Dozens of House Democrats continue to urge Vice President Joe Biden to eliminate oil industry tax credits.
    • Energy Efficiency. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is expected to focus additional attention in coming weeks on bipartisan efforts to incentivize additional energy efficiency gains, such as improvements in the transportation and manufacturing sectors and appliance standard measures. The Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act of 2011 (S. 1000) – authored by Committee Members Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Rob Portman (R-OH) – is currently pending for a markup before the Committee.
    • Congressional Hearings. On Thursday, a House Natural Resources Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on four newly-introduced bills to accelerate the permitting of renewable energy projects – Chairman Doc Hastings’ (R-WA) Cutting Federal Red Tape to Facilitate Renewable Energy Act (H.R. 2170), the Exploring for Geothermal Energy on Federal Lands Act (H.R. 2171), the Utilizing America’s Federal Lands for Wind Energy Act (H.R. 2172), and the Advancing Offshore Wind Production Act (H.R. 2173). A separate Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on three other pending bills, including the Small-Scale Hydropower Enhance Act of 2011 (H.R 795). Also on Thursday, a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee will hold a legislative hearing on eight mostly Congressional district-specific bills.

    REGULATORY ACTIVITY

    • Electricity Storage and Ancillary Services. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will solicit public comment for 60 days, once a Notice of Inquiry is published in an upcoming Federal Register, on “ways to facilitate the development of robust competitive markets for the provision of ancillary services from all resource types” and “the adequacy of current accounting and reporting requirements” for storage devices.
    • Power Plant Wastewater Discharges. Small business representatives interested in serving on EPA’s Small Business Advocacy Review Panel of companies that may be impacted by a revision of steam plant standards must self-nominate by June 30. EPA establishes guidelines for industrial wastewater discharges and is currently undertaking a rulemaking that addresses nuclear and fossil-fuel fired power plants (with a particular emphasis on coal). The Regulatory Flexibility Act requires EPA to establish a small business panel for rules that may have a significant economic impact on a significant number of small businesses.

     

    Environment

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • Climate. On Wednesday, June 22, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology will hold a full Committee hearing to examine the Climate Service Proposal by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA Climate Service is intended to be an integrated office responsible for NOAA’s climate science, data, information and services. It is expected to provide a one-stop shop for individuals, local and national governments, and the private sector across the nation in much the same way NOAA’s National Weather Service works. This information would be utilized by end-users to better understand, adapt to, and plan for, a changing climate. The NOAA Climate Service is expected to bring together many of the Agency’s existing climate assets including research labs, climate observing systems, modeling facilities, integrated monitoring systems and on the ground service delivery infrastructure.
    • Alternative Energy Resources. On Thursday, June 23, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will hold a hearing to consider the following bills: HR 2170, an effort to streamline federal review to facilitate renewable energy projects; HR 2171, a bill to concerning the exploration for geothermal resources on federal lands; HR 2172, a bill to facilitate the development of wind energy resources on federal lands and HR 2173, a bill to facilitate the development of offshore wind energy resources.
    • Small-Scale Hydropower. On Thursday, June 23, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Water and Power will hold a hearing to consider H.R. 795, a bill to expand small-scale hydropower.
    • Algae Blooms. On Thursday, June 23, the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, Subcommittee on Energy and Environment will hold a markup concerning the Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2011.    
    • Outdoor Recreation. On Wednesday, June 22, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands will hold an oversight hearing titled, "Opportunities for Outdoor Recreation on Public Lands."
    • Farm Bill. On Thursday, June 23, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry will hold a hearing titled, “Farm Bill Accountability: The Importance of Measuring Performance, While Eliminating Duplication and Waste.”
    • Conservation Programs. On Wednesday, June 22, the House Committee on Agriculture, Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry will hold a hearing regarding an agricultural program audit to examine conservation programs.
    • White Noise. On Friday, June 24, the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs will hold an oversight hearing to consider the potential damaging effects of white noise on bat populations.

    REGULATORY ACTIVITY

    • Wastewater. EPA’s Office of Wastewater Management is holding a workshop to solicit views of stakeholders concerning how the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations should apply to municipal sanitary sewer collection systems, sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and peak wet weather discharges at publicly owned treatment works (POTW) treatment plants. EPA will also seek views on the 2005 draft Peak Flows Policy. The workshop will include a facilitated discussion with representatives of organizations that represent POTWs, state NPDES permitting authorities and nonprofit environmental groups. The workshop will be held on July 14 and July 15.
    • Great Lakes. EPA’s Science Advisory Board Staff Office will hold a meeting to review the interagency Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan (FY2010–FY2014) that describes restoration priorities, goals, objectives, ecological targets and specific actions for the Great Lakes. The GLRI Action Plan is designed to target the most significant environmental problems in the region and will focuses on five areas: toxic substances; invasive species; near shore health and nonpoint source pollution; habitat and wildlife protection and restoration; and accountability, education, monitoring, evaluation, communication and partnerships. The meeting will take place July 12 and July 13.
    • Clean Air in Indian Country. EPA has finalized rules to ensure that Clean Air Act permitting requirements are applied consistently to facilities in Indian country. The rules establish the federal process to issue permits to large sources, those emitting more than 100 tons per year, in areas of Indian country that do not meet national air quality standards. The rules will require the registration of smaller sources – those emitting less than 100 or 250 tons per year -- in all areas of Indian country. The actions lay out requirements for issuing clean air permits and set specific timelines for phasing them in. This is in an effort to ensure that newly built or expanding facilities meet requirements, as pollutants covered under these permits, such as sulfur dioxide and particles, can cause a number of health problems including aggravated asthma, increased emergency room visits, heart attacks and premature death.

     

    Financial Services

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • HFSC to Mark-up Legislative Proposals. On Wednesday, June 22, the House Financial Services Committee (Representative Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Chairman) will review several pending legislative proposals, including the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (H.R. 2072), the Small Company Capital Formation Act of 2011 (H.R. 1070), the Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act (H.R. 1082), the Burdensome Data Collection Relief Act (H.R. 1062), and a proposal to amend the Securities Act of 1933 to specify when certain securities issued in connection with church plans are treated as exempted securities (H.R. 33).
    • House Subcommittee to Discuss Housing Choice Vouchers. On Thursday, June 23, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing, and Community Opportunity (Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL), Chair) will hold a hearing titled, “Legislative Proposals to Reform the Housing Choice Voucher Program.”
    • House Subcommittee to Review Gold Reserves. On Thursday, June 23, the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology (Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), Chairman) will hold a hearing titled, “Investigating the Gold: H.R. 1495, the Gold Reserve Transparency Act of 2011 and the Oversight of United States Gold Holdings.”
    • Treasury Secretary to Address Small Business Access to Capital and Credit. On Wednesday, June 22, the House Small Business Committee (Representative Sam Graves (R-MO), Chairman) will hold a hearing titled, “The State of Small Business Access to Capital and Credit: The View from Secretary Geithner.” 
    • Senate Banking Committee to Discuss Financial Data Protection. On Tuesday, June 21, the Senate Banking Committee (Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD), Chairman) will hold a hearing titled, “Cybersecurity and Data Protection in the Financial Sector.” The witnesses will be Professor Kevin Streff, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Information Assurance, Dakota State University; Leigh Williams, BITS President, The Financial Services Roundtable; and Marc Rotenberg, President, Electronic Privacy Information Center.

    REGULATORY ACTIVITY

    • SEC to Hold Open Meeting. On Wednesday, June 22, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will hold an open meeting to discuss several proposals related to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The proposals will address (i) the statutory threshold for registration of investment advisers with the SEC, requiring hedge fund advisers and other private fund advisers to register with the SEC, and reporting by certain investment advisers that are exempt from registration; (ii) new exemptions from the registration requirements of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 for advisers to venture capital funds and advisers with less than $150 million in private fund assets under management in the United States; and (iii) defining “family offices” that will be excluded from the definition of an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

    FINANCIAL SERVICES NEWS

    • Senator Vitter Lifts Hold on SEC Nominations. Senator David Vitter (R-LA) lifted his one day block of the nominations of Daniel Gallagher and Luis Aguilar to the SEC because the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) had not yet agreed to provide insurance coverage to investors in the alleged Allen Stanford Ponzi scheme. On Wednesday, June 15, the SEC formally requested that SIPC begin the process of covering investors.

     

    Health Care

    LEGISLATIVE ACTIVITY

    • Energy and Commerce Hearing. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee has scheduled a hearing at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, June 21, titled, “Dual-Eligibles: Understanding This Vulnerable Population and How to Improve Their Care.”
    • Energy and Commerce Hearing. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has scheduled a hearing at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 22, titled, “Protecting Medicare with Improvements to the Secondary Payer Regime.”
    • Ways and Means Hearing. The Ways and Means Committee Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, June 22, on Medicare’s financial situation as detailed by the 2011 Medicare Trustees report.
    • Senate Finance Hearing. The Senate Committee on Finance has scheduled a hearing at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 23, titled, “Health Care Entitlements: The Road Forward.”
    • Energy and Commerce Hearing. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, June 14, has been rescheduled for 9 a.m. on Wednesday, July 13. The hearing is titled, “IPAB: The Controversial Consequences for Medicare and Seniors.”

    REGULATORY ACTIVITY

    • National Prevention Strategy. The Administration released its National Prevention Strategy, a comprehensive plan across 17 federal agencies and departments to encourage practices that promote prevention and wellness at the national, state and local levels. The National Prevention Strategy was mandated under the Affordable Care Act and includes actions that public and private partners can take to improve our nation’s health status.
    • Regulations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule establishing the conditions of participation (COPs) that community mental health centers would have to meet in order to participate in the Medicare program.

    OTHER HEALTH NEWS

    • MedPAC Report. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released its June 2011 “Report to the Congress: Medicare and the Health Care Delivery System.”

     

    International, Defense, Homeland Security

    • Free Trade Agreement Endgame.  The Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans appear to be nearing a negotiated compromise for Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program while it concurrently considers the implementing legislation for the three pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Panama, South Korea, and Colombia.  The contours of the deal appear to reauthorize TAA with a functional scope and funding level closer to the scaled-down version of the program authorized in 2002 and set to expire next year than the expanded, expired TAA program authorized under the 2009 stimulus law.   If the two sides reach a tentative deal on TAA in the next couple of days, and possibly even if they do not, the House Ways and Means Committee will hold informal “non-markups” of the FTA bills as soon as this week, with informal consideration in the Senate Finance Committee not far behind.  If an agreement on TAA is in place, Republican and Democratic Committee Members would use the non-markups to provide feedback to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) on the substance of the implementing bills, leading USTR to incorporate changes the Administration deems “necessary and appropriate” to the underlying FTAs.  If negotiators do not reach a TAA compromise, potential Administration witnesses and most, if not all, Ways and Means Democrats are unlikely to appear at any scheduled non-markups.  Several key issues remain before votes on the FTAs occur.  First, the Administration, pro-TAA Congressional Democrats, and a House Republican Leadership that has proven willing to negotiate still have to overcome continued opposition to TAA from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Senator McConnell continues to insist that, in exchange for a TAA agreement, the Obama Administration push for renewed “fast-track” Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), but the Administration and Senate Democrats claim, likely accurately, that they lack the votes for TPA renewal.  In contrast, whatever TAA deal ultimately emerges would likely have the requisite 60 Senate votes and 218 House votes to pass as stand-alone legislation, thereby limiting the Senate Republican Leadership’s leverage.  Second, the Administration still must decide whether to forego the stand-alone route and instead attach TAA renewal (and, separately, the reauthorization of the Andean Trade Preferences Act, APTA, and the Generalized System of Preferences, GSP) to the implementing legislation of one of the FTAs.  Such a move would speed Congressional consideration of TAA and could lift the Democratic vote count on the FTA in question, while lowering Republican support and raising the chances of GOP procedural objections that TAA, APTA, and GSP are not “necessary and appropriate” additions to FTA implementing legislation.
    • Libya.  The Obama Administration maintains its reluctance to take yes for an answer regarding Congressional support, or at least Senate support, for its Libya policy.  The White House report on U.S. operations in Libya, delivered to Congress last week, seemed to satisfy few Republicans or anti-war Democrats on Capitol Hill.  The Administration decided to disavow any acknowledgement of even the political relevance (or certainly any legal authority) of the War Powers Act, instead citing the U.S. “support role” in the conflict as its rationale for not pledging fealty to the law.  That approach means that even a newly drafted resolution, offered by close White House ally and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D-IL), to authorize the Libyan intervention is likely to languish.  An earlier model offered by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member John McCain (R-AZ) also remains in purgatory, although the Senators are working to strengthen their resolution’s language.  The Administration faces much stronger resistance to its Libya policy in the House.  Citing the War Powers Act, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) threatened to call on the House to cut off funding for Libya operations, possibly this week, although such a measure likely would not pass muster in the Senate.  Meanwhile, an effort to cut off U.S. Libya operations via a lawsuit in Federal court, initiated last week by Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Congressman Walter Jones (R-NC), and several other House Members, is highly unlikely to succeed.  Federal courts have regularly deferred to Executive authority over U.S. operations in foreign conflicts and have held that Congressional authority is limited to de-funding such missions.

     

    TechComm

    • Senate Spectrum Bill. At a June 16 White House event, Vice President Biden voiced optimism that Congress would pass legislation reallocating the 700 megahertz spectrum band (the D-block) to public safety and authorize  funding for the construction of a nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network by this year’s 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Vice President  was joined at the event by other Obama Administration officials and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in an effort to build momentum for passage of pending D-block legislation – S. 911, the SPECTRUM Act – that Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) moved through the Commerce Committee on June 8. That bill authorizes incentive auctions that would compensate broadcasters for voluntarily giving up spectrum for wireless broadband as part of a larger effort to fund the nationwide public safety broadband network. The legislation also compensates broadcasters who retain their spectrum but are repacked to make vacated spectrum available for broadband use, and compensates cable operators for any adjustments they had to make with respect to retransmission of the reconfigured broadcast signals. Chairman Rockefeller voiced hope that the Senate will consider the bill before the July 4 recess stating “[w]ith the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks approaching, now is the time to act.”

      The bill must now pass the full Senate and move to the Republican-controlled House, where leaders in the Energy and Commerce Committee have expressed their preference to auction the 700 MHz D-block spectrum rather than allocate it to public safety. However, House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS), introduced their own bill, which, like S. 911, would reallocate the D-block to public safety. Additionally, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on June 22, titled “Reforming FCC Process.”
    • Privacy. Following the June 15 hearing before her Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee, Representative Mary Bono Mack (D-CA) moved further towards introduction of data breach notification legislation. Chairwoman Bono Mack said she would make changes in the draft proposal based on comments she heard at the hearing and is confident that she would soon have a “bipartisan” bill that could move through the Energy and Commerce Committee – if not a final floor vote – by the August recess. In other privacy news, Senate Judiciary Privacy, Technology and the Law Subcommittee Chairman Al Franken (D-MN) and Subcommittee member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced S. 1223, the Location Privacy Protection Act, on June 16. The bill, a response to recent reports that several smartphone operating systems including Apple’s iOS 4 and Android collect customers’ personal location data, requires companies to get express consent from a customer before collecting or sharing that individual’s location data with third parties. The bill also contains anti-stalking and domestic violence provisions calling for a study of location technology and dating violence, directs the Department of Justice to train law enforcement in addressing misuse of geolocation data, penalizes “stalking apps,” and criminalizes the “knowing and intentional aggregation and sale of the location data of children 10 years old and younger.” 
    • Illegal Streaming Bill. On June 16, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S. 978,  the anti-streaming bill introduced by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Chris Coons (D-DE) and John Cornyn (R-TX). The legislation, which the Committee reported by voice vote without amendments, would increase the punishment for illegal streaming of content over the Internet from a misdemeanor to a felony, which was a recommendation featured in White House IP Chief Victoria Espinel's white paper to Congress earlier this year.
    • Patent Reform. In a June 13 “Dear Colleague letter,” former House Judiciary Committee Chairmen John Conyers (D-MI) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) called on their colleagues to oppose H.R. 1249, the America Invents Act. Joined by former Small Business Committee Chairman Donald Manzullo (R-IL) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the four Members specifically oppose provisions that: 1) establish a new process for review of “business method patents” that they argue are “unprecedented” special-interest provisions included in the bill that provide banks with “a special, new bailout at the expense of inventor and the American taxpayer”; and 2) implement a first-inventor-to-file standard for patent approval. The House Rules Committee cancelled a June 14 session to determine how the bill will be brought to the floor amid various objections from both Republicans and Democrats. Although that meeting has not yet been rescheduled, House Republican leaders say publicly that they expect the bill to be considered by the full House.
    • High-Skilled Labor. On June 14, Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced H.R. 2185, the Immigration Driving Entrepreneurship in America (IDEA) Act of 2011. The IDEA Act would allow American companies to attract and retain highly-skilled foreign graduates of American universities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. The IDEA Act would also create a new green card category for entrepreneurs who establish new start-up businesses, create jobs for American workers, and invest in the American economy. The bill has 13 cosponsors, including former House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI).
    • Cybersecurity. On June 24, the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies will hold a hearing titled, “Examining the Homeland Security Impact of the Obama Administration Cybersecurity Proposal.” The hearing follows the June 8 release by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke of a report proposing voluntary codes of conduct to strengthen the cybersecurity of companies that increasingly rely on the Internet to do business, but are not part of the critical infrastructure sector. The report is titled, “Cybersecurity, Innovation and the Internet Economy.” 
    • FCC Wireless Competition Report. The much anticipated wireless competition report is expected out this week. AT&T maintains that the wireless industry is competitive as it seeks FCC and DOJ approval to acquire T-Mobile USA, and industry observers are eager to see whether the Commission will support this view. If released this week, the report would be timely for parties filing reply comments with the FCC on the proposed merger, which are due June 20.