Senate back to face defense bill, nominations

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Dec. 9, 2013 – The Senate returns from recess today to a full plate of issues awaiting action, including 2014 defense spending (and sequester), the nominations of Janet Yellen and Rep. Mel Watt, R-N.C., to head the Federal Reserve Board and Federal Housing Finance Agency, and much more.

The president’s nomination of Yellen, the Fed’s vice chair, to succeed Ben Bernanke when he leaves the Fed chairmanship Jan. 31 was approved by the Senate Banking Committee in November; Watt’s nomination as next FHFA director cleared the panel in July but failed a test vote held in late October. There were not enough votes to prevent a filibuster on the FHFA nominee.

That may no longer be a problem: Last month, the Senate voted 52-48 – mostly along party lines – to reduce from 60 to 51 the number of affirmative votes needed to pave the way for a vote on confirmation of executive branch and judicial nominees.

Several bills also await Senate action, and though these do not benefit from the so-called “nuclear option” invoked Nov. 21 on nominations, some appear primed for action.

One of these is the NAFCU-backed S. 635, the “Privacy Notice Modernization Act of 2013.” If enacted, the measure would eliminate the requirement under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act to mail privacy policy notices to consumers in years that policies do not change.

The House-Senate budget conference committee is also still facing a Dec. 13 deadline for producing a budget resolution. The conference panel is working to reconcile budget bills passed by each chamber before a new $20 billion sequester hits on Jan. 18; and to avoid yet another government shutdown when the current agreement expires Jan. 15.