Just as the Senate left town earlier this month, a group of five Republicans struck a deal with Democrats on a plan to extend long term jobless benefits, retroactive to late December. The measure would extend those benefits through the end of May, but the offsetting budget cuts would be spread throughout the next ten years. Some of those 'cuts' - like 'pension smoothing' - have been criticized by outside groups in both parties as budgetary gimmicks. Even if the Senate approves this plan, House Speaker John Boehner seems dead-set against the idea, unless there are real budget cuts to pay for it.
3. The Obama Health Law
Expect more legislation in the House about the Obama health law in this three week session, but also expect a lot of competing spin as open enrollment for the law ends next Monday; the Obama Administration has reported a surge in private health insurance enrollments. But stories about coverage hiccups in the health law continue to dribble out, like one in the Washington Post on Sunday that describes how battered spouses, twins and triplets have had insurance problems. Also, the Supreme Court gets involved on Tuesday, hearing the Hobby Lobby case, a challenge to the requirement that businesses offer their workers birth control coverage. A ruling in that case is not expected until late June.
4. A little time to campaign
Other than Tuesday's special election in Florida to replace ex-Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL), no states have any primaries for Congress until May 6, when North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana voters go to the polls. That will give both parties a chunk of time to raise money and get ready for election battles a few months down the road. As for the 2016 race for the White House, look for a few raised eyebrows on Tuesday, as Vice President Joe Biden takes an official trip to Nashua, New Hampshire. It might just be a normal trip to focus on the economy, or it might be that Biden wants to be in New Hampshire for a reason that has a lot to do with 2016.
5. Will there be a budget resolution?
Federal law says the House and Senate are supposed to act on a non-binding "budget resolution" to set the framework for next year's budget by April 15 - but that certainly won't happen this year. Senate Democrats have already said they see no need to act on such a plan, since overall spending levels have already been set by last year's budget deal. Republicans keep saying they will unveil a new budget plan from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), but it's not clear if a budget resolution will actually get to the floor of the House before the Easter break. No official action has been scheduled as yet by the House Budget Committee; last year, the House approved the budget resolution on March 21, while the Senate approved a rival plan from Democrats on March 23 of 2013.