Washington Weekly
Jan. 5, 2015

Last Week

The House and Senate were on recess.More

This Week

Congress returns and will be sworn in as the 114th Congress. This week will largely consist of ceremonial activity, with the days being consumed by nearly 400 elected officials from both sides of the aisle and their families taking turns at getting their photograph taken with Speaker Boehner.

Some of the limited business this week will include the election of the Speaker, passing a rules package in the House, and affirming committee chairmanships in the Senate. Two years ago, the Speaker (Ohio Republican John Boehner) lost 12 Republican votes in his bid for reelection. While more Republicans are tossing their hat into the ring to challenge him, he has a cushion of 28 votes that he can afford to lose. The newly Republican-controlled Senate will get down to business by achieving one of its campaign promises — to take action on Keystone XL. They will hold a legislative hearing on Wednesday to get the ball rolling before bringing a bill up to debate. The House also intends to take up and pass legislation permitting the Keystone pipeline, as well as legislation designed to improve the Affordable Care Act (ACA). More

Item of Interest

This week the House will take a swing at a major priority of the business community: repealing a provision in the ACA that defines a full-time workweek as being 30 hours, rather than the historically recognized 40 hours. What this does is to push those hired on a part-time basis, particularly in industries such as retail and food service, into potentially full-time status, thereby forcing an employer that is near the 50-employee threshold into the Employer Mandate. Employers have responded by cutting hours and replacing full-time workers with part-time. As you may know, beginning this year the Employer Mandate requires employers with 100 employees to provide healthcare benefits to at least 70 percent of their employees or pay fines.

In a poll conducted by our allies at the International Franchise Association, nearly a third of U.S. franchise businesses have already cut workers’ hours, and more than a quarter of franchisers have replaced full-time with part-time workers. A majority of businesses close to the 50-worker Employer Mandate threshold said they planned personnel moves to stay below 50 full time workers. ASA looks forward to supporting Representatives Young (IN) and Lipinski (IL) as they introduce legislation tomorrow to repeal the 30 hour workweek provision. See our letter of support here. More

Obama Dials Up Executive Power
What do you do when you don't have Congress? Keep the regulations coming. The Obama administration is preparing another active year of executive action in 2015, pumping out new rules and enforcing others for the first time — setting tougher standards on everything from air pollution to overtime pay to net neutrality, food safety, commercial drones, a college ratings plan and a crackdown on for-profit colleges that don't prepare their students for well-paying jobs. There's even going to be the first draft of a rule for organic pet food.More

McConnell's Majority-Leader Promises Sound Familiar
National Journal
As incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prepares to open the new Congress, members of both parties are on the edge of their seats, hoping he will come through with his promise to return the chamber to regular order, with open debate and an empowered minority. But for those who were around in 2007, McConnell's vows should sound familiar. They're nearly identical to the promises a slightly younger Harry Reid made when he took over the Senate seven years ago.More

Business Groups to Sue Labor Board Over 'Ambush' Elections
The Hill
Business groups will again sue the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over a controversial rule they say will speed up union elections and give organizers the upper hand in the workplace, sources say. The NLRB last year reissued what business groups refer to as the "ambush" or "quickie" election rule, after it was originally struck down in federal court. But business groups complain the rule does not give them enough time to prepare for union elections.More

Let's Review the Bidding on Infrastructure Funding
Roll Call
The Jan. 4 political talk shows reminded anyone still emerging from their holiday stupor that despite the New Year, lawmakers don't seem closer to an accord on how to pay for highways and infrastructure. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the new chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, broke no new ground by saying on Fox News Jan. 4 that, "I don't think we take anything off the table at this point" — including an increase in the federal excise tax on gasoline.More

Tax Reform: Could it Happen?
The Hill
This much is true: Both President Barack Obama and top Republicans are saying the right things about tax reform right now. Whether that means that the two sides will make the progress in 2015 necessary to overhaul the tax code before Obama leaves office is another question entirely.More