A Loaded Schedule for Washington, but What’s the Main Event?

NYT FDCarl Hulse March 2, 2015

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Good Monday morning from Washington, where a speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will compete for attention this week with Supreme Court arguments and a potential government shutdown. Republicans head to the next big event and find time to meet with potential donors as the money primary heats up. And Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican, takes issue with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and dismisses the presidential prospects of his colleagues.

After weeks of sniping and diplomatic intrigue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will address a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday, just one of the events that will have Washington transfixed this week.

Mr. Netanyahu will first speak on Monday at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at Washington’s convention center. His remarks will undoubtedly be parsed to see what they hold for his Tuesday appearance, in what is promising to be a packed House chamber – even if some congressional Democrats don’t show, in protest.

In most weeks, Mr. Netanyahu’s speech, which came at the invitation of congressional Republicans who initially kept the White House out of the loop, would overshadow any competing news events. But there are a few other attractions absorbing the attention of the capital and the news media.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the conservative challenge to the Affordable Care Act. A ruling against the Obama administration this year could undermine the new insurance program by denying federal subsidies to millions of people, throwing its future into doubt. The law narrowly survived one Supreme Court challenge in 2012, and court watchers will be monitoring the questions the justices will throw at lawyers for hints of how this one might turn out.

Last but not least, there is the continuing fight over financing the Department of Homeland Security. All the chaos in Congress last Friday bought lawmakers only one week to find a solution to how to fund the agency and deal with the objections of Republicans who want the money held up unless President Obama’s immigration policies are blocked.

Given the depth of the disagreements, any deal will no doubt take all week to hash out. The fight will be renewed on Monday night with a procedural vote in the Senate on beginning negotiations with the House. Democrats promise to filibuster it.