Washington Watch: Help for unemployed, fees for doctors, Ukraine, the president and the pope

The Senate is expected to vote on a compromise bill that would extend benefits to long-term unemployed people (who’ve been cut off since Dec. 28). But the bill’s fate in the House is in doubt.

Washington Watch bugA deadline over the “doc fix” also looms. Unless Congress acts by March 31 to fix a formula that pays doctors for Medicare services, physicians’ fees will be cut sharply.

Debate is likely to intensify over the president’s handling of Ukraine. Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy, who’s been to Kiev twice lately, is likely to have a high profile in the discussions. (Expect more TV appearances.)

And, because congressional Republicans are obsessed with Obamacare, attention will be refocused on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as the end of open enrollment nears.

Monday: The Senate will hold a procedural vote on a bill to aid Ukraine.

Tuesday: Food fight? A House panel will hold a hearing on President Obama’s budget request for food stamps. Expect tension. Republicans angry at how Gov. Malloy and other Democratic governors found a way to go around food stamp cuts, will demand new reductions. But Democrats, including Connecticut’s Rep. Rosa DeLauro, are expected to push back.

Also, the Supreme Court will hear Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood’s challenges to the ACA’s contraception mandate. Owners of both companies say being forced to cover certain forms of contraception for their employees violates their religious liberty.

Thursday: President Obama, who will spend most of the week overseas, will meet in Vatican City with Pope Francis to discuss poverty and income inequality.

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