By Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder, Erik Wasson and Vicki Needham - 03/01/11 12:14 AM EST
What Else to Watch For:
The Fed Cometh: Congress is back – which means so are the hearings. On Tuesday, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, will discuss the central bank’s semiannual monetary policy report before the Senate Banking Committee.
Despite GOP criticism, the Fed has stuck to its gun on its controversial second crack at "quantitative easing." The massive buyback of $600 billion of Treasury bonds is still underway, but we'll be keeping an eye to see if "QE2" gets significant criticism from any Republicans on the panel.
House Party: At 10 a.m. -- the same time as Bernanke's testimony -- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is set to defend the administration's housing report in front of the House Financial Services Committee, which could give a further glimpse of how the politics of the issue will play out.
The administration’s proposal, which called for the eventual winding down of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and reentry of major private sector participants, won tepid support of many House Republicans, who have advocated for much of the same. However, the report also stressed that the government must play some limited role in the housing finance market, which is where it ran into trouble with many conservatives. Meanwhile, House Democrats were also relatively positive on the report, but are concerned about whether reform efforts could make affordable housing less accessible.
House Party II: After Geithner's testimony, the Financial Services Committee will hear from Shaun Donovan, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who is expected to discuss oversight of his department and its fiscal 2012 budget proposal. Donovan could have a tough time selling his department's $47.8 billion budget, given that Republicans now run the House, are focused on cutting spending and are generally critical of HUD.
Talking Tax Reform: The Senate Finance Committee is set to hold the first of what it promises will be a string of hearings on tax reform on Tuesday. The panel is expected to hear from five former assistant Treasury secretaries for tax policy on an idea that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle appear to generally support, even as they are skeptical that something can actually get passed this Congress.
The Cardinals Want to Chat: Attorney General Eric Holder; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Doug Shulman, the IRS commissioner, are all expected to discuss their fiscal 2012 budget proposals with House Appropriations subcommittees. (That said, don’t be surprised if spending for this fiscal year enters the conversation from time to time.)
-- The Census Bureau is scheduled to circulate January numbers on construction spending.
-- The Institute for Supply Management is set to release its February manufacturing index.
-- And the American Petroleum Institute is expected to drop its weekly statistics on gasoline production and inventories.
Public Likes Public (Unions)?: Most Americans believe public sector unions should retain their collective bargaining rights, a new poll from The New York Times found. (A majority also believe state budgets should not be balanced on the backs of public workers’ pay or benefits.)
Don’t Call Them the Group of Six: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the Budget Committee chairman, said on Monday that the bipartisan group looking at ways to base legislation off the fiscal commission’s recommendations would have a “very important” meeting on Tuesday.
That will be one day after Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the ranking member of the Finance Committee, broke with some of his GOP colleagues by saying that, contrary to the debt panel’s report, deficit reduction and tax reform should run on different tracks.
Check the Vegas Line: The Wall Street Journal predicts Bernanke’s appearances this week – he hits the House side on Wednesday – will focus more on inflation than job creation.
Obama O.K. with Patent Reform: The Obama administration announced Monday that it was supporting patent reform legislation being touted by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Judiciary Committee chairman, and others. (Our colleagues over at Hillicon Valley have the lowdown on the bill’s push to switch to a “first to file” patent system.)
On a related note, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) announced Monday that he would try to use the patent reform debate to gauge the Senate’s interest in passing a balanced budget amendment. Lee is a primary backer of one of the several balanced budget measures to be introduced this Congress.
What You Might Have Missed:
On the Money’s Monday:
-- Mark Zandi says the House GOP continuing resolution that would cut $61 billion in spending could cost hundreds of thousand of jobs.
-- In a not-so-shocking move, Democrats try to publicize Mark Zandi's report.
-- Ben Nelson wants to give Congress’ budget a trim.
-- The Tea Party Caucus talks debt ceiling.
-- The Senate Agriculture Committee will talk derivatives.
-- The former S.E.C. top lawyer said he was told he did not have to recuse himself over his Madoff-infused inheritance.
-- The Transportation Department issues its first fine – to American Airlines – for not disclosing fees on overbooked flight-related vouchers.
-- Where are the jobs? Gallup says states with energy production, farms and/or government.
-- Smaller banks want to keep the home loan market competitive.
-- Pending home sales: Down another month, but still higher than last summer.
-- And the personal income needle inches up.
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