OVERNIGHT MONEY: Watt set for Senate confirmation

TUESDAY'S BIG STORY: Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) will likely be confirmed on Tuesday as the next director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

A recent change to Senate rules will help Watt, who lost his first bid at confirmation in October, to garner enough votes to pack up his office for a move down the street.

Interestingly, Watt will be in South Africa at the funeral for Nelson Mandela with many of his Congressional Black Caucus friends who pushed hard for his confirmation. 

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In an effort to nudge Watt across the finish line, every single one of his Democratic colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to the Senate on Monday urging his swift confirmation.

In it, they hit many of the high points Watt’s backers have argued for months.

They said his two decades of experience as an attorney give him the practical know-how to run the regulator, and his record as a senior lawmaker shows he knows how to reach across the aisle and get something done.

They argue that latter point was particularly key, as Congress is still looking to overhaul the housing market — and the person leading the FHFA would likely play a key role in that effort.

“We are confident that Congressman Watt has the vision and experience necessary to lay the groundwork for its long-term stability, which is critically important as Congress begins to consider legislation to reform the secondary mortgage market,” they wrote.

President Obama, who has pressed for Watt's confirmation to head up the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also will be attending the Mandela service. 

Once confirmed, Watt is expected to take over for long-time acting director Edward DeMarco by the end of the week.

Getting a permanent director in place is a major step in preparing for the expected winding down of Fannie and Freddie and the effort to spur more private investment in the mortgage finance system, which is dominated by the federal government. 

The Senate Banking Committee is holding more hearings this week on housing finance reform with the aim of eventually introducing a bipartisan bill that can get through the Senate. 

Watt is expected to hit the ground running in the effort to brace the agency for the many changes that could come its way within the next year. 

 

WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

Time's up: More than four months later, John Koskinen's time before the Senate Finance Committee has finally arrived.

Koskinen, President Obama's choice to lead the embattled Internal Revenue Service, is likely to face a wide range of questions at his Tuesday nomination hearing. 

Those watching can expect two particular topics to dominate: the aftermath of the IRS's acknowledgement this year that it singled out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny, and the tax agency's key role in implementing ObamaCare and overseeing tax credits that are key planks in the law.

Koskinen, a former Freddie Mac executive, has cultivated a longstanding reputation as a turnaround artist, part of his appeal to Obama, who announced the nomination shortly before Congress broke for their August break.

GOP senators at the time largely said they didn't know much about Koskinen.

But in the months since his nomination, Republicans have raised few concerns about him, as he would take over an agency that has seen several senior staffers depart over the targeting controversy. 

Housing reform continued: The Senate Banking Committee will continue working through its long lists of complex issues on housing finance reform, focusing Tuesday on how to manage and transfer credit risk. 

Foreign spending: A Senate Appropriations subcommittee will hold a hearing Tuesday on the level of assistance for Jordan and Lebanon, with Alia Bouran, ambassador to Jordan, and Antoine Chedid, ambassador to Lebanon, set to testify. 

Global economics: Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, will deliver remarks on Tuesday to The Economic Club of Washington on the bank's role in the global economy.

Housing and immigration: The Bipartisan Policy Center will hold a Tuesday chat with housing market experts about whether immigration reform will boost the housing market's recovery. 

Trade deal: U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman is in Singapore to continue negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which leaders have said they would like to complete this year. Opposition is growing among Democrats and Republicans in Congress over various aspects of the deal with concern about its potentially negative effects on the U.S. economy. 

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

JOLTS: The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) for October evaluates the labor market's data on job openings, hires and separations.

Wholesale Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its wholesale trade report for October that includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures say close to nothing about personal consumption and therefore do not move the market.

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Treasury loses $10.5 billion on GM bailout

— House GOP presses IRS on healthcare credits

— Liberals cry foul on potential budget deal

— Heritage Action warns on budget deal

— Rubio: US should keep trade embargo on Cuba

— Study: GM bailout saved 1.2M jobs

— US Air, American Airlines complete their merger

— U.S. grabbing lower share of foreign investment

— Poll: 68 percent skeptical lawmakers will strike budget deal

— Fed taper not expected until next year

 

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