By Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder, Vicki Needham and Erik Wasson - 01/06/14 07:06 PM EST
Welcome back, Congress.
The U.S. Senate started off its 2014 slate with a bang of a first vote, confirming Janet Yellen to be the first female chairman of the Federal Reserve.
But with well over a dozen senators missing that vote, Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidDems put immigration front-and-center on convention's first day Dem ad blasts Indiana senate candidate on Social Security Super-PAC targets Portman on trade MORE (D-Nev.) delayed a scheduled vote to extend expired long-term jobless benefits until Tuesday morning.
YELLENJanet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Fed, cleared a major procedural hurdle before the Senate broke for the holidays, and the chamber formally approved the pick Monday by a vote of 56 to 26.
Growing skepticism about the central bank, coupled with an increasingly toxic atmosphere in the Senate over nominees, set the stage for the growing dissent.
The current Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke, now keeps the record for most "no" votes, after 30 senators opposed him in 2010 when he sought a second term on the job. (For whatever it’s worth, Bernanke did get a slightly higher percentage of votes cast.)
So, either way, the last two votes for Fed chairman have set records for opposition of some sort.
Yellen takes on the job at a key time for the Fed. Within the institution, the central bank is trying to unwind years' worth of stimulus in a way that doesn't upend the economy or freak out markets. The Fed also wears another hat as a financial regulator, and it has its hands full implementing the Dodd-Frank financial reform law.
On the outside, the Fed is facing growing scrutiny on Capitol Hill, where House Republicans recently announced a top-to-bottom review of the institution.
But for now, Yellen can enjoy entering the history books.
UI:With the Senate not near full strength, Reid then surprised onlookers by delaying the unemployment insurance vote by about 16 hours — until 10 a.m. Tuesday.
But even with the extra time, Senate Democrats face an uphill climb in getting the five Republicans they need to back the measure.
Sen. Dean HellerDean HellerSenators offer bill removing hurdles to offering stock options Six senators call on housing regulator to let Congress finish housing finance reform Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention MORE (R-Nev.) is a co-sponsor of the measure, and media reports suggest that Sens. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsThe Trail 2016: Words matter Lobbyists bolting Trump convention early GOP sen at convention: I'm not ruling out voting for Clinton MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiBig Oil makes a push for risky and reckless Arctic drilling GOP divided over 0M for climate fund Overnight Energy: House passes first Interior, EPA spending bill in seven years MORE (R-Alaska) are at least on board for moving the bill forward.
But most Republicans have said that they’ll only consider extending the benefits — which expired for 1.3 million people late last month — if the costs are offset.
For instance, Tennessee’s two Republican senators — Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Overnight Healthcare: Mysterious new Zika case | Mental health bill in doubt | Teletraining to fight opioids Hopes dim for mental health deal MORE and Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE — have come out against the current proposal, even though their state has a higher unemployment rate than the national average. Some GOP lawmakers also want an extension to be paired with measures aimed at creating jobs.
At the same time, Democrats have made it clear that they’re not going to drop this issue anytime soon, and they haven’t been shy in suggesting that this is a policy priority they also see as a political winner.
The jobless benefits allow Democrats to keep some attention away from ObamaCare, and to make their push against income inequality.
Still, should the vote go down on Tuesday morning, Democrats are likely to have to start dealing on pay-fors, even as they insist the benefits haven’t been offset in the past. Collins reportedly said that she told President Obama as much during a telephone chat on Monday.
WHAT ELSE WE’RE WATCHING:
Finish line for farm bill?: Top lawmakers are racing to complete the $1 trillion farm bill over the next two weeks, before Congress leaves town again for the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday.
The conference committee for the farm bill could meet as soon as Thursday, sources said, setting up floor action next week.
The top four negotiators — Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowDems to GOP: Admit Trump is 'unfit' to be president Senate Dems push Obama for more Iran transparency GMO labeling bill good for both environment and the poor MORE (D-Mich.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and the panels’ ranking members, Sen. Thad CochranThad CochranWhy a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Capitol locked down for second time in a week This week: Congress eyes the exits in dash to recess MORE (R-Miss.) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) — are set to brief lawmakers before releasing the details of a compromise between the House and Senate versions.
Key sticking points include the size and nature of food stamp cuts, the use of target-price-based supports and how to calculate a farmer's acreage risk for subsidies.
Farm bill savings have been rumored to be a potential offset for — you guessed it — an extension of the jobless benefits.
Across the pond: Treasury Secretary Jack LewJack LewDems hail Dodd-Frank reforms on law's anniversary Panic prompted ObamaCare lawlessness GE Capital and the coyote’s leg MORE is scheduled to meet with President François Hollande of France on Tuesday, during the first leg of a three-day tour of Europe that will also include stops in Germany and Portugal.
The Financial Times reported this weekend that Lew will press the French for a “balanced growth strategy,” and the Germans to up their domestic demand. The Germans are unlikely to view that suggestion kindly, FT said.
Out the door: Make that two Ways and Means Republicans who aren’t sticking around for Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump, Clinton intelligence briefings likely to start next week Clinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform MORE (R-Wis.) to (most likely) get the committee gavel.
Rep. Jim GerlachJim GerlachBig names free to lobby in 2016 Ex-Rep. Gerlach ditches K St. in return to campaign world Ex-Sen. Pryor heading to K Street MORE (R-Pa.), one of the more centrist Republicans on the tax-writing committee and among the GOP Conference, announced he would not seek a seventh term this year.
Rep. Tim GriffinTim GriffinTea Party class reassesses record Huckabee's daughter to run '16 campaign Lawmakers seek Purple Heart for victims of Little Rock shooting MORE (R-Ark.) had previously said he wouldn’t run for reelection. Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has said he is going to continue to push for tax reform this year, but Gerlach said he sees little reason to believe that the current polarized Congress can achieve such big, substantive achievements.
Trade Balance: The Commerce Department releases its November data on exports and imports of U.S. goods and services.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED:
— Spending bill negotiators face heavy lift
—New IRS chief to battle for more funding
—Rep. King: Tie wage hike to regulatory rollback
—White House urges Congress to approve jobless aid
—Watt set to take helm as a top housing regulator
—House committee demands DOJ's 'platinum coin' analysis
—Club for Growth urges 'no' vote on extension of jobless benefits