OVERNIGHT MONEY: Baucus looks toward China

TUESDAY'S BIG STORY:  

Not the only game in town: While the focus for Tuesday will be on President Obama's State of the Union address, Capitol Hill will be all abuzz with a variety of other events.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) will take a short walk on Tuesday morning to talk to another committee about his next career move — becoming ambassador to China. 

Baucus will talk to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about taking over for the departing Gary Locke, who has made inroads on many key economic fronts during his nearly three-year tenure. 

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Locke has helped lower the visa wait time in China, and more Chinese investment has poured into the United States since he arrived there in August 2011. 

A move to China is expected to require plenty of hard work and diligence from Baucus, who is well-equipped with broad ranging experience in tax and trade policy, especially on issues that are important to Congress such as currency manipulation. 

Meanwhile, Baucus has introduced a bipartisan trade promotion authority measure that he could have to pass off to new chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), if his nomination goes through as quickly as expected. 

Still, some trade experts argue that Baucus wants to stick around long enough to get the fast-track authority through his committee, even though it faces difficult odds against a growing group of Democrats who oppose the measure. 

Baucus leaving before the end of his term also casts doubt on the chances of passing comprehensive tax reform this year, which had already run into several hurdles.

Of course, we can't forget the main event.

The president's speech is expected to cover a broad range of issues, with economic inequality as a major theme. 

WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

Progress on poverty: The House Budget Committee on Tuesday will discuss the nation's 50-year war on poverty with a couple of experts.

Consumer check up: The House Financial Services Committee will chat with Richard Cordray, head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on Tuesday. Cordray will update lawmakers on what his agency has been up to while Republicans will probably continue to question him on the agency's broad oversight.

Examining ObamaCare: The House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday with a group of experts over how the healthcare law could affect the jobs market based on who is covered under ObamaCare.

Ex-Im Bank: The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday to discuss the oversight and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Fred Hochberg, president of that bank, will be on hand to testify.

Trade focus: A House Small Business subcommittee will talk to James Sanford, assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Small Business, Market Access and Industrial Competitiveness, on the Obama administration’s efforts to open new markets for small exporters and help create new jobs.

The subpanel will specifically tackle the effects of trade policy on small firms, including trade promotion authority, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and ongoing negotiations at the World Trade Organization.

Welcome back, Jack: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew is coming up to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief House Democrats, aides said Monday, just weeks before he says Congress needs to act to raise the debt ceiling.

GOP lawmakers have yet to spell out what they’re looking for to raise the debt ceiling, though they’ve said they won’t get on board with a clean hike and remain interested in taking a bite out of ObamaCare. House Republicans are expected to discuss the matter at their retreat this week.

As for the Democrats, their refrain remains the same. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said Monday that President Obama won’t “pay an ideological ransom just so that Congress will do its job and pay the bills that Congress has racked up.”

Lew is scheduled to huddle with Senate Democrats on Thursday, according to a leadership aide in that chamber.

 

BREAKING NEWS

Done deal: The House will vote Wednesday on a five-year farm bill unveiled by House and Senate negotiators on Monday night.

The bill includes nearly $1 trillion in funding for agriculture subsidy, crop insurance and food stamp programs over the next 10 years.

The measure reduces food stamp funding by about $8 billion, much less than House Republicans had demanded.

 

LOOSE CHANGE

Sayonara: Danny Werfel, whom President Obama tapped for the most unenviable task of taking over the IRS last year, quietly left the federal government at the end of December, The Washington Post reports.

Werfel said that he was currently spending time with his family, and hadn’t yet decided on his next steps. The IRS had said late last year, when John Koskinen was sworn in as new commissioner, that Werfel would leave the government entirely at the end of the year

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Durable orders: The Commerce Department will release its December report measuring the dollar volume of orders, shipments and unfilled orders of durable goods, which are goods intended to last three or more years. Orders are considered a leading indicator of manufacturing activity, and the market often moves on this report despite the volatility and large revisions that make it a less than perfect indicator.

S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Index: Home prices might have ticked up in November in the nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas, a housing price index report could say on Tuesday.  

Consumer Confidence: The Conference Board's will release its January report, which can be helpful in predicting shifts in consumer spending.

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Unions to budget writers: Restore transit tax break

— Issa slams USPS for consolidation pause

— SEC chief vows 2014 crack down

— Ag chairman Lucas gets primary challenger

— Meat industry rebuffed in farm bill push

— Farm bill to be unveiled Monday afternoon

— WH balks at 'ideological ransom' for debt ceiling

— Union chiefs shred postal reform bill

— New home sales down in December, up for the year

— Feds arrest bitcoin exchanger on money laundering charges

— Hensarling looking for feedback on CFPB

 

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