OVERNIGHT MONEY: Senate readies farm bill

THE NEXT BIG STORY: 

Time to vote: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will get the ball rolling on passing a $956 billion farm bill compromise on Monday. 

Reid filed cloture on the measure, setting up a 5:30 p.m. Monday vote.

As long as 60 senators vote to end debate, the Senate will move to final passage, sending the long-awaited deal to President Obama's desk. 

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On Wednesday, the House voted 251-166 to pass the legislation, which has been in the works for more than a year.

The measure would save about $23 billion over 10 years, according to the House and Senate Agriculture committees.

Most of the bill's spending goes toward food stamps, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The legislation cuts $8 billion from the program over the next 10 years — more than $30 billion less than what House Republicans wanted and double the amount in the Senate-passed bill. 

Still, some Democrats argued that the cuts were too much while the economy gets its footing and people are struggling.

“While it cuts more to food assistance programs than some of us would like, it’s a good compromise that will protect needy families,” Reid said Thursday.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), one of the bill's conferees, said he wouldn’t support final passage because there weren't any major changes to farm subsidies.

“Does the new farm bill improve agriculture in America? I believe unfortunately the answer is no,” Roberts said. “We should not pass a farm bill with more government subsidies, more government regulations and more waste.”

Lawmakers have been intently working on the bill for the past several months and, finally, earlier this week arrived at a final agreement that seems set to get cleared by Congress. 

 

WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING 

Focus on manufacturing: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew heads to Richmond, Va., on Friday to push the Obama administration's high-tech manufacturing initiative.

Lew is one of several White House officials hitting the road to promote economic policies touted in President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.

He will tour the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing and meet with its business and university partners.   

 

LOOSE CHANGE

More fireworks?: Maybe. A House Oversight subcommittee is trying to haul in a Justice Department lawyer taking part in the investigation into the IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups to testify.

Republicans have sharply criticized Attorney General Eric Holder and other administration officials for allowing Barbara Bosserman, who gave thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to President Obama, to play a key role in the IRS investigation. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) now wants Bosserman to testify next Thursday.

Holder and other Justice Department officials have come to Bosserman's aid, saying she's just one part of a broader team investigating the IRS, and that career attorneys have a right to play a role in the political process.

"The Justice Department's refusal to answer questions, including questions about apparent conflicts of interest within the investigation itself, is highly disappointing," a committe spokesman said.  

"This refusal only enhances concern that politics have infected the administration's examination of inappropriate targeting by the IRS."

Sign on the electronic line: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Thursday that it will be accepting electronic signatures on mortgage loan documents, including closing paperwork, from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

“We commend HUD for taking this important step toward improving the mortgage closing experience for consumers,” said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  

"Electronic closing processes have the potential to reduce errors, limit unexpected surprises and create more time and opportunity for consumers to review critical documents with the tools they need to make informed decisions. HUD’s decision to accept electronic signatures for FHA loans can help jumpstart the move toward a more seamless, paperless and consumer-friendly process.” 

More than minimum:  A group of Democratic female senators urged Republicans on Thursday to support legislation to raise the minimum wage, which would help raise wages of 15 million women.

They argued that women make up nearly two-thirds of those who earn the minimum wage or less. The same percentage of workers also make the tipped minimum wage.

The lawmakers are pressing for legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and hour from $7.25 an hour.

“The women of the Senate are coming together to say it is time to raise the minimum wage in this country,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) said.

"No one in America should have to live in poverty after putting in a full day’s work, and yet that is the case today. The good news is that when we raise the minimum wage, it will lift the wages of 15 million women nationwide.”

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS 

Personal Income-Personal Spending: The Commerce Department releases December figures that measure income from all sources. The largest component of total income is wages and salaries, which is estimated using payrolls and earnings data from the employment report.

Michigan Sentiment: Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan will release its final measure of consumer sentiment for January.

Employment Cost Index: The Labor Department will release its measure of fourth-quarter compensation costs for civilian workers Wages and salaries make up about 70 percent of those costs.

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Lew urges Senate Dems to hold firm on debt limit

— DC cannot declare budget freedom from Congress, GAO says

— Senate Dems unveil new data security legislation

— Senate votes to delay flood insurance reforms

— Cruz digs in on debt limit

— Club for Growth key votes against flood insurance bill

— Economy grew robust 3.2 percent in Q4

— Holder: No decision on charges in IRS case

— Reid shunts TPA onto slow track

 

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