OVERNIGHT MONEY: Senate takes another swing at jobless benefits

THURSDAY'S BIG STORY:

Another try at UI: The Senate will consider another measure on Thursday that would renew a federal unemployment insurance program.

But Senate Republicans have expressed concern about the "pension smoothing" pay-for used to cover the $6.4 billion cost of the three-month bill.

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They also are pressing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for amendments.

On Tuesday, Reid set up the Thursday cloture vote.

Senate Democrats were expected to discuss the measure, led by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), during their retreat at Nationals Park on Wednesday. 

Reed and bill co-sponsor Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) have been working closely with a bipartisan group of members to forge an acceptable deal. 

He said earlier this week that Democrats have done everything they can to meet Republican demands to pass a bill, including paying for the measure. 

But there seemed to be an air of general uncertainty on Capitol Hill about the viability of the latest plan.

Proponents say it would be inconceivable for Republicans to reject the measure, which would restore the program for those who have been out of work for at least six months and have struggled to find a job.

The program expired for 1.3 million on Dec. 28 — Democrats say that number has risen to nearly 1.7 million. 

Still, Republican problems with the bill and process persist.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Republicans really need a chance to offer amendments, while Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) expressed concern about the pension offset and argued that there are some better offsets to use. 

Reed has said that the offset has been used by both parties in the past and shouldn’t be controversial.

Democrats noted on Tuesday that 24 Republicans, including McConnell, voted for the 2012 student loan bill that included the pension offset.

There also was talk among some Republicans of trying to tackle the veterans cost-of-living adjustment issue in the bill. 

A group of Democrats and Republicans failed last month to reach an agreement. 

I guess we'll see where this latest effort goes. 

 

WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

Bye, bye Baucus: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is expected on Thursday to become the next U.S. ambassador to China. The Senate is scheduled to vote sometime tomorrow on his nomination. 

IRS oversight: A House Oversight subcommittee on Thursday will continue probe the investigation into IRS wrongdoing surrounding conservative groups.

The panel had wanted to question Justice Department lawyer Barbara Kay Bosserman, who has given to Obama and Democratic causes, but she isn't likely to testify. 

Republicans have argued that her support of Obama tainted the investigation, which has yet to lead to any charges.

Postal work: The Senate Homeland Security Committee gets back to work Thursday in an effort to wrap up work on its bipartisan postal reform bill. The panel cut off a markup last week to make changes to two proposed amendments — including one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that would loosen gun restrictions in post offices.

The measure from Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) still faces high hurdles from outside groups and fellow senators.

Financial security: A Senate Banking subcommittee will talk to a handful of top regulators on Thursday about the implementation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, including the Volcker Rule and qualified mortgage regulations, which went into effect last month.

 

LOOSE CHANGE

Service sector expands: The service sector's expansion picked up pace in January on improvements in new orders, sales and hiring.

The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index rose to 54 from 53 in December.

Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The survey covers businesses that employ 90 percent of workers, including retail, construction and financial services firms. 

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Initial Claims: The Labor Department will release its weekly claims for first-time jobless benefits.  

Challenger Job Cuts: The Chicago-based firm will release its report on the number of jobs cuts that are planned by U.S. employers in January.

Trade Balance: The Commerce Department releases its December data on exports and imports of U.S. goods and services. 

Productivity-Unit Labor Costs: The Labor Department releases a report that measures the productivity of workers and the costs associated with producing a unit of output for the fourth quarter of 2013.  

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— IRS commissioner: Not slowing tax refunds to help debt limit

— New IRS chief vows cooperation with congressional probes

— Senate Banking leaders say housing finance reform is a top priority

— Manufacturers press for passage of tariff suspension bill

— Credit raters split on debt limit dangers

— Boehner: Obama must sell trade bill to Senate

— House Republican leaders struggle for debt-ceiling plan

— Fitch: Debt limit drama not 'characteristic' of AAA rating

— Ryan: ObamaCare a 'poverty trap'

— Private-sector employers added 175,000 jobs in January

— NLRB resurrects union election rule

— Majority wants government to shrink inequality gap

— Democrats say struggling post office branches could dabble in banking

 

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