OVERNIGHT MONEY: Debt-limit bill clears

THE LATEST BIG STORY:

Debt-ceiling increase in the clear: The Senate voted Wednesday to suspend the debt ceiling for more than a year, sending the bill to President Obama's desk only a day after the House rushed the measure through its chamber. 

A massive snowstorm headed for the Washington area forced lawmakers to expedite their schedule ahead of a weeklong recess and find a way to get the bill passed. 

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Had they waited until their return on Feb. 25, it would have only given Congress two days to clear a measure to raise the $17.2 trillion debt limit. 

The bill got 67 votes to break up a potential filibuster — after much back and forth on the Senate floor — and then went onto party-line passage after that.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) backed the "clean" bill even though a number of members of his party thought that they should have tried harder to extract more deficit reduction out of the legislation. 

On Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also opted to move forward with the clean bill after all other attempts to attach various policy priorities failed to attract the 218 needed to pass the bill from his party.

In the House, only 28 Republicans supported the measure and 12 GOP senators voted to end debate. 

The bill, which suspends the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, was approved on a party-line 55-43 vote.

Still, it was enough to push the bill through and avoid any more partisan bickering. For now.

The measure will allow hundreds of billions in debt accumulated through that deadline to be added to the existing $17.2 trillion debt.

The GOP senators who voted in favor of ending debate were McConnell and Sens. John Cornyn (Texas), Orrin Hatch (Utah), John McCain (Ariz.), Bob Corker (Tenn.), Susan Collins (Maine), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), John Barasso (Wy.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John Thune (S.D.).  

 

WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

Yellen gets a pass: The Senate Banking Committee postponed its scheduled Thursday hearing with Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen because of a snowstorm that is set to blanket the Washington area overnight.

The new central bank chief chatted for several hours on Tuesday with the House Financial Services Committee about how she is expecting to stick with a plan to wind down bond purchases. 

Just in time: House Democrats got out of town just in the nick of time to avoid the creeping snowstorm as they headed out to Maryland's Eastern Shore on Wednesday for their annual retreat.

As the lawmakers huddle behind closed doors, they are set to discuss a wide range of policy issues — minimum wage, unemployment benefits, women’s empowerment, ObamaCare and immigration reform — as well as political strategies ahead of the midterm elections.

President Obama is set to address the group on Friday, while Vice President Biden will talk to Democrats at noon Thursday.

Among the other notable figures expected to meet with the Democrats are Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank; Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-Prize winning economist; New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children's Defense Fund; and Janet Murguía, who heads the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic-empowerment group.

 

LOOSE CHANGE

Steep drop: The federal government's deficit plunged through the first four months of the fiscal year — down 36.6 percent from a year ago.

The Treasury Department's monthly report, released Wednesday, showed that the deficit for January was $10.4 billion.

From October until then the total was $184 billion, down $106.4 billion from the same period a year ago, signaling continued improvement.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit will drop to $514 billion, from $680.2 billion last year. 

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

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

Retail Sales: The Commerce Department will release its January report measuring the total receipts of retail stores. Sales figures are widely followed as the most timely indicator of broad consumer spending patterns, which represent 70 of economic activity.  

Business Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its December report on sales and inventory.

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

 — Obama signs order on minimum wage hike

— Obama heading back to Asia-Pacific for four-country tour in April

— Camp expected to release tax reform plan

— Cruz: Up to voters whether McConnell remains party leader

— Amtrak chief joins highway funding debate

— US businesses seek solutions with India over trade practices

— US ambassador: Asia-Pacific trade deal will get done

— Business, labor groups push for gas tax hike

— CEO turnover hits 4-year high in January

— House Republicans talk about returning to 'Gephardt Rule'

— Dems push Fed for closer review of settlements

— Gallup: ND continues to top job creation survey

— King blasts 'morons' in Republican Party

— A step away from political brinkmanship?

— Why Boehner capitulated

 

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