OVERNIGHT MONEY: Looking at Lerner

WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORY:

The House Ways and Means Committee will start turning up the heat on the IRS and former agency official Lois Lerner on Wednesday, by asking the Justice Department to look into potential criminal charges against Lerner.

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A House aide said Tuesday that Republicans believe Lerner misled a Treasury inspector general looking into the case, disclosed taxpayer information and improperly pushed the IRS to move against conservative groups.

Lerner, who worked at the IRS for about a dozen years before retiring last September, was the first agency official to apologize for the IRS’s improper scrutiny of Tea Party groups last May.

The Justice Department started looking into the IRS’s treatment of those groups just days after the controversy broke, and reports from months ago suggesting that federal investigators were unlikely to charge anyone in the case.

But House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is also one of just a handful of officials with access to certain confidential taxpayer information, and the House aide said their referral to Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderLawyer claims death threats after anti-Black Lives Matter lawsuit Adviser: Obama can’t ‘erase decades’ of racism Airbnb enlists civil rights leaders in discrimination fight MORE would likely have information previously unavailable to the Justice Department.

Ways and Means will consider whether to refer the case to Holder largely behind closed doors on Wednesday morning. But if — and, most likely, when — they decide to make the referral, the committee’s letter to Holder will likely be made public.

For Lerner, Wednesday’s only the start of what will likely be a difficult couple of days. On Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and his Oversight Committee will begin the House’s efforts to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Boehner3 ways the next president can succeed on immigration reform Republican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare MORE (R-Ohio) has fully backed that move, which would eventually give the full House a chance to go on the record on Lerner this election year.

Democrats and Lerner’s lawyer, Bill Taylor of Zuckerman Spaeder, have accused Republicans of using the case against Lerner to rile up the GOP base.

 

WHAT ELSE WE’RE WATCHING:

Jobs Act 2: Regulatory Boogaloo: The House Financial Services Committee will be taking a long hard at financial regulations for start-ups tomorrow, as it seeks to rustle up a sequel to last Congress’s JOBS Act. 

That law, which trimmed rules to make it easier for new companies to raise cash, was a rare bipartisan achievement in the last Congress.

Republicans hoping for a repeat performance have introduced no fewer than seven pieces of legislation to be considered by a Financial Services subcommittee. They’ll be chatting about the proposals with a panel of experts.

Got a minute: The Federal Reserve will be out with the minutes of its March meeting, sending Fed-watchers scurrying for any further nuggets of insight as the central bank continues its “taper.”

The Fed shook off the winter doldrums in March and stuck with its plan of slowly winding down its bond purchases, and followed the meeting with Janet Yellen’s first-ever press conference as Fed chief. Tomorrow’s minutes will be dissected for hints about when the Fed might consider raising interest rates, now that the stimulus era is drawing to a close.

CAP chat: Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be heading to the Center for American Progress Wednesday for a little trade chat. The top Democrat on House Ways and Means will be discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and what it might mean for U.S. economic competitiveness.

Always be appropriating: House and Senate appropriators will be hard at work tomorrow, with a slew of hearings lined up. 

In the Senate, Gina McCarthyGina McCarthyAs oral arguments approach, Clean Power Plan remains a threat to our most vulnerable EPA blasted over lack of protection of minorities U.S. and Puerto Rico must cooperate on Zika MORE, the Environmental Protection Agency chief, Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony FoxxDeadly NJ train crash puts spotlight on lack of safety technology Driverless cars are coming, the federal government must act Five takeaways from the new driverless car guidelines MORE and Labor Secretary Thomas PerezThomas E. PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE will be chatting with subcommittees. The Defense subcommittee will also be marking up spending legislation for defense health programs.

In the House, Commerce Secretary Penny PritzkerPenny PritzkerOvernight Cybersecurity: FBI probes possible hack of Dems' phones | Trump's '400-pound hacker' | Pressure builds on Yahoo | Poll trolls run wild Overnight Finance: Senate rejects funding bill as shutdown looms | Labor Dept. to probe Wells Fargo | Fed to ease stress test rules for small banks Pacific deal will boost exports for small businesses: report MORE and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, President Obama’s budget director, will be testifying. The full panel will be marking up fiscal 2015 funding bills for military construction and veterans affairs, and for the legislative branch, in what’s an earlier start than usual for the spending measures.

CFTC convo: The House Agriculture Committee will gather tomorrow to discuss legislation to reauthorize the Commodity Futures Trading Commission for another five years. The legislation, blessed by top members of both parties, would also make a few tweaks to the financial regulator. 

Thinking small: The House Small Business Committee is hosting a hearing tomorrow devoted to tax problems for, you guessed it, small businesses. Meanwhile, panel Democrats will be releasing a report criticizing the budget from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP leaders express reservations a day after 9/11 veto override White House: Congress has 'buyer's remorse' on 9/11 bill Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE (R-Wis.) for cutting assistance for, you guessed it, small businesses. 

 

LOOSE CHANGE

Red marks: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron WydenRon WydenElection-year politics: Senate Dems shun GOP vulnerables Overnight Tech: TV box plan faces crucial vote | Trump transition team to meet tech groups | Growing scrutiny of Yahoo security Overnight Regulation: Supporters push for TV box reforms ahead of vote MORE (D-Ore.) got a little ammunition from the Government Accountability Office for his push to help shield taxpayers from unscrupulous or incompetent preparers.

As USA Today notes, the GAO went undercover on 19 paid preparers this year. What did they get? Seventeen incorrectly filled out returns, with one refund being more than $3,700 too much.

The IRS had tried to increase its oversight of unlicensed preparers, but has gotten shot down by federal courts.  

 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS 

MBA Mortgage Index: The Mortgage Bankers Association releases its weekly report on mortgage application volume. 

Wholesale Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its February wholesale trade report that includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures say close to nothing about personal consumption and therefore do not move the market.            

 

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

—   Union to House: Give transit riders a bigger tax break 

—   GAO: Government overlap costing billions 

—   Obama: Wage gap ‘is not a myth, it’s math’ 

—   GOP: Here’s how Lerner broke the law

—   Massad moves a step closer to leading CFTC

—   House RSC budgets cuts spending by $7.4 trillion, includes chained CPI 

—   Van Hollen details differences between House Dem, Obama budgets 

—   Fed puts Wall Street under stress 

 

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