This week: Fed pessimism raises stakes for jobs report

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A number of top economic players will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) will release its annual long-term economic and deficit outlook, the agency’s most important report of the year. CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf will discuss the findings Wednesday with the House Budget Committee, followed by an encore performance Thursday with the Senate Budget panel.

The House Budget Committee will also hear from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. On Thursday, he will lay out the central bank’s view of the economy, which has cooled recently. In addition to trimming expectations Wednesday, it also announced it planned to keep interest rates near zero for a year and a half longer than planned. 

Richard Cordray will make his Senate debut as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Tuesday, when he is the sole witness at a hearing devoted to holding the new agency accountable. Cordray faced hours of questions from House lawmakers at a hearing last week, but generally emerged unscathed. He will face more tough questions from Senate Republicans who dispute the legality of the recess appointment President Obama used to put Cordray to work.

On Wednesday, the 20 lawmakers tapped with reaching a conference agreement on extending a payroll tax break through 2012 will meet for the second time. The payroll tax package is considered one of the few bills likely to move through Congress this campaign year, and lawmakers have until the end of February to reach an agreement, when the current temporary tax holiday is set to expire.

Also Wednesday, the Senate Budget Committee will devote a hearing to ongoing debt struggles in the eurozone. Even as America struggles to recover its economic footing, growing problems across the ocean pose a threat to the global economy. Senators will hear from a number of academics and experts on what problems abroad could mean for the Unite States.

The Senate Finance Committee is set to meet Tuesday to discuss a long-term solution to the slew of temporary provisions collectively known as the tax extenders, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce among the groups represented. 

Looking more short-term, Democrats have been pushing to get the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2011 tacked on to the payroll tax package.

On the Senate floor, lawmakers will attempt to overcome a filibuster Monday evening on legislation that would explicitly ban members of Congress from personally profiting from private information gained in their privileged positions. The measure has gained bipartisan support ever since a “60 Minutes” report suggested some top lawmakers had made profitable financial decisions based on information gleaned from behind closed doors at the Capitol. A similar version is expected to move in the House in the coming weeks.

Off the Hill, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host an economic briefing, where economists will discuss the woes of the housing market and the challenge Europe’s problem poses to the United States.

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