OVERNIGHT MONEY: January jobs report could show gain of around 155,000

Despite the gradual progress, the job market remains mired in a depressed state — more than 13 million are still unemployed and millions have stopped looking for a job — and that is weighing on the ability for consumers to spend at a pace that would accelerate economic growth. 

The Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office have offered pessimistic forecasts this week, with CBO chief Douglas Elmendorf predicting an 8.9 percent rate through this year. Central bank head Ben Bernanke has said he expects an 8.2 percent jobless rate. 

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A survey by The Associated Press says the economy will add about 160,000 jobs a month this year — about 1.9 million jobs — up from 135,000 last year. 

With those sorts of numbers, Republicans are likely to continue their attacks on President Obama's economic agenda while suggesting he take a closer look at their legislation. 

As they have done on past First Fridays, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer top Treasury official to head private equity group GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats Zeal, this time from the center MORE (R-Ohio) and other GOP leaders will hold a morning news conference, not long after the jobs numbers are released. 

The Joint Economic Committee will chat with John Galvin, acting commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about the latest figures during a hearing on Friday. 


WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR 

Elections and budgets: Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, is expected to speak Friday morning on the extra budget challenges policymakers face in an election year. 

On a related front, Van Hollen is also one of the 20 conferees working to craft a year-long agreement for the payroll tax cut, a group that has found tough sledding so far. 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Republicans Thursday they will be forced to vote multiple times on extending the payroll tax holiday if the Senate-House conference deadlocks on the issue.

Democrats are skeptical that Republicans want to extend the payroll tax rate, which affects an estimated 160 million Americans, because of dismissive statements several House GOP conferees have made.

Life is a highway:  The House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to mark up the House's five-year, $260 billion infrastructure bill on Friday. The bill hasn't exactly gotten raves reviews from the Obama administration, including from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. On Thursday, House Republicans rejected Democrats' push to add bike paths and sidewalks in the bill. A push for heavier trucks also hit a stop sign in House committee.

Fire sale: Well, not really, but the House Rules Committee will consider a bill by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) that would set up a BRAC-like system of selling, demolishing and consolidating property, with the potential of garnering upward of $15 billion for the federal governments' lean coffers. 

The Obama administration and lawmakers have been working together for nearly a year to craft a plan. House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by CVS Health — Trump’s love-hate relationship with the Senate Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election Scalise allies upset over Ryan blindside on McCarthy endorsement MORE (R-Va.) included Denham's measure on a list of legislative goals for this session. 


LOOSE CHANGE

Jesus, Allah and Yahweh: President Obama, still pressing the case for tax fairness and the so-called Buffett Rule in this election year, cited some big guns at today's National Prayer Breakfast.

"If I'm willing to give something up as somebody who's been extraordinarily blessed and give up some of the tax breaks that I enjoy, I actually thinks that's going to make economic sense," the president said. 

"But for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus's teaching that, to whom much is given, much shall be required. It mirrors the Islamic belief that those who've been blessed have an obligation to use those blessings to help others; or the Jewish doctrine of moderation and consideration for others."

Obama's comments drew a Senate floor retort this evening from Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchRaces to watch in Tuesday’s primaries Senate panel to hold hearing next week for Trump IRS nominee On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending MORE, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

"With due respect to the president, he should stick to public policy," Hatch (R-Utah) said. "I think most Americans would agree that the Gospels are concerned with weightier matters than effective tax rates."


BREAKING THURSDAY

Time to stock up: The Senate overwhelmingly backed a measure, 96-3, on Thursday to prohibit members of Congress from using non-public information for personal financial gain, but beat back a slew of amendments to further limit congressional perks.

The Senate action puts pressure on House Republicans to pass similar legislation to quell allegations of congressional self-dealing at a time when Congress’s approval rating is at an all-time low. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has called the legislation "weak." His staff said he would move a strengthened version of the bill to the House floor at the end of the month.

Senators also voted down a bipartisan proposal to permanently ban earmarks, as well as an amendment to require lawmakers and senior staff to divest of stocks or put their stock holdings in blind trusts.

The amendment, sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillManchin used Heimlich manuever on McCaskill during caucus luncheon Nail manufacturing exec who voted for Trump blames him for layoffs, asks Democrat for help The American economy is stronger than ever six months after tax cuts MORE (D-Mo.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), to permanently ban earmarks failed by a vote of 40-59.

A solid block of Republicans, including Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Supreme Court allows states to collect sales taxes from online retailers | Judge finds consumer bureau structure unconstitutional | Banks clear Fed stress tests Supreme Court rules states can require online sellers to collect sales tax 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (Tenn.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions MORE (Mo.), Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTodd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm US farming cannot afford to continue to fall behind Mississippi Democrat drops Senate bid MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate Gang of Four to meet next week on immigration Republicans agree — it’s only a matter of time for Scott Pruitt Skyrocketing insulin prices provoke new outrage MORE (Maine), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border GOP senators want NAFTA deal from Trump by Labor Day Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeOvernight Defense: Defense spending bill amendments target hot-button issues | Space Force already facing hurdles | Senators voice 'deep' concerns at using military lawyers on immigration cases Obstacles to Trump's 'Space Force' could keep proposal grounded for now The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Trump caves under immense pressure — what now? MORE (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiHeitkamp ad highlights record as Senate race heats up Icebreaking ships are not America’s top priority in the Arctic 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsModerates need to hold firm against radical right on Farm Bill GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Senate GOP tries to defuse Trump border crisis MORE (Kan.), Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMigrants told they’ll be reunited with children if they sign voluntary deportation order: report Christie: Trump 'enormously ill-served' by DOJ on 'zero tolerance' policy 'Occupy ICE' protests emerge across the country MORE (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council Senators question Afghanistan commander nominee on turning around 17-year war MORE (Miss.), voted to preserve Congress’s future power to earmark federal funds.

Please, speed it up: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday said the economic recovery remains “frustratingly slow,” and warned Congress the outlook for growth is “uncertain” at best.

Bernanke said “the sluggish expansion has left the economy vulnerable to shocks,” most notably from the debt crisis in Europe.

“Over the past two and a half years, the U.S. economy has been gradually recovering from the recent deep recession,” Bernanke said. “While conditions have certainly improved over this period, the pace of the recovery has been frustratingly slow, particularly from the perspective of the millions of workers who remain unemployed or underemployed.”

The final meltdown: Well, not yet, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner thinks that detractors against the Dodd-Frank financial reform law are pushing for a repeat of the financial crisis.

In Congress and on the campaign trail, President Obama's signature financial reform law has come under fire. Lawmakers are pushing several bills that would repeal portions of the law, and every major Republican candidate has vowed to kill it as one of their first acts in office.

But Geithner said such a rollback would merely prep America for another financial crisis — while America is still struggling to dig out from the last one.

"Remember 2008, 2009, remember the fact that the reason we're living with very high unemployment ... is because of the failures that caused this crisis in the financial system," he said. "If you want to go back to that ... then you should be in favor of repeal of the law."


ECONOMIC INDICATORS 

Factory Orders: The Commerce Department is releasing data on factory orders that consist of the earlier announced durable goods report plus non-durable goods orders. 

ISM Services: The ISM non-manufacturing index, which accounts for about 90 percent of the economy, covers industries ranging from utilities and retailing to healthcare and finance. 


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

GOP senators pressure Reid on recess appointments
— Top Democrat seeks to quell debate over permanent earmark ban
— Retail, financial firms lead January job cuts
Private equity industry rolls out new campaign to counter campaign trail attacks

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