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. 

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 BoehnerLobbying World Jordan won't run for Oversight gavel Oklahoma rep. launches long-shot bid for Oversight chair 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. 


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 CantorTrump nominates two new DOD officials Brat: New ObamaCare repeal bill has 'significant' changes Overnight Energy: Flint lawmaker pushes EPA for new lead rule MORE (R-Va.) included Denham's measure on a list of legislative goals for this session. 


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 HatchOvernight Regulation: Biz groups push to scrap rule on reporting employee pay | GOP skeptical of Trump paid leave plan GOP skeptical of Trump plan for paid parental leave GOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges 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."


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 McCaskillTechnology's role in human trafficking cannot be ignored Five things to know about Joe Lieberman Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderRepublicans give Trump's budget the cold shoulder Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets GOP senators push Trump for DOE research funding MORE (Tenn.), Roy BluntRoy BluntSenators unveil infrastructure investment bill GOP nears total exasperation with Trump GOP senators pitch Merrick Garland for FBI director MORE (Mo.), Thad CochranThad CochranCongressional politics hurts cotton farmers GOP senators dismiss Trump filibuster change Ryan touts spending deal for breaking 'Obama rules' for defense MORE (Miss.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsGOP senators bristle at Trump's Medicaid cuts GOP senators knock Trump's budget proposal Russia probes in limbo after special prosecutor announcement MORE (Maine), John HoevenJohn HoevenOvernight Healthcare: Divisions emerge in Senate over preexisting conditions GOP senators meet with insurer for input on ObamaCare repeal Senate GOP short on ideas for stabilizing ObamaCare markets MORE (N.D.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas), James InhofeJames InhofeGOP skeptical of Trump plan for paid parental leave Five roadblocks for Trump’s T infrastructure plan Trump admin delays greenhouse gas measurement rule for highways MORE (Okla.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiOvernight Energy: Trump budget takes flak over oil provisions Budget's oil provisions divide Congress, White House Overnight Energy: Democrats take on key Trump Interior nominee MORE (Alaska), Pat RobertsPat RobertsSenate GOP defends writing its healthcare bill in private GOP senators on Comey firing: Where they stand We need more transparency — not less — when it comes to equal pay MORE (Kan.), Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump admin pitches stricter rules on ‘sanctuary cities’: report DOJ asks judge to reassess after sanctuary city update: report Sessions postpones Senate testimony on DOJ funding MORE (Ala.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Roger WickerRoger WickerGOP senators on Comey firing: Where they stand United Airlines grilled at Senate hearing Overnight Tech: Republicans offer bill to kill net neutrality | Surveillance, visa reforms top GOP chair's tech agenda | Panel pushes small biz cyber bill 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."


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. 


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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