By Vicki Needham, Peter Schroeder and Bernie Becker - 03/22/12 10:00 PM EDT
FRIDAY’S BIG STORY:
The envelope please: President Obama will put his fingerprint on the World Bank on Friday when he announces his pick to head up the organization. Current bank President Robert Zoellick is departing in June. The drum roll could last all day though — the administration’s selection is due by 6 p.m. and so far, the person being tapped still remains a bit of a mystery.
The White House has been mum so far about who it is considering for the influential position, but media reports have offered up a variety of names, to at least narrow down the choices.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have both been mentioned, but they’ve professed happiness in their current jobs.
Obama adviser and former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers is another oft-mentioned name, as well as U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.
But other interesting options reportedly under consideration include Microsoft bigwig Bill Gates and PepsiCo boss Indira Nooyi.
So far, Jeffrey Sachs, the development economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is the only person to publicly campaign for the job. He is known for his efforts in international development in poverty-stricken nations.
By longstanding convention, a European heads up the International Monetary Fund, while the United States — the largest contributor to the organization — gets to pick one of its own to lead the World Bank.
Developing nations are preparing another push to overturn the long-established hierarchy at the World Bank. Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and former Colombian finance minister Jose Antonio Ocampo are expected to be among the challengers.
Developing nations are expected to push their own candidates for the spot, and the next chief is officially picked by the board of the World Bank.
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR
It’s always sunny in, well, Florida: Vice President Biden is headed south — say hello to the boys of summer — for a campaign event that will focus on fighting for the economic security of the middle class.
That’ll be $1.5 billion: The Treasury Department announced late Thursday that American International Group, the insurance giant at the center of the financial meltdown, had paid back another $1.5 billion in bailout funds. While the government still has a $45 billion stake in the company, that latest chunk of change means the public has fully recouped its investment in the company, all $182 billion originally pumped into it to keep it afloat. The vast majority of the government’s remaining investment is in the form of 1.2 billion shares of company stock, which it plans to slowly sell off over a period of time.
Aiming for oil tax breaks: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will turn his attention back to nixing billions of dollars in tax breaks for the largest oil companies. The Senate will vote Monday evening on the plan.
Feeling good: Conservative House Republicans on Thursday said they support the 2013 budget resolution, leaving GOP leaders increasingly confident they will be able to pass the measure on the floor next week.
A day after the budget was approved in committee by a single vote (with two Republicans voting no), prominent members of the conservative Republican Study Committee said they back the resolution crafted by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Still, the RSC will try to amend the House GOP budget when it is considered on the floor next week.
RSC members will offer their own plan as a substitute amendment to the GOP budget, which is supported by the conference’s leadership, aides confirmed.
The RSC offered a similar amendment last year, but members said it was possible the conservative group would hold off this year if the GOP budget lowered the spending cap for 2013 to $931 billion.
Heading down to 1600: The Senate on Thursday passed legislation barring lawmakers from using insider information for personal profit, sending the bill to the White House. The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act already approved by the House passed the upper chamber easily by a vote of 96-3.
Lead sponsors of the bill were quick to trumpet its bipartisan passage.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) called it the “most significant” ethics bill passed by Congress in years.
“This represents Congress at its best,” he said. “We dealt with it quickly and on a bipartisan basis ... hopefully this will be a model for other critical legislation that we ought to be adopting.”
Let’s hear it for the jobs: The Senate on Thursday passed an amended version of House Republicans’ Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, a bill supporters said would generate jobs by easing capital-formation regulations for small companies.
The legislation, which zipped through the House earlier this month, survived fierce opposition from some powerful Senate Democrats including Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), as well as several attempts to gut and replace many of its key provisions.
New addition: The U.S. Trade Representative’s office is bringing on Mac Campbell, the legislative director for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to head up its congressional affairs operation. Campbell is taking over for Luis Jimenez, who moved over to the White House this month to head up its legislative affairs office.
Who’s ready for postal reform?: As the Senate checks off jobs and small-business bills, lawmakers are poised to next week take up a bipartisan measure that would overhaul the cash-strapped Postal Service’s operations.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has called the postal legislation a priority in recent weeks, filed for cloture Thursday, setting up a Monday vote on the bill from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
Carper said Thursday that he welcomed Reid’s decision to move the bill to the floor, and said Congress had to move fast to help an agency that has lost billions of dollars in recent years.
“This bill — the only bipartisan proposal from Members in either Chamber — presents a comprehensive solution to the Postal Service’s financial challenges,” the Delaware Democrat said in a statement. “While the situation facing the Postal Service is dire, it is not hopeless. That is why we need to pass this bipartisan and comprehensive bill as soon as possible.”
New home sales: The Department of Commerce released its report indicating the level of new privately owned one-family houses sold and for sale. New home sales usually have a lagged reaction to changing mortgage rates — and mortgage rates are going up. A 30-year-fixed mortage went above 4 percent last week for the first time since October. New homes also have been selling slower because of an abundance of distressed homes on the market.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— GOP tax-writers to examine tax extenders
— IRS chief to lawmakers: Act on tax extenders by year’s end
— Ongoing budget cutbacks could affect congressional security
— Report: Members of Congress find ways to keep money in the family
— Barney Frank calls for simplified Volcker rule by Labor Day
— Senators look to ease Volcker rule worries as deadline approaches
— Bartlett to step down at Financial Services Roundtable
— Weekly unemployment claims fall to four-year low
— Roundtable chief: US getting beat ‘all over the world’ on tax rate
— Housing prices flat in January, could signal bottom
— Mortgage rates tick up above 4 percent
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