OVERNIGHT MONEY: Boehner back in the spotlight for another policy speech

Thursday’s conference will also include appearances by Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee; House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.); Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on taxes; Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the chairman of the Budget Committee; and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has introduced bipartisan tax reform plans in recent Congresses.

During a meeting on Wednesday at the White House — yummy sandwiches included — Obama, Boehner and several other congressional leaders chatted about the nation's fiscal issues. 

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The president gathered everyone to discuss the meat of his “to-do list” for Congress, although an aid to the Speaker said the bulk of the meeting was spent on other issues, including expiring tax provisions as well as the impending federal debt-limit increase. 

After the meeting, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that the president warned the congressional leaders that he would not allow a repeat of last August’s debt-ceiling “debacle,” which led to a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) pressed the president and the Democrat leadership on the need to reach an agreement on a bill to prevent the doubling of the student loan interest rate in July.

“We all agreed that rates shouldn’t go up this year and that we need to resolve the differences and pass legislation together," he said. 

McConnell noted in the meeting that the Senate passed bipartisan legislation over the past year when poison pills were removed and Republicans were included in the debate — including the JOBS Act and legislation on veterans jobs, trade agreements, Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization, a highway bill, payroll tax holiday and patent reform. 

He said he believes that there is time before the election for even more bipartisan accomplishments.

The dialogue between Obama and congressional Republicans has been gradually escalating during the past few weeks, with the president calling on Congress to act on a slate of jobs and housing issues while Republicans bear down on his lack of success in boosting the economic recovery. 

On Tuesday, Boehner said Obama lacked the “courage” to deal with the nation’s fiscal problems. 

Might be time to bring a good six-pack along with those sandwiches. 


WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR

Well-FED: The Federal Reserve could finally be back to full strength by the end of the day Thursday, as the Senate is set to hold a procedural vote and potentially clear two nominees to join the central bank's governing board. The president nominated the bipartisan pair of Jerome Powell and Jeremy Stein back in December, and the two were cleared by the Senate Banking Committee in March. Powell served as a senior Treasury official under former President George H.W. Bush before becoming an investment banker, while Stein, a Harvard economics professor, was an economic adviser in the early months of the Obama administration.

The two received bipartisan support at the committee level but were opposed by two conservative members of the panel — Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and David Vitter (R-La.). The picks have been held up on the Senate floor by Vitter, who said he was demanding a full debate on them "rather than just rubber-stamping all this," while jabbing at the Fed for pushing "activist, easy money policies."

The Fed's efforts to boost the economy have come under GOP fire lately, with some lawmakers criticizing the central bank's move as encouraging inflation. But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) indicated Tuesday that the nominees could be approved without much in the way of dramatics — the two will need to garner at least some Republican support to advance.

"I haven’t looked carefully at it, but my impression is that there is bipartisan support," he told reporters. "One of the nominees is a Republican. We’ll see what happens tomorrow or Thursday."

Getting the president's picks on the Fed has been a difficult task of late. Obama repeatedly tapped Peter Diamond, the MIT economist who won the Nobel Prize for his work, for the job, only to see it repeatedly stymied by Republicans. Diamond eventually removed his name for consideration.

Going postal, once more: The Postal Service is scheduled to announce on Thursday how it will handle mail processing centers in the months to come.

USPS announced last week that it would keep thousands of local post offices open, often at reduced hours.

But the agency has given no indication that mail processing centers will get a similar reprieve, with a postal moratorium on closing facilities ending Tuesday. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe has suggested in recent weeks that the Postal Service has too many processing facilities for the amount of mail volume it is currently handling.

The announcement comes as postal observers are still waiting for the House to act on its postal reform bill, with the Senate having passed a measure last month.

The House GOP postal reform bill is not on the floor schedule this week, and the chamber is out of Washington next week, meaning June is likely the earliest the bill will be considered.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the sponsor of that bill, has said that a lack of support is not the reason the measure is currently stalled, but Democrats in the chamber don’t think the legislation has the votes to pass right now.

Unsettling gripes: What's the cost of saying you're sorry? The House Financial Services Committee wants an answer to that question tomorrow, as it presses regulators on how they settle charges with those they investigate. The hearing comes as lawmakers are questioning the existing practice by several regulators to allow for groups or individuals under government investigation to settle charges without having to admit guilt. Those settlement practices garnered headlines after a federal court judge tossed out a settlement between Citigroup and the Securities and Exchange Commission in large part because the bank was not required to admit to doing anything wrong — the SEC is challenging the ruling. The watchdog has defended the practice, saying it allows them to avoid costly litigation and achieve more for the aggrieved. But regulators from the SEC and other government watchdogs set to testify will likely face tough questions from both sides of the aisle, as tomorrow's discussion was announced with the bipartisan support of both parties.

Geithner goes to-doing: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner heads to Baltimore on Thursday to deliver remarks and participate in a discussion on the state of the economy with members of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is expected to outline in talks with local business leaders the economic initiatives put forward by the Obama administration to support economic growth in the short term while restoring fiscal sustainability using a balanced approach. Later in the morning, Geithner will tour local manufacturer Marlin Steel Wire Products, focusing on the need for Congress to take action on President Obama's “to do list” that includes passing a new hire tax credit that will help small businesses like Marlin Steel create jobs in communities across the country. During the visit, Geithner also will meet with business and community leaders at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. 

Biden's business: Vice President Biden heads to Martins Ferry, Ohio, on Thursday to highlight the Obama administration's efforts to save the auto industry. 

Decisions, decisions: The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee will meet Thursday in closed session to discuss the budget for European and Special Operations Command Programs while the full committee gets together to mark up the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and the Homeland Security spending bills for 2013.

On the House side, the full committee will mark up defense and State Department and foreign operations measures for next year. 

Customs update: The House Ways and Means subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing focusing on modernizing and streamlining customs operations administered by Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to handle increased trade volume in the future. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner David Aguilar and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, among others, will testify. 

Checking in on TANF: A House Ways and Means subcommittee will review state spending requirements in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and their interaction with TANF work requirements. Witnesses will include witnesses from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as well as other public- and private-sector experts on spending policy and practice.

Asia-Pacific trade: A couple of House Foreign Affairs subcommittees will hold a hearing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is still under discussion by Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. The most recent talks are wrapping up in Dallas with plans to hold the next set of discussions in July. 

Speaking of trade: The Washington International Trade Association holds a discussion on the U.S.-South Korea free-trade agreement that went into effect on March 15. South Korean Trade Minister Taeho Bark will stop by to discuss what the trade deals mean economically for his country. 

More manufacturing, please: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will hold a forum on the future of U.S. manufacturing with a long slate of business leaders including Dennis Muilenburg, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, Aric Newhouse, senior vice president for policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, and former Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, president of the U.S. Forum on Policy Innovation.

E is for award: Commerce Secretary John Bryson on Thursday heads to the White House to host the 50th annual Presidential “E” Awards recognizing 41 companies from 16 states that have contributed to increasing U.S. exports.  


BREAKING NEWS

Budget fail: A budget resolution based on President Obama’s 2013 budget blueprint turned up a goose egg — 99-0 — failing to get any votes in the Senate on Wednesday. It’s the second year in a row the Senate has voted down Obama’s budget.

Earlier in the day, ahead of a slew of votes on various GOP budget proposals, Senate Republicans said they did not think they were diluting their message by offering a range of budget options.

Three freshman GOP senators — Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.) — rolled out their own budgets for votes. 

With the Senate also expected to consider the House GOP budget, the lawmakers said their separate budgets showed they were willing to consider a variety of approaches to get America’s finances in order. 

Taking a look-see: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened a "preliminary investigation" into JPMorgan's massive trading loss, the agency's director confirmed while on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

Media reports Tuesday indicated that the Department of Justice had joined other regulators in probing the botched trade, which has caused $2 billion in losses and counting for the nation's largest bank.


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Initial Claims: The Department of Labor releases its weekly filings for jobless benefits, which have started to tick down again, although slowly. 

Leading indicators: The Conference Board will release a batch of previously announced economic indicators for April: new orders, jobless claims, money supply, average workweek, building permits and stock prices.

Mortgage Rates: Freddie Mac release is weekly data on fixed-rate mortgages. 


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Prospects brighten for flood insurance reform
— GOP lawmakers press for market access after China takeover of US bank branches
— House panel holds off on subpoena for housing documents
— No timetable for admission of new nations into Asia-Pacific trade talks
— Fed: Fiscal standoff poses 'sizable risk' to US recovery
— Oxfam sues SEC to force completion of Dodd-Frank oil transparency rule
— Builders start construction on more homes in April
Mortgage applications increase on jump in refinancing
— WTO rules against ‘dolphin safe’ tuna labels

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