By Vicki Needham, Bernie Becker, Peter Schroeder and Erik Wasson - 07/25/12 10:14 PM EDT
THURSDAY'S BIG STORY:
Opening trade with Russia: The House Ways and Means Committee will mark up and, most likely, approve bipartisan legislation on Thursday to grant permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) to Russia.
Panel Democrats and Republicans agreed to push through a trade bill that mirrors the one approved last week by the Senate Finance Committee minus the human rights legislation.
That Senate bill got unexpectedly unanimous support for its measure that included the Magnitsky human-rights bill, which would punish Russian officials involved in the death of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison after reporting government corruption.
The House is expected to tack on the human-rights legislation in the Rules Committee before the measure heads to the floor.
If the panel can move the bill, which appears to have broad support, the House could take it up next week and send it back to the Senate for clearance and, finally, President Obama's signature.
Although the White House and House Republicans expressed their support for passing the PNTR bill on its own, momentum quickly grew to include human-rights legislation.
Business groups have been the biggest supporters, launching nearly two-month campaigns to ensure lawmakers were educated on the issue.
They were ready to claim victory on Wednesday but stopped short.
On Wednesday they said completion of the bill before the August recess was "a long putt" but Congress is "on the green" and it's a make-able chance.
Russia is set to join the World Trade Organization on Aug. 22, putting pressure on lawmakers to complete the bill by next week.
WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR
More Libor: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is back on Capitol Hill on Thursday, this time appearing before the Senate Banking Committee.
Geithner is set to deliver the annual report of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), and there will be plenty of chatter about the work to get Dodd-Frank up and running these past two years. But, as he did in the House Wednesday, Geithner will field plenty of questions about the ongoing scandal over the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor).
Amid wide allegations that banks rigged the benchmark rate for their gain, Geithner and the Federal Reserve have been pressed on their role, after documents revealed the New York Fed, under Geithner's leadership, first heard of problems with the rates years ago.
Geithner defended the Fed's referral of the matter to other regulators in the United States and United Kingdom before the House panel, calling it a "necessary, appropriate thing." Expect Geithner to mount his defense yet again before the Senate.
Happy Birthday Sarbanes-Oxley: A decade after its enactment, House lawmakers will be looking back at the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and what it has done for the nation's financial markets. A House Financial Services subcommittee will be powwowing with academics and experts to dissect the corporate accounting overhaul, which came about in response to massive scandals at companies, highlighted by the meltdown at former energy giant Enron.
Taxing actions: The House Rules Committee will consider a measure Thursday that would seek to compel Congress to act on a full revamp of the tax code next year.
The House is expected to consider the bill next week, as it also passes a measure to extend all Bush-era tax rates. Those votes will come after the Senate passed a measure on Wednesday to extend Bush-era rates for those making up to $250,000 year, with both parties looking to score political points on the issue.
Under the measure Rules will consider, a tax reform bill approved by of House Ways and Means would be able to make it to the floor within 15 days, no matter what.
“When coupled with reduced federal spending, comprehensive tax reform could lead to the creation of 1 million jobs in the first year alone. This is the economic jolt our country needs,” Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said Tuesday.
All about eggs: The Senate Agriculture Committee will talk about cage sizes for egg-laying hens with the United Egg Producers defending their compromise bill requiring larger cages against the Egg Farmers of America and pork and beef lobbyists. The bill could eventually become part of a a farm bill agreement.
Talking trade: The House Small Business Committee gathers together small agricultural business owners to discuss the trade barriers they are facing.
Democrats move tax bill: Senate Democrats narrowly pushed through a measure to extend tax rates for family income up to $250,000 for a year, as both parties continued their election-year messaging war on taxes.
By a 51-48 tally, Democrats overcame two defections to win passage of a measure that would also raise the top rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as continue several targeted tax provisions that Democrats say help the middle class.
Vice President Biden presided over the tally.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Obama administration officially backed a Senate proposal that would continue some, but not all, Bush-era tax rates.
An agreement reached: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans would allow a simple majority vote on the two tax proposals.
“Republicans will allow a simple majority vote on the two proposals,” McConnell said on the floor Wednesday. “We’ll have a simple majority vote on the Democrats’ plan and Republican plan, and I would also recommend we take a simple majority vote on President Obama’s plan.”
Lieberman says no to both: Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said he would support a vote to proceed on both the Democratic and Republican tax bills, despite not supporting either. Lieberman said both proposals deserve a vote, but that he would not vote to support either plan.
Defending Libor actions: Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers Wednesday that he did his part to address concerns over the rigging of a key interest rate, saying enforcement of the matter fell to other regulators.
Initial Claims: The Labor Department releases its weekly filings for jobless benefits, which have fluctuated lately because of a change in the schedule of planned auto factory layoffs.
Mortgage Rates: Freddie Mac releases weekly data on fixed-rate mortgages, which are locked in at historic lows.
Durable orders: The Commerce Department releases its June report that measures the dollar volume of orders, shipments and unfilled orders of durable goods, goods intended to last three or more years. Orders are considered a leading indicator of manufacturing activity, and the market often moves on this report despite the volatility and large revisions that make it a less than perfect indicator.
Pending Home Sales: The National Association of Realtors will release its June index that gauges contract signings, a forward-looking indicator of home sales.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— House Dems call for 'immediate' talks on grand debt bargain
— Agriculture committee heads double down on passing farm bill
— Merkley presses stepping up homeowner refinancing
— Liberal Democrat says sequestration would devastate social programs
— Tempers flare on House floor over GOP typo
— New home sales drop in June but up for the year
— Conservatives urge Cantor to push spending fight into 2013
— House easily approves Paul's 'audit the Fed' bill in 327-98 vote
— Banker's about-face renews calls for big bank breakups
— Portman pushes bill to end shutdowns
— House Republican bashes impact of estate tax
— Senate committee moves chemicals bill without GOP support
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