OVERNIGHT MONEY: Solving the 'cliff' puzzle

There was some movement over the weekend, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) offering concessions on tax rates and the debt-limit in return for entitlement reforms.

That news upset some conservative groups. 

Club for Growth and Heritage Action lashed out at Boehner, who returned to the White House on Monday to continue talks with President Obama over a broad deficit-reduction package. 

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“Rather than fighting for real reforms that would actually solve the problem, GOP negotiators seem intent on negotiating with themselves in hopes of striking a grand bargain that will ultimately fail, as so many others have before,” said Dan Holler of Heritage Action. 

In a blog post, Holler called Boehner's proposal to increase the debt-limit for another year and trade $1 trillion in tax hikes for the same amount in spending cuts "infuriatingly frustrating to conservatives, again."

Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner met with Boehner for about 45 minutes. 

Besides spending and tax issues, there are plenty of other initiatives that could be addressed in a final agreement, including federal unemployment benefits, the long-delayed farm bill and nearly $61 billion in relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. 

A five-year farm bill could be attached to any fiscal cliff deal, providing between $23 billion and $35 billion spending cuts, which could be used to replace the scheduled $109 billion in spending cuts in the sequester that are scheduled to hit in January.

Meanwhile, the Senate aims to continue work on Tuesday to pass a $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy supplemental bill. 

The Senate had to take a deep breath on Monday evening as Reid announced that Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) had died at age 88. 

It was Inouye's committee that crafted the Sandy bill. 

The legislation hit another bump in the road earlier in the day when conservative groups argued that the measure is loaded with pork, including $2 million to fix museum roofs in Washington, D.C,. and $100 million for Head Start centers.

Club for Growth it would score a vote for the bill negatively because of that spending. 

While the Senate considers the measure, House appropriators are still trying to figure out how much disaster aid they want.

Whew. That's quite the lift between now and the new year. 

WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR 

Let's vote: The Senate Finance Committee will vote Tuesday on the nominations of Ronald Buch and Albert Lauber to be judges on the U.S. Tax Court. 

Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has urged his fellow panel members to approve the nominees, who both teach at Georgetown University Law Center.

"Both nominees have strong backgrounds in tax law and will use their experiences to ensure that taxpayers can make their voices heard," he said during a hearing last week. 

Buch is a tax attorney and adjunct law professor, while Lauber is the director of the graduate tax and securities programs and a visiting professor. 

The court hears a variety of tax-law-related cases and provides taxpayers with a place to dispute IRS claims.

Computing rules: The Senate Banking Subcommittee on Insurance and Investment will discuss on Tuesday the growing use of computerized trading in financial markets with a range of experts: Lawrence Leibowitz of NYSE Euronext; Dan Mathisson of Credit Suisse Securities; Eric Noll for NASDAQ OMX and Robert Gasser of ITG.

Focus turns to China: U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Rebecca Blank, acting secretary of Commerce, begin two days of meetings on Tuesday where they are likely to continue pressing Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan for more reforms in the Asian economy. 

The officials will look to make progress on issues such as theft of intellectual property and the treatment of U.S. agriculture products, among a slew of topics during the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) in Washington. 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will join in the talks to address any agricultural trade concerns.

Meanwhile, the Chinese officials will probably want an update as to where the White House and Congress stand with solving the tax and spending issues of the fiscal cliff. 

Benefits push: House and Senate Democrats will continue their push on Tuesday for Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits programs, which are set to expire Dec. 29. 

Reps. Sandy Levin, ranking member on House Ways and Means Committee and Lloyd Doggett, the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Human Resources, are taking the lead in the House, while Sen. Jack Reed heads up the Senate's effort. 

Without an extension, it is estimated that more than 2.1 million long-term unemployed workers will lose their benefits at the end of the year.

LOOSE CHANGE

To CAP it off: Larry Summers, former head of the National Economic Council and Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, was named a distinguished senior fellow at the Center for American Progress on Monday. 

Summers will work with CAP’s economic policy team and is the working a new project looking at policies that will spur economic growth.

"As our country continues to confront challenges to establishing economic growth that is more broadly shared, there are few thinkers with Larry’s insights, keen intellect, and policy creativity,” said Neera Tanden, CAP's president. 

Summers is currently at Harvard's Kennedy School and consults widely with business leaders and governments.

"Beyond the challenge of completing recovery from the financial crisis and recession, and assuring that federal borrowing returns to a sustainable path, policy must address deep structural changes that lie behind increased inequality and joblessness," Summers said. 

ECONOMIC INDICATORS

NAHB Housing Market Index: The National Association of Home Builders will release its December survey that gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months.

WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

Retailers press the White House to help stave off port strike

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