OVERNIGHT MONEY: Sandy aid clears

"We cannot reduce the funding for some of these initiatives that we are engaged in without great cost to our ability to be able to help American business, help create jobs and help strengthen our security in the world," Kerry said Thursday. "So it's in my interest to help get this budget effort resolved."

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Should Kerry get the nod to replace Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGloria Steinem: If Clinton doesn't win it's because majority didn't vote Protesters greet Clinton at Calif. rally Sanders: 'You can’t keep track’ of the wars GOP would start MORE, his departure from the Senate would open a slot on the prized tax-writing Finance Committee, where Kerry is currently third in seniority among Democrats. 


WHAT ELSE TO WATCH FOR:

Meeting of the monetary minds: The Federal Reserve will begin a two-day policy-setting meeting on Tuesday, as the Federal Open Market Committee gathers in D.C. to set the course for the nation's interest rates. 

The Fed is still knee-deep in its latest round of "quantitative easing," buying up $85 billion of Treasury and mortgage bonds a month in a bid to lower borrowing rates and goose the economy. The central bank actually expanded that shopping spree in December, boosting it from a $40 billion a month level, and the Fed has committed to the purchases so long as unemployment remains high and inflation under control. 

Experts expect more of the same out of the Fed when it releases its latest statement on Wednesday, given that unemployment is still at 7.8 percent and inflation remains under control.

Crisis? What crisis?: The debt-ceiling debate had been nitroglycerin on Capitol Hill, but — for this week, at least — it's likely to emit barely a fizzle.

In two days, the Senate is expected to take up — and presumably pass — legislation that would suspend the debt limit for three months, and require both chambers of Congress to pass a budget if lawmakers want to keep getting paychecks on time. The "No Budget, No Pay" legislation has already cleared the House relatively easily, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRyan fans GOP civil war over Donald Trump Third-party push gaining steam Missouri Republican: Trump has not earned my vote MORE (R-Ky.) said the bill is likely to hit the Senate floor Wednesday for what also looks to be a drama-free vote. 

The last time the debt limit had to be raised, it was a drag-out, eleventh-hour battle that spooked markets and took a toll on the nation's credit rating. Now, it looks like Congress will defuse the debt limit well before the deadline (Treasury had expected it would begin missing payments as soon as mid-February). 

Of course, this being Washington, Democrats and Republicans may not stand down for long.

GOP lawmakers will be looking to take a stand and demand major spending cuts ahead of another one of the nation's upcoming fiscal deadlines. Automatic sequestration spending cuts are scheduled to take effect beginning March 1, and the government could shut down if Congress does not agree on another continuing resolution by March 28. Oh, and there's always the debt ceiling, which is now set up to face another ticking clock sometime this summer.


BREAKING MONDAY:

Gang's back together: A bipartisan group of eight senators rolled out its principles for immigration reform on Monday, with Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerRyan goes all-in on Puerto Rico Cruz's dad: Trump 'would be worse than Hillary Clinton' With Ryan’s blessing, lawmakers press ahead with tax reform talks MORE (D-N.Y.) saying he hoped legislation could be passed by late spring or the summer.

The economics of the immigration blueprint are playing something of a secondary role on an issue that both Democrats and Republicans say centers largely on politics and the need to balance border security and dealing with the millions of immigrants already in the U.S. illegally. 

Still, Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTrump lands Calif. lawmaker endorsement Trump: Rubio as VP 'could happen' The Trail 2016: GOP stages of grief MORE (R-Fla.) said that lawmakers would need to grapple with how their immigration proposals affect the economy. The principles from the new Gang of Eight, for instance, would allow farm workers a faster path to citizenship.

"There are people that are concerned about how much this is gonna cost the American economy. We have to be frank about dealing with those issues. This country owes $16 trillion," Rubio told reporters at a news conference. "By the same token, we need to be honest with ourselves with just how important immigration is to our economy, for agriculture, for guest workers, and other laborers."

"The reality is, is that even in a very tight economy, there are all types of industries in our country which have used the work of immigrants every day to achieve the economic goals of those industries," added Sen. Bob MenendezRobert MenendezSenate confirms Obama's long-stalled ambassador to Mexico Democrats block energy spending bill over Iran amendment Senate close to voting on Mexico ambassador MORE (D-N.J.), another member of the bipartisan group of senators. "If you got up this morning and had fruits for breakfast, it was probably picked by the bent back of an immigrant worker."

On the other side of the debate, Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsSessions: Ryan made ‘big mistake’ not backing Trump Maine Republican senator suggests she could back Trump Trump snags third House committee chair endorsement MORE (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said the Gang of Eight's blueprint could spur more federal debt and put even more pressure on Medicare and Social Security.


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Consumer Confidence: The Conference Board's monthly report could show that confidence improved in January following an agreement that stopped tax hikes on the majority of earners. The report can be helpful in predicting shifts in consumer spending. 

S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city Index: Home prices probably ticked up in November in the nation's 20 largest metropolitan areas, a housing price index report could say on Tuesday. 


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

— Report: Bailed-out executives still enjoy hefty compensation from taxpayers

— IRS: Filing season delayed for some

— Murray seeks public input on budget

— Antigua takes step to ignore U.S. copyrights in fight over online gaming

— US, Japan strike new beef trade deal


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