OVERNIGHT MONEY: Budget work continues

The division among Senate Democrats over Obama’s budget was evident during a Budget panel hearing with the Office of Management and Budget's Jeff Zients on Thursday. 

Liberals blasted him for proposed cuts to Social Security benefits, while others argued that the changes are needed to provide any hope of managing the burgeoning mandatory spending side of the budget. 

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Zients told the panel that it is part of compromise with Republicans. 

“It’s just as wrong as can be to have made that choice,” said Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseGOP wants to move fast on Sessions Dem senator backing Sessions for attorney general Dems pledge to fight Sessions nomination MORE (D-R.I.). “I don’t care where it came from. ... Anything I can do to be a foe of that I intend to do.”

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDem senator to Trump: 'You have no mandate' GOP senators wary of nuking filibuster Dem senators charge: Trump not draining the swamp MORE (D-Ore.) questioned why the administration had not examined other options to fix Social Security. 

Maybe a good mantra for Congress on budgeting is: Everything will be all right in the end ... if it's not all right, then it's not yet the end.


WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING

Talking taxes: A group of congressional Republicans will gather in the Capitol on Friday to talk about a broad range of issues — from comprehensive tax reform, President Obama’s 2014 budget request and concerns about the healthcare reform law. 

Slated to speak are House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric CantorTrump allies warn: No compromise on immigration Chamber of Commerce overhauls lobbying operation Laura Ingraham under consideration for White House press secretary MORE (R-Va.) and Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchSenate GOP: National museum should include Clarence Thomas Mnuchin's former bank comes under scrutiny Trump’s economic team taking shape MORE (R-Utah), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, along with Reps. Kevin BradyKevin BradyMedicare looms over Trump-Ryan alliance Republicans want to grease tracks for Trump Unemployment drops to 4.6 percent MORE (R-Texas) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Reid RibbleReid RibbleGOP rushes to embrace Trump House stays Republican as GOP limits losses Republican groups launch final ad blitz in key House battlegrounds MORE (R-Wis.), of the House Budget Committee. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, will also speak.

CFTC budget: A House Appropriations subcommittee will examine the budget for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with Chairman Gary Gensler and CFTC Commissioner Scott O'Malia on Friday. The president's budget calls for a 50 percent increase in funding for the agency, to $315 million. The boost would be covered by fees charged to firms the agency oversees. 


LOOSE CHANGE

Africa exports: A bipartisan trio of senators introduced legislation on Thursday designed to dramatically increase U.S. exports to Africa and, in turn, create more jobs here. 

Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThis week: Government funding deadline looms Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Senators crafting bill to limit deportations under Trump MORE (D-Ill.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanDeficits could stand in the way of Trump's agenda The untold stories of the 2016 battle for the Senate SENATE: Republicans defy odds to keep majority MORE (R-Ark.) and Chris CoonsChris CoonsTrump gets chance to remake the courts A Cabinet position for Petraeus; disciplinary actions for Broadwell after affair Overnight Defense: Trump reportedly picking Mattis for Defense chief MORE (D-Del.) are seeking to improve U.S. competitiveness throughout the continent by requiring better coordination between federal agencies to boost business activity to Africa. 

“Increasingly I am hearing the U.S. has given up on Africa as a market. While we’re building institutions, China and others are building markets and we’re being left behind,” Durbin said. “This bill will put the restoration of American competitiveness in Africa at the forefront of our business and development goals..”

Hong Kong travel: Sen. Mazie HironoMazie HironoThis Week in Cybersecurity: Dems press for information on Russian hacks Overnight Cybersecurity: Last-ditch effort to stop expanded hacking powers fails Intel Dems push for info on Russia and election be declassified MORE (D-Hawaii) is pressing for Hong Kong to become eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which smooths international travel to the United States. 

"The U.S. travel industry applauds Senator Hirono for identifying a simple fix that would help pave the way for Hong Kong to be considered for the VWP," said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

"It is important for Congress to continue to look for opportunities, such as the one presented by Senator Hirono, to drive increased visitation and spending in the United States. America and Americans will only benefit."

Nearly 129,000 travelers from Hong Kong visited the United States in 2011. 

Hot seat: House Republican lawmakers have subpoenaed the private emails of Thomas PerezThomas E. PerezClinton’s top five vice presidential picks Government social programs: Triumph of hope over evidence Labor’s 'wasteful spending and mismanagement” at Workers’ Comp MORE, the nominee to head up the Labor Department, ahead of his confirmation hearing next week. 

House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) wants to take a look at some emails as part of an investigation into a deal Perez made with the city of St. Paul, Minn., to withdraw a lending discrimination lawsuit before it could be heard by the Supreme Court. 

As part of the agreement, the Justice Department didn't join two whistleblower lawsuits against the city that might have meant the return of millions in damages to the federal government.


ECONOMIC INDICATORS

Retail Sales: The Commerce Department will release its March report measuring the total sales of retail stores. Sales figures are widely followed as the most timely indicator of broad consumer spending patterns, which represent 70 of economic activity.    

Producer Price Index (PPI): The Labor Department will release its March report that tracks the prices of goods at the wholesale level. The market tracks PPI closely because it represents prices for goods that are ready to sell to consumers.  

Business Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its February report on sales and inventory from all three stages of the manufacturing process: manufacturing, wholesale and retail.

Michigan Sentiment: Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan will release its measure of consumer sentiment for April.  


WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

—  Baucus: 'Middle ground' needed on taxes

— Lew highlights clear differences on tax reform policy

— Baucus: 'Disappointed' Obama budget has chained CPI

— Top Republican backs Obama on entitlement cuts

— Top House Democrat: 'I'm not for the Obama budget'

— White House backs conference committee as path to debt deal

— Top Dem appropriator joins Obama's call for food aid reform

— FHFA will extend refinance program through 2015

— Pelosi walks tightrope on Social Security cuts

— SEC accused of dawdling on JOBS Act enabling rules

— Hagel: No Obama order to gut Pentagon

— Business groups: ‘Ample’ visas needed in immigration bill

— Senate vote emboldens House lawmakers in push for online sales tax

— President Obama's budget includes $943 million bailout for FHA

Jobless benefits claims plummet by 42,000

— SEC names new economic analysis coordinator


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