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Overnight Finance: White House requests $29B for disaster relief | Ex-Equifax chief grilled over stock sales | House panel approves $10B for border wall | Tax plan puts swing-state Republicans in tough spot
White House requests $29B for disaster relief: The White House on Wednesday formally asked Congress for $29 billion in disaster relief, a request that comes after three hurricanes ravaged multiple U.S. territories and states.
The funding request includes $12.77 billion in disaster relief for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It also asked for $576.5 million for for wildfire suppression.
Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called on Congress to provide funds for the victims of the recent storms and noted that this round of appropriations "certainly" won't be enough to address the needs of the individuals affected.
"It is abundantly clear that the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are in need of more help - in dollars, in resources, in manpower, and in federal support," Frelinghuysen said in a statement.
"My Committee has already begun to move on this emergency funding request, and will put legislation forward as soon as possible."
The Hill's Mallory Shelbourne has more here: http://bit.ly/2y0L9hj
Senators grill ex-Equifax CEO over stock sales: Senators ripped former Equifax CEO Richard Smith over executives unloading almost $2 million worth of stock in the days after the credit reporting firm suffered a massive hack.
Lawmakers took turns blasting Smith during a Senate Banking Committee hearing over the breach on Wednesday and demanded answers on the stock sales.
"I've got to tell you something and this is just a fact. It may have been done with the best of intentions and no intent for insider trading, but this really stinks. I mean it really smells, really bad," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Executives reportedly sold stock in the company after the hack but before the breach was disclosed to the public. The Hill's Ali Breland takes us there: http://bit.ly/2yImM57.
Waters introduces bill to break up big banks that abused customers: The top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee introduced on Wednesday a bill that would empower federal banking regulators to break up large banks that have records of customer abuse.
The bill from Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), called the Megabank Accountability and Consequences Act, would give regulators, including the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and comptroller of the currency, sweeping new powers over the largest U.S. banks.
Waters's bill comes as Wells Fargo faces growing scrutiny over several sales scandals, including one that involves up to 3.5 million accounts opened without customer consent. I'll tell you more about it here: http://bit.ly/2xSvdyf.
Dems baffled by Trump's Puerto Rico debt comments: Is President Trump pushing to eradicate Puerto Rico's debt, or isn't he?
That's the question the Democrats are asking Wednesday, after the president suggested hours before that he'd support loan forgiveness for the embattled U.S. territory as it struggles to recover from the widespread devastation caused by Hurricane Maria.
"The problem is that I don't know how to interpret it," said Rep. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), a Puerto Rican native who supports loan forgiveness for the island.
"I know you guys need answers that sound intelligent, but with this president you don't know what he's going to say in an hour," he added. "If he means the debt has to be forgiven, the debt has to be dealt with, the debt has to be taken care of, I'm all for it. But does he mean that? Is he saying that? The Hill's Mike Lillis reports: http://bit.ly/2yISUG6.
Complicating matters, Mulvaney walks back Trump's comments: White House budget director Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday walked back President Trump's comments calling for Puerto Rico's debt to be wiped out.
"I would not take it word for word," he told CNN. "We are not going to deal with the fundamental difficulties Puerto Rico had before the storm."
In a separate interview with Bloomberg News, the Office of Management and Budget chief was even more explicit in saying the hurricane-ravaged island would have to fix its debt problem on its own.
"We are not going to pay off those debts," Mulvaney said. "We are not going to bail out those bond holders."
Trump roiled financial markets with his claim Tuesday the federal government would need to wipe out its $74 billion municipal debt: http://bit.ly/2yJ2cSa.
Swing-seat Republicans squirm over GOP tax plan: Republicans are feeling antsy over a key provision in their tax plan that could put some of the party's most vulnerable members in the House in deeper jeopardy.
The GOP tax plan would raise $1.3 trillion over the next decade by eliminating a deduction for state and local taxes.
The provision would help Republicans pay for lower rates, but could hit people hard in high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California.
In the House, Republicans in swing districts disproportionately represent constituencies where the tax deduction is important, creating an immediate campaign ad for Democrats.
A few Republicans are already warning that they'll oppose their party's tax overhaul if the deduction is a part of the plan. The Hill's Scott Wong and Naomi Jagoda explain: http://bit.ly/2yJLbra.
Happy Wednesday and welcome back to Overnight Finance. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.
On tap tomorrow
House Financial Services Committee: Hearing entitled "Examining the Equifax Data Breach" with former Equifax CEO Richard Smith, 9:15 a.m. http://bit.ly/2yy6OKK.
Senate Finance Committee: Hearing to consider the nominations of Jeffrey Gerrish to be a Deputy United States Trade Representative; Gregory Doud to be Chief Agricultural Negotiator, Office of the United States Trade Representative; and Jason Kearns, to be a member of the United States International Trade Commission, 10 a.m. http://bit.ly/2yyjvp0.
House panel approves $10B for border wall: The House Homeland Security Committee approved Wednesday a border security bill that includes $10 billion for a border wall.
The Border Security for America Act, proposed by committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), was passed along party lines, 18-12.
The bill now heads to the House floor amid debate over whether border security provisions should be attached to potential legislation to protect recipients of the rescinded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Under McCaul's bill, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection, the agencies in charge of border and port-of-entry security, would each receive 5,000 extra agents.
The legislation would also authorize the federal government to reimburse states up to $35 million for use of National Guard assets to reinforce border security and includes $5 billion for ports of entry: http://bit.ly/2yJskwa.
Treasury to withdraw proposed estate tax rules: The Treasury Department announced on Wednesday that it is planning to withdraw estate-tax rules proposed by the Obama administration that were widely opposed by GOP lawmakers and business groups.
The department in a report called the approach to the rules "unworkable."
President Trump ordered the report in April, instructing the Treasury Department to examine tax regulations issued on or after Jan. 1, 2016. In July, Treasury identified eight rules that it found to have an undue burden on taxpayers or add excessive complexity to tax laws.
Treasury said in a statement that the department is also working on identifying other rules to potentially revise or repeal.
"This is only the beginning of our efforts to reduce the burden of tax regulations," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. "Our tax code has been broken for too long, and this retrospective review, along with our efforts on tax reform, will ensure that we have a tax system that fosters economic growth." The Hill's Naomi Jagoda explains: http://bit.ly/2yIOb7b.
GOP senator demands tax reform be permanent, reduce deficit: Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is retiring after next year, raised the stakes on what he expects from the nascent GOP tax-reform plan Wednesday, saying he would not vote for a plan that was temporary or raised the deficit.
Speaking at the Senate Budget Committee's markup of the budget, which will unlock the process Republicans want to use to pass the reform, Corker said he would not vote for a final bill unless it "reduces deficits and does not add to deficits with reasonable and responsible growth models. And unless we can make it permanent, I don't have any interest in it."
The Foreign Relations Committee chairman had also set a previous red line, saying he would not vote for deficit-increasing reform.
Corker, who announced last month that he was not running for reelection in 2018, excoriated the budget process during the committee meeting, saying it was a waste of time.
"This is some of the most meaningless work that we do here," Corker said, complaining that the budget resolution was, in effect, no more than a shell to promote tax reform. The Hill's Niv Elis takes us there: http://bit.ly/2yJfAWr.
IRS explains new Equifax contract: A controversial no-bid contract the Internal Revenue Service granted Equifax amid the fallout of its recent cyberattack was a stopgap measure to prevent a taxpayer service from being shut off as the IRS attempts to move to a new vendor, officials testified Wednesday.
Equifax announced last month hackers had gained access to the personal information of nearly 150 million Americans. On Tuesday night, reports emerged that the IRS had granted a $7 million fraud-prevention contract to Equifax on Sept. 29, well after the breach was announced.
That contract raised eyebrows at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing about IRS information technology infrastructure held on Wednesday.
"The American people are sitting there this morning, saying, 'This is beyond abject failure, this is a management failure. If nothing, it shows the IRS structurally needs some reform and needs major change,'" said Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.): http://bit.ly/2yJZDj5.
Private-sector employers added 135,000 jobs in September: Hiring by U.S. businesses was hampered in September by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, with jobs gains being held down to the lowest level in nearly a year.
Private-sector employers added 135,000 jobs last month, the fewest since October 2016 when hiring dropped to 62,000, according to the ADP's national employment report released on Wednesday.
"Extracting from the effects of the storms, which are temporary, the labor market is fine," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
The storms that battered Texas and Florida and surrounding states likely reduced job gains by between 50,000 and 60,000, leading to a sharp drop in hiring from the 228,000 jobs added in August, Zandi said. http://bit.ly/2xhIM62.
Financial watchdog probes major bitcoin exchange over 'flash crash': A federal financial watchdog is reportedly probing one of the most prominent cryptocurrency trading platforms over a "flash crash" in ether, a popular cryptocurrency.
The crash in question hinges on a $12.5 million sell order for 39,300 ether issued on June 21, which caused the price of ether on the Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), to fall from $317.81 to just 10 cents in less than a second.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) sent a letter to GDAX's owner, Coinbase, the Financial Times reported.
It is not uncommon for cryptocurrencies like ether and bitcoin to endure large fluctuations in price. Large scale traders known as "whales" occasionally sell large amounts of cryptocurrency, sending values into a temporary free fall. The momentary drop in value can be exacerbated by automated trading programs that are designed to sell bitcoin and ether at certain prices to protect against losses. http://bit.ly/2xiImME.
WSJ pitches outsider to lead Fed: The conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board is urging President Trump to nominate an outsider to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve.
In an editorial posted late Tuesday, the Journal implored Trump not to re-nominate current Chairwoman Janet Yellen or Fed Governor Jerome Powell, warning that they have "favored the affluent and done little or nothing for the real economy."
Instead, the Journal is pressing Trump to nominate one of three candidates they view as more in line with his campaign promises and worldview -- former Fed Governor Kevin Warsh, Stanford economist John Taylor or Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University's business school.
"Ms. Yellen and Mr. Powell represent the monetary policies that have prevailed since the 2008 financial panic -- and whose consequences Mr. Trump campaigned against," the Journal writes. "These include bond-buying to drive investors into riskier assets like stocks and junk bonds. This was helpful in the gale of the 2008-2009 panic but has been counterproductive as time has gone on."
"Outsiders like Messrs. Warsh and Taylor, or Columbia's Glenn Hubbard, believe that tax reform and deregulation can increase the economy's capacity to grow above 3 percent," the op-ed continues: http://bit.ly/2xi8UO3.
Blue Dog Dems dare Republicans to talk tax: The Blue Dog Coalition of centrist Democrats released a set of tax-reform principles on Wednesday urging Republicans to include them in negotiating their attempt to overhaul the tax code.
The 18-member group laid out seven main priorities, three of which the Republican tax framework meets. The Blue Dogs largely agree with Republicans on elements of a tax overhaul for businesses, but differ from the GOP on the process and revenue targets.
"In order to go into any kind of negotiation prepared, you must know your principles," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, said in a statement. "The Blue Dogs are taking the first step in what we hope is the larger negotiation process with congressional Republicans on tax reform."
The outline demonstrates where moderate Democrats have common ground with Republicans on taxes but also that challenges remain for the GOP if they want Democrats to back a future bill. Naomi Jagoda has more: http://bit.ly/2xielMU.
GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework: The hottest feud in Washington is between Republicans and the Tax Policy Center (TPC).
Some prominent GOP lawmakers and conservatives are outraged with the wonky joint venture of the left-leaning Urban Institute and Brookings Institution. The group released a study Friday that said the GOP's tax reform framework would mostly benefit the rich, increase taxes on some middle-income people and lower federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over a decade.
The study was widely covered in the press, drawing front-page stories in The New York Times and Washington Post. The coverage ran counter to the White House's messaging, which labeled the tax plan the "middle-class miracle."
Republicans have responded by going after the Tax Policy Center, arguing the group is biased and used inaccurate assumptions to reach its conclusions.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) -- the two panels tasked with writing tax legislation guided by the framework -- each put out statements on Friday blasting TPC's report. They continued to criticize the group this week.
"Their analysis was a work of fiction that Stephen King would have been proud of," Brady told reporters Monday. "In truth, we are driving tax relief to the middle class." http://bit.ly/2xi6BdN.
Heritage pushes alternative to GOP budget: The advocacy group Heritage Action is pushing the House to support a more conservative alternative to the Republican budget plan in a floor vote on Thursday.
The group put out a key vote alert Tuesday telling members to vote for an amendment that would replace the current plan with the Republican Study Committee's (RSC) budget, a proposal put forth by the conservative GOP caucus in July.
"Taken as a whole, the RSC's 'Securing America's Future Economy' demonstrates a seriousness of purpose when it comes to governing," Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler said in the release.
"If passed, this budget would provide a fiscally responsible path forward for our nation, limit the size and scope of our bloated federal government, and unleash economic prosperity for all Americans," he added: http://bit.ly/2xi1ZnU.
FHFA's Watt urges Congress to speed overhaul of Fannie, Freddie: Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt is urging Congress to speed an overhaul of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Watt said Tuesday that after nine years of government control, Congress must pick up the pace to create a new framework for Fannie and Freddie, which holds $5 trillion in mortgages.
"The role of Congress is to make the tough decisions," Watt told the House Financial Services Committee during a Tuesday hearing.
"It is important that these decisions get made expeditiously ... the conservatorships are unsustainable," he said.
Congressional lawmakers generally agreed with Watt's assessment that the government-sponsored enterprises need lawmakers to move forward quickly on legislation. Efforts to produce a bipartisan bill have languished on Capitol Hill in the nine years since the 2008 financial crisis.
House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) agreed with Watt that Congress must finally make the tough decisions on housing finance reform: http://bit.ly/2xi6e2Z.
Op-Ed from The Hill's Contributors -- IBM has more workers in India than the US -- that's a good thing: "Americans should celebrate IBM's forward thinking, as it once again demonstrates how innovative the U.S. can be to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive world -- this time, not in products or processes, but in organizational innovation," writes opinion contributor Saikat Chaudhuri, executive director of the Mack Institute at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. http://bit.ly/2xhTQjB.