OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill

In the landscape of the looming debate, Democrats and Republicans are jockeying for position before the nation hits the debt ceiling, probably sometime in the early fall. 

President Obama and most congressional Democrats want a “clean” increase, while the GOP is lining up ideas of what Republicans want — mostly more spending cuts and tax reform.

{mosads}The GOP conference will meet May 15 to discuss the idea of linking tax reform to the debt limit, but it could be a tough sell. 

Democrats also criticized the bill as evidence that Republicans are planning for a failure.

But House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) rejected that notion. 

“I’ve never heard of a more reasonable option,” he said. “We’re not telling the President how to spend the money, we’re giving authorization for new debt to pay our debt obligations,” he said.

Republicans rejected Democratic arguments that the bill would prioritize payments to foreign countries over U.S. citizens. 

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), the sponsor of the bill, said during the debate that most of the national debt is held by Americans.

“So the overwhelming effect of this measure is to protect the investments that Americans have made in their own government, while protecting the credit that supports every other expenditure of this government, including our troops.”


Mark it up: The epic Senate Judiciary markup of the immigration bill starts on Thursday, a measure that would, of course, have a pretty major effect on the economy.

It looks like there could be some relevant amendments for those of us interested in fiscal issues. For instance, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), the top Republican at the Finance Committee, would mandate that provisional immigrants prove that they’ve paid back taxes, and are staying current with them. 

Bring it home: Senate appropriators will hold a discussion on Thursday with Commissioner Carol Galante about her budget for the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Galante will face plenty of questions about the agency’s finances, including President Obama’s budget request providing for a $943 million bailout this year in an effort to steady is shaky balance sheet. It would be a first for the nearly 80-year-old agency. 

The FHA faced a shortfall of $16.3 billion last year to cover projected losses. Galante, who has instituted a series of changes that have lessened the damage, has said the agency might not need the extra funds. A determination will be made after the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. 

The FHA can draw the money from the Treasury and does not need Congress to approve the funds. 

Let’s talk money: The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a couple of budget hearings on Thursday focusing on the agriculture budget with Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, and another hearing on budget requests for the Pentagon and the Navy with Defense.

On the House side, appropriators on the Defense subcommittee will chat with Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III about their funding for next year. 

Speed it up: A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee will hold a hearing to determine if the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is meeting its July goal for processing 90 percent of retirement claims received within 30 days, while eliminating the existing backlog of about 36,000 claims. Lawmakers will chat with top government officials, including OPM Inspector General Patrick McFarland about how many staffers are working on the backlog and how technology can help speed up the process. 

Healthcare concerns: A House Small Business subcommittee will hold a hearing on how the healthcare law will affect small businesses with various industry experts. There are concerns that the healthcare law will hurt small businesses and the broader economy.

Starting next year, the healthcare law imposes a new tax on health insurance policies that most small businesses purchase. The amount of the tax will be $8 billion in 2014, increasing to $14.3 billion in 2018 and increased based on premium trend thereafter. This hearing will seek to examine the economic impacts of the fee on small businesses. 

“Paying higher health insurance bills means less money for small business owners to invest in their company, expand and hire new employees,” said subcommittee Chairman Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).  


Trade benefits: AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on the Obama administration “to immediately withdraw, suspend or limit” Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits for Bangladesh “until it fulfills its most basic duties to workers.” 

Trumka argues that suspending the trade benefits would serve as a mechanism “to pressure the Bangladeshi government to take clear and concrete actions to afford workers their internationally recognized worker rights.” 

“Clearly, the pace of progress has been inadequate to date,” he said on Wednesday. 

The AFL-CIO also is encouraging the unions and corporations throughout the supply chain “to negotiate, sign and implement a binding agreement regarding workplace fires and building safety in Bangladesh.”

So far, more than 800 people have died in collapse of an eight-story Rana Plaza building and factory near the capital of Dhaka.

“Over 80 percent of garments produced in Bangladesh are exported to the United States and the European Union,” Trumka said. 

“This creates shared responsibility for finding a sustainable solution to the lax conditions and weak workplace protections.”


Initial Claims: The Labor Department releases its weekly filings for jobless benefits. 

Mortgage Rates: Freddie Mac is releasing weekly data on fixed-rate mortgages, which have been hovering around historic lows.  

Wholesale Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its wholesale trade report for March that includes sales and inventory statistics from the second stage of the manufacturing process. The sales figures do not usually move the market.


— IRS chief: Taxpayers will now start feeling sequester

— Dems, GOP clash again over Perez nomination

— GOP introduces budget reform bills

— GOP blocks budget conference for fourth time

— Rand Paul introduces bill to roll back parts of tax evasion law

— Sen. Warren calls for giving student borrowers the same loan rate as banks

McConnell criticizes Obama Labor pick

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