THE LATEST BIG STORY:
Debt-ceiling increase in the clear: The Senate voted Wednesday to suspend the debt ceiling for more than a year, sending the bill to President Obama's desk only a day after the House rushed the measure through its chamber.
A massive snowstorm headed for the Washington area forced lawmakers to expedite their schedule ahead of a weeklong recess and find a way to get the bill passed.
The bill got 67 votes to break up a potential filibuster — after much back and forth on the Senate floor — and then went onto party-line passage after that.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: High drama for ObamaCare vote | Freedom Caucus chair 'optimistic' about deal | Trump woos right High drama for ObamaCare vote Senate nixes Obama-era workplace safety rule MORE (Ky.) backed the "clean" bill even though a number of members of his party thought that they should have tried harder to extract more deficit reduction out of the legislation.
On Tuesday, Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerFreedom Caucus leader: Despite changes, healthcare bill doesn't have the votes Debt ceiling returns, creating new headache for GOP Letters: Congress, raise the debt limit now MORE (R-Ohio) also opted to move forward with the clean bill after all other attempts to attach various policy priorities failed to attract the 218 needed to pass the bill from his party.
In the House, only 28 Republicans supported the measure and 12 GOP senators voted to end debate.
The bill, which suspends the debt ceiling until March 15, 2015, was approved on a party-line 55-43 vote.
Still, it was enough to push the bill through and avoid any more partisan bickering. For now.
The measure will allow hundreds of billions in debt accumulated through that deadline to be added to the existing $17.2 trillion debt.
The GOP senators who voted in favor of ending debate were McConnell and Sens. John CornynJohn CornynGOP senator: 'We still need to figure out what the president was talking about' on wiretapping Live coverage: Day two of Supreme Court nominee hearing Repeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate MORE (Texas), Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: U.S. preparing cases linking North Korea to theft at NY Fed | GOP chairman says Dodd-Frank reform still a 2017 priority US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Utah), John McCainJohn McCainMcCain calls North Korean leader a 'crazy, fat kid' McCain: Congress doesn't have 'credibility' to handle Russia probes Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info MORE (Ariz.), Bob CorkerBob CorkerRand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS Trump needs a united front to win overseas MORE (Tenn.), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsFive takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Maine), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Tech: Senate moving to kill FCC's internet privacy rules | Bill Gates pushes for foreign aid | Verizon, AT&T pull Google ads | Q&A with IBM's VP for cyber threat intel Senate on the verge of vote to kill FCC's consumer privacy protections One safe and simple solution to more timely care for vets MORE (Ariz.), Mike JohannsMike JohannsLobbying World To buy a Swiss company, ChemChina must pass through Washington Republican senator vows to block nominees over ObamaCare co-ops MORE (Neb.), Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood MORE (Ill.), John Barasso (Wy.), Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiFive takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote McConnell vows Senate will take up ObamaCare repeal next week MORE (Alaska) and John ThuneJohn ThuneWeek ahead: Robocall crackdown tops FCC meeting agenda Here's how Congress can get people to live healthy lifestyles Ryan huddles with GOP factions on healthcare bill MORE (S.D.).
WHAT ELSE WE'RE WATCHING
Yellen gets a pass: The Senate Banking Committee postponed its scheduled Thursday hearing with Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen because of a snowstorm that is set to blanket the Washington area overnight.
The new central bank chief chatted for several hours on Tuesday with the House Financial Services Committee about how she is expecting to stick with a plan to wind down bond purchases.
Just in time: House Democrats got out of town just in the nick of time to avoid the creeping snowstorm as they headed out to Maryland's Eastern Shore on Wednesday for their annual retreat.
As the lawmakers huddle behind closed doors, they are set to discuss a wide range of policy issues — minimum wage, unemployment benefits, women’s empowerment, ObamaCare and immigration reform — as well as political strategies ahead of the midterm elections.
President Obama is set to address the group on Friday, while Vice President Biden will talk to Democrats at noon Thursday.
Among the other notable figures expected to meet with the Democrats are Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank; Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-Prize winning economist; New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman; Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children's Defense Fund; and Janet Murguía, who heads the National Council of La Raza, a national Hispanic-empowerment group.
Steep drop: The federal government's deficit plunged through the first four months of the fiscal year — down 36.6 percent from a year ago.
The Treasury Department's monthly report, released Wednesday, showed that the deficit for January was $10.4 billion.
From October until then the total was $184 billion, down $106.4 billion from the same period a year ago, signaling continued improvement.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the deficit will drop to $514 billion, from $680.2 billion last year.
Initial Claims: The Labor Department will release its weekly claims for first-time jobless benefits.
Retail Sales: The Commerce Department will release its January report measuring the total receipts of retail stores. Sales figures are widely followed as the most timely indicator of broad consumer spending patterns, which represent 70 of economic activity.
Business Inventories: The Commerce Department will release its December report on sales and inventory.
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
— Obama signs order on minimum wage hike
— Obama heading back to Asia-Pacific for four-country tour in April
— Camp expected to release tax reform plan
— Cruz: Up to voters whether McConnell remains party leader
— Amtrak chief joins highway funding debate
— US businesses seek solutions with India over trade practices
— US ambassador: Asia-Pacific trade deal will get done
— Business, labor groups push for gas tax hike
— CEO turnover hits 4-year high in January
— House Republicans talk about returning to 'Gephardt Rule'
— Dems push Fed for closer review of settlements
— Gallup: ND continues to top job creation survey
— King blasts 'morons' in Republican Party
— A step away from political brinkmanship?
— Why Boehner capitulated
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