OVERNIGHT FINANCE: Lew, Ryan see path to business tax reform

TOMORROW STARTS TONIGHT: THE $5 BILLION CAMPAIGN? From me and Amie Parnes: "The 2016 presidential election could cost as much as $5 billion, according to top fundraisers and bundlers, who are already predicting it will more than double the 2012 campaign’s price tag. Behind-the-scenes jockeying to raise big bucks from bundlers connected to super-PACs and third-party groups is well underway, even with no top-tier candidates officially in the race.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Potential candidates with proven fundraising prowess, such as 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are throwing political elbows at each other to secure donors’ money at an early stage in the race.

"And then there’s Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHouse Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally It's about the delegates, stupid MORE.

"In private conversations, allies to the former secretary of State are predicting that the campaign totals on their end alone might surpass $1.5 billion and go as high as $2 billion." Our story: http://bit.ly/1xZ9hpn

RYAN, LEW BULLISH ON CORPORATE TAX REFORM, via me: "Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are sending signals that a deal on business tax reform is attainable. While Democrats and Republicans are worlds apart on individual tax reform policy — a fact made clear in the days since President Obama unveiled his plan to cut middle-class taxes at the expense of the wealthy — both Lew and Ryan noted in separate appearances Wednesday morning that there remains bipartisan support on the business tax system.

"Their public remarks come one day after President Obama laid out an individual tax plan largely perceived as far too progressive to get much traction in the Republican controlled Congress. Lew said in a speech in Washington that there is bipartisan support to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, while using some tax revenue to pay for infrastructure spending.

-- LEW, at the left-leaning Brookings Institution in DC: "The fact is, there is a growing bipartisan consensus in Washington on how to achieve business tax reform, and we have a unique opportunity now to get this done," Lew said. "On individual taxes we have differences that are very clear. ... There is the possibility of a bipartisan consensus [on business tax reform]."

-- RYAN, speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" an hour before Lew's speech: "It's a screwed up tax code. We need to fix it. The great agreements in the past that have been done have been bipartisan... [Former President Ronald] Reagan worked with Democrats in the Congress to do the last round of tax reform in '86."

-- WHERE THEY AGREE: Both Ryan and the administration have proposed bolstering the earned income tax credit, a tax break for people with low and moderate incomes to help move them out of poverty. Both Ryan and Lew signaled in their remarks they would support funding for the Highway Transportation Fund, which expires this spring, to be lumped into the tax reform debate.

-- WHERE THEY DISAGREE: Republicans and Democrats are still worlds apart on a host of other tax-reform issues, with Democrats pushing to raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $500,000 annually, as Obama proposed in his address on Tuesday. They also differ on how to regulate U.S. businesses that change their corporate headquarters address to take advantage of lower tax rates, a process known as inversions. My storyhttp://bit.ly/1APiwu9

THIS IS OVERNIGHT FINANCE, and it's only hump day of a very busy week. Make the snow stop. Tweet: @kevcirilli; email: kcirilli@thehill.com; and subscribe: http://thehill.com/signup/48. Tomorrow is Thursday...

Let's drink, post-SOTU? 

SHOT, via President Obama in last night's SOTU: "We can’t put the security of families at risk by... unraveling the new rules on Wall Street... And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, it will earn my veto."

CHASER, via House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who told OVERNIGHT after the speech: "He wanted to make it very clear that those protections against those mistakes that led to the financial disaster are not going to be repeated. Dodd-Frank was not written in stone. Dodd-Frank was a major piece of legislation. And if we work together on making improvements and making it better without damaging the protections that it gave then certainly -- I mean, any piece of legislation is subject to being improved. But I'm not going to go into specifics right now."

HENSARLING FIGHTS BACK... SAYS OBAMA 'VILLIFIES SUCCESS.' In an explosive interview with Fox Business Network, usually tightlipped House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingHas Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? Maxine Waters is the Wall Street sheriff the people deserve Ex-GOP congressman heads to investment bank MORE (R-Texas) blasted Obama's State of the Union address:

"Last night was far more about the politics of division and envy than it was about the economics of growth... as the president and his administration continues to vilify success, we have less success... Every time the president aims his rhetoric at Wall Street, his policies are hurting Main Street and hardworking taxpayers are becoming collateral damage." Video: http://bit.ly/1JgSpRk My story: http://bit.ly/1yt1Vzo

WATERS TO HENSARLING: WE WILL DEFEND DODD-FRANK. Hensarling offered clues on how he'll govern as chairman this Congress during a panel hearing earlier today. His agenda seemingly includes many issues he's previously championed: seeking to amend financial rules and push for more oversight over Washington's regulators. But Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the House Financial Services Committee's top Democrat, reminded Hensarling that Obama threatened to veto Republican efforts to roll back financial regulations.

-- WATERS' WARNING: She reiterated President Obama's veto threat to legislation that weakens Wall Street regulations during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. "We have made great progress with the passage of the Wall Street Reform Act," Waters said at the hearing. "That’s why I was so pleased last night to hear our President say he would veto any legislation that would 'unravel' Wall Street reform." My recap: http://bit.ly/1yI9piq Hensarling's oversight plan: http://1.usa.gov/1E392lx

TALK OF THE TOWN - - CARLY FIORINA: 2016 GOP ATTACK DOG? Sorry, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), but did the real Republican rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address come this morning on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Former-Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is mulling a GOP presidential run, confronted White House insider and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on the White House's record of equal pay for women. Video, via The Hill's Justin Sink:http://bit.ly/1xyDFI6 

-- GOP STRATEGIST FORD O'CONNELL emails OVERNIGHT: "This is why Carly Fiorina is valuable to the 2016 GOP presidential conversation. She can return fire in real time and credibly push back on one of the Democrats' favorite plays in presidential elections and key policy debates - the 'war on women.'" Transcript below: 

FIORINA: "Every woman agrees across the nation that equal pay for equal work is absolutely required. I also think it's just a fact that laws exist on the books today and if a woman is being discriminated against because of her gender she should use the full extent of that law. I'm struck by the fact that the president hasn't really led in this regard.

"He's not paying women equally by his own measures in his own White House and I'm also struck by the fact that the single greatest impediment to equal pay for equal work is the seniority system, which pays not on merit, not on performance, but on time and grade. And who is it who supports the seniority system? Unions, government bureaucracy -- the vast majority of constituencies that the Democratic Party represents and who support the Democrat Party. So, why wouldn't the White House take on the seniority system and say let's pay women by merit and their results?"

JARRETT: "Let's unpack your question a little bit. So first of all... in the White House, women do earn equal pay for equal work. Then let's go on to say that the bill that's currently before Congress would make it easier for women to find out if they're being discriminated against by prohibiting against employers from retaliating against people who share their pay... I think you have to look at the specifics and there's no good reason why Congress has passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. And if they don't think that does a good enough job -- what's their solution?"

Not just corporate tax reform... Republicans sending signals they'll work with Obama on trade and transportation, too...

CONGRESS HOPEFUL ON HIGHWAY FUNDING, via Keith Laing for The Hill:  "Republicans are indicating... they are open to compromising with the president on increasing U.S. transportation funding, although neither side has offered specifics on how they would pay for new construction projects. 

Obama called several times on Tuesday night for Congress to pass a 'bipartisan infrastructure plan,' although he stopped short of calling for an increase in the federal gas tax, which has been sought by many transportation advocates to help pay for it. 

"House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who has opposed prior efforts to increase the gas tax, said Republicans might be able to find agreement with Obama on infrastructure funding, even though they disagree with almost everything else the president laid out during his address." http://bit.ly/1yI8iPM

< - - PHOTOS: CHECK OUT THE HILL'S SOTU PHOTOS HEREhttp://bit.ly/1Chfino > 

SOTU GETS LOWEST RATINGS IN 15 YEARS, via Broadcasting and Cable's Tim Baysinger: "Overall, the State of Union averaged 31.7 million viewers (down 5% from last year's 33.5 million) across 13 networks — CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, Azteca, Fox Business, Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, Al Jazeera America, Galavision and Mun2. Univision aired the speech on a tape delay.

"From 9-11 p.m., which included post-address coverage, Fox News led among overall viewers with 3.49 million and 828,000 in the demo, while CNN averaged 2.38 million and led the demo with 982,000 viewers. MSNBC drew just under 2 million overall and 494,000 in the demo." http://bit.ly/1zxeFXs

FEDS DOWNGRADE RATING AGENCY. Yep, you read that correctly. The Hill's Pete Schroeder reports: "The credit rater Standard & Poor’s will pay roughly $77 million in penalties and face a one-year ban on rating some mortgage securities after the government charged it engaged in fraudulent behavior.

The action marks the first time the government has ever penalized a credit rater, as the Securities and Exchange Commission claimed S&P misled investors on its rating criteria for a large chunk of the commercial bond market." http://bit.ly/1Chegb4

U.S. WATCHDOG PLEDGES MORE TRANSPARENCY, via Douwe Miedema and Sarah N. Lynch for Reuters: "The top U.S. financial risk watchdog pledged to revise the procedures used to designate firms as super-risky and make them more transparent on Wednesday, after a flood of criticism from insurers and asset managers that the process was too opaque.

"Staff read out a number of proposals at a meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), which acts to identify which parts of the financial system are 'too big to fail.' The proposals would change some of the procedures under which the council singles out financial firms as "systemically important," and therefore in need of closer regulatory scrutiny." Story: http://reut.rs/1uuJmv9

-- TIM PAWLENTY, chairman of the Financial Services Roundtable, which reps big banks and businesses, to OVERNIGHT: "If the goal of a more secure financial system is to truly advance further, FSOC's process needs to be improve, and we are glad FSOC agrees. We are pleased FSOC will take up many of our recommendation and that their process will become more transparent to the public."

TAX WATCH -- LAWMAKERS WANT SOCIAL SECURITY TO BACK OFF, via Bernie Becker: "A Senate Democrat and House Republican are teaming up to try and stop the Social Security Administration from taking taxpayer refunds to pay off overpayments made long ago. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said current law gives the federal government far too much latitude to collect on old debts, and have introduced legislation to roll back that authority for good." http://bit.ly/183TIHY

SOTU: ABOUT LAST NIGHT: All of our financial services stories relating to Obama's speech last night and the relevant reaction: 

-- Confident Obama throws punches, via Becker: http://bit.ly/1yJTiPH

-- GOP: Obama tax plan imperils reform push, via Becker: http://bit.ly/1yJStXg

-- Obama asks Congress to hike minimum wage, via me: http://bit.ly/1xYVtLx

-- Obama assails corporate tax loopholes, via me: http://bit.ly/1CQOV6l

-- Obama makes trade case to both parties, via Vicki Needham: http://bit.ly/1um27eC

-- Cuba embargo was ‘long past expiration date,’ president tells Congress, via Tim Devaney: http://bit.ly/1574dIt

-- GOP 2016ers: We can do better, via Jonathan Easley and Cameron Joseph: http://bit.ly/1xyhtxI

-- Joni Ernst goes folksy with GOP response, via Cristina Marcos: http://bit.ly/1yI93rT

-- Obama makes unprecedented cyber security pitch, via Cory Bennett: http://bit.ly/1yNhGD7

CONNECT WITH THE HILL’S FINANCE TEAM -- Write us with tips, suggestions and news: vneedham@thehill.compschroeder@thehill.com;bbecker@thehill.com;rshabad@thehill.comkcirilli@thehill.com.

-- Follow us on Twitter: @VickofTheHill@PeteSchroeder@BernieBecker3@RebeccaShabad and @kevcirilli.