OVERNIGHT FINANCE: House GOP to offer three-week DHS stopgap

HAPPENING NOW: GOP HUDDLES ON DHS, via The Hill's Scott Wong: "The House will try to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security this week by passing a stopgap bill that funds the agency for three weeks. The measure is meant to buy time for Republicans to figure out how to fight President Obama's immigration policies, GOP leaders told members on Thursday.

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"The three-week measure would stave off a shutdown at the agency slated for 12:01 a.m. Saturday, but it's only a temporary fix. Republicans say it would give them a chance to pursue a longer-term solution and iron out differences between House and Senate funding bills." http://bit.ly/1BD6oD4

TOMORROW STARTS TONIGHT - - EX-IM EMPLOYEE RESIGNED AFTER SCHEME. My latest for the hometown paper: A contracting official resigned from the Export-Import Bank, after an internal probe found the official guilty of scheming to overcharge the bank more than $19,000 and viewing illicit images during the workday.

"Ex-Im Deputy Inspector General Michael McCarthy told House Financial Services Committee leaders this month about the investigation in a letter obtained by The Hill. McCarthy wrote that an Ex-Im contracting official 'engaged in a scheme to overstate the hours' worked in October 2013 in order to 'compensate contractor employees for hours not worked.'

"The scheme resulted in a loss of $19,356 for hours that weren't worked. All the funds have been recovered, according to a bank official. McCarthy did not find evidence that the employee in question received financial gain for the misconduct." Story: http://bit.ly/1wsDh3e

THIS IS OVERNIGHT FINANCE, and congratulations - - you've almost made it to Friday. Tweet: @kevcirilli; email: kcirilli@thehill.com; and subscribe: http://thehill.com/signup/48

QUICK Q: WHAT WOULD MAKE YELLEN "CONFIDENT" ON RATES? Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa for WSJ: "Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen indicated this week the central bank is considering a shift away from its pledge to be 'patient' in deciding when to start raising short-term interest rates. She has said 'patient' means the Fed won't raise its benchmark federal funds rate at its next two meetings. Testifying before congressional committees Tuesday and Wednesday, she said if the economy continues to improve as expected, the central bank's policy making committee will 'at some point begin considering an increase in the target range for the federal funds rate on a meeting-by-meeting basis.' 

"...If 'reasonably confident' is the new 'patient,' what exactly does it mean? Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (D., N.Y.) asked Ms. Yellen. Her response was sufficiently vague to give the Fed wiggle room depending on how the data play out. But she didn't validate a contention of Mr. Schumer's that inflation, or at least wages, might have to show signs of picking up before the Fed begins to raise short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since Dec. 2008." http://on.wsj.com/1FZBPrY

LANDMARK INTERNET RULES: From The Hill's Julian Hattem:

"Federal regulators voted Thursday to impose sweeping net neutrality rules that supporters say are critical to protecting the freedom of the Internet. In a party-line 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to embrace an approach advocated by President Obama to treat Internet service like a utility in order to prevent major companies such as Comcast or Verizon from slowing, blocking or creating 'toll roads' for people’s access to the Internet.

"'The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet; it’s simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field,' said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat.  'The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.'

"After a decade spent by activists pushing for strong federal rules, supporters said the new regulations would be a strong bulwark to prevent people from being abused online. In the end, those activists helped drive more than 4 million net neutrality comments to the agency — by far an FCC record." http://bit.ly/1arlsHC

CPAC SHOW: CHRISTIE SAYS JEB IS ELITE, via Jonathan Easley: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) painted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as the establishment GOP presidential contender and himself as the grassroots candidate at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Thursday.

"'If what happens is the elites in Washington who make backroom deals decide the nominee, then he's the front-runner,' Christie said in a 20-minute question-and-answer session with conservative radio host Laura Ingraham." http://bit.ly/1vDDgsB

-- CHRISTIE ANTI-JEB? Margaret Talev for Bloomberg: "Pointedly criticizing his chief rival, Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie portrayed himself as a Washington outsider who won't buckle to criticism from the media, and as a man who is unafraid to say what he thinks is right." http://bloom.bg/1MWooLq

-- More from CPAC: Jindal: GOP about to 'wave white flag of surrender,' via Easley: http://bit.ly/1zM3ntM; Sean Hannity vows to grill Jeb Bush on Common Core, immigration, via Easley: http://bit.ly/1arbtSN; Cruz takes aim at libertarians, via Cameron Joseph: http://bit.ly/1vDDAYg; Fiorina casts herself as anti-Clinton, via Ben Kamisar: http://bit.ly/1AxKaQh

MORGAN STANLEY SETTLES WITH DOJ, Nathaniel Popper for NYT: "Morgan Stanley said on Wednesday that it had reached a $2.6 billion settlement with the Justice Department over the sale of mortgage securities before the financial crisis. Other large banks have already struck similar settlements, with Bank of America agreeing to pay a record $16.7 billion last year and JPMorgan Chase settling for $13 billion in 2013." http://nyti.ms/1DVDZ9J

CYBER 9/11 - - WILL IT HAPPEN? Elise Viebeck reports: "A top Wall Street regulator is raising the alarm about a potential cyber 9/11 that could deal a significant blow to the U.S. economy. Ben Lawsky, head of the New York Department of Financial Services, expressed fears Wednesday that hackers could mount an 'Armageddon-type' attack against U.S. banks in the future."http://bit.ly/1ETA6AO

U.S. BOOSTING TRADE WITH AFRICA, via Vicki Needham: "U.S. trade officials inked an agreement on Thursday aimed at increasing trade and investment with five East African nations while boosting the economic relationship across the continent. U.S. Trade Representative Michael FromanMichael B.G. FromanUS trade rep spent nearly M to furnish offices: report Overnight Finance: Trump hits China on currency manipulation, countering Treasury | Trump taps two for Fed board | Tax deadline revives fight over GOP overhaul | Justices set to hear online sales tax case Froman joins Mastercard to oversee global business expansion MORE said the deal will ramp up the U.S. partnership with the East African Community (EAC), which includes Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, while reaching deeper into Africa to improve trade." http://bit.ly/1AxGKx0

GAS DROPS - - SO DO CONSUMER PRICES, Lucia Mutikani for Reuters: "U.S. consumer prices fell over the past year for the first time since 2009 as gasoline prices continued to tumble, which could allow a cautious Federal Reserve more room to hold off on raising interest rates." http://reut.rs/1apQWOk

SHOULD YOU GET YOUR MBA? NEW REPORT: 'DEPENDS.' Natalie Kitroeff for Bloomberg: "When finance sucks talented young workers away from other industries, we all suffer, a new report shows. Business schools, despite broadening their curriculum recently to encourage entrepreneurship and socially responsible careers, still basically amount to banker factories. If the boom in financial services is a sort of civic hazard, the role these programs play is hard to ignore.

"In a paper released this month by the Bank for International Settlements, economists Stephen Cecchetti and Enisse Kharroubi build on their previous research showing that once a country's finance industry grows beyond a certain point, national gross domestic product per worker declines. That conclusion comes from a 2012 study in which they looked at economic output in 21 countries from 2005 to 2009 and saw productivity decline as soon as the finance sector hired more than 3.9 percent of all workers. In their new paper, they get into the causes of that effect." http://bloom.bg/1C1luSi

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