OVERNIGHT FINANCE: Tax talk heating up

TOMORROW STARTS TONIGHT: TAX TALK, TAX TALK, TAX TALK: The Senate Finance Committee will keep hammering on the tax reform gong tomorrow. The topic du jour – the hassles and headaches that come with a tax code that does a heck of a phone book impression. Lawmakers will hear from a panel of tax experts on the advantages that would come with a drastically simpler tax code – easier to understand, easier to follow, and easier to enforce.


The Capitol will be looking a bit leaner this week, as the House heads home but the Senate remains in session. Elsewhere, the Senate Banking Committee is going to be taking a look at some of the smaller guys in financial markets – namely, venture exchanges and small-cap companies.

THE DEFICIT RETURNS... KIND OF: The Congressional Budget Office put out a piping hot set of projections Monday, and it was a mixed bag. Per Rebecca Shabad, there is bad news in the short term. The fiscal 2015 deficit will be $18 billion higher than originally projected, and now stands at $486 billion. The culprit? Higher spending in student loans, Medicaid and Medicare.

BUT, the updated projections also found that over the next nine years, cumulative deficits will be down $431 billion from CBO's January projection, which totaled $7.6 trillion.

As the deficit has fallen in recent years, so too has the political attention paid to it. With Washington now more concerned with Iran, Hillary Clinton's emails, and the rapidly approaching 2016 race, it's an open question whether CBO's new numbers will move the political needle at all. Case in point: a whopping zero statements came from lawmakers on the new CBO numbers Monday.

THIS IS OVERNIGHT FINANCE, and we're still not completely getting the idea of the Apple Watch. In Kevin's absence, I'm your intrepid guest newsletterer. Tweet me: @peteschroeder. Email me: pschroeder@thehill.com. Oh, and definitely don't forget to subscribe: http://thehill.com/signup/48.

BATTLIN' BERNIE: There's plenty of delicate dancing around the notion of a presidential run these days, with politicians exploring the idea, or exploring the idea of exploring the idea. Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIntercept bureau chief says congressional progressives looking to become stronger force in 2021 Obama book excerpt: 'Hard to deny my overconfidence' during early health care discussions Americans have a choice: Socialized medicine or health care freedom MORE (I-Vt.) has never been much for mincing words, and the liberal lawmaker made a spirited case for a major left-leaning candidate, such as himself, to lead a populist uprising of Americans.

Speaking at the National Press Club, Sanders laid into the "grotesque and growing level of income inequality," and called for an "unprecedented grassroots movement" to challenge the "billionaire class, whose greed has no end."

Sanders, who is considering his own presidential bid, painted a grim picture of Washington, even by modern standards. He argued that legislation is bought and sold by massive corporations, and questioned whether the entire foundation of American government was at risk.

"It is not called democracy. It is called oligarchy, and that is the system we are rapidly moving towards. And that is the system we must vigorously oppose!" he thundered.

NO FAN OF WALL STREET: We know, hold the presses, but Sanders used portions of his remarks to single out Wall Street as part of the broader critique of the current system.

"You cannot regulate Wall Street. Wall Street is regulating Congress," he argued.

Sanders also jumped in his Wayback Machine, arguing that if Teddy Roosevelt were still alive (and president), he would be singing from the same hymnal.

"You know what he would say? Break 'em up!" said Sanders.

BUT: Anyone hoping that a Sanders candidacy would mean sharp elbows for Hillary Clinton from the left may be disappointed. If he runs, Sanders would surely run as a candidate far to the left of Clinton and could drag some of the debate in that direction, a la Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). But on Monday, he showed little interest in attacking Clinton directly.

Asked about the latest controversy over Clinton's use of private email while secretary of State, Sanders demurred. He noted that in his decades of public service, he never ran a negative ad. And while those emails are a hot topic in Washington, Sanders said the matter was not exactly burning up his office phone lines with calls from constituents.

Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinMichigan to pay 0M to victims of Flint water crisis Unintended consequences of killing the filibuster Inspector general independence must be a bipartisan priority in 2020 MORE'S NEW GIG: Recently retired Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has landed in the private sector, taking a gig as senior counsel at the Michigan law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz & Cohn. Our own Megan Wilson has the skinny here.

In his final years in the Senate, Levin spent much of that time using his perch as head of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations lambasting, excoriating, and generally picking apart some of the biggest names in finance. Plenty of financial executives found themselves spending hours responding to Levin's queries, as he dug into everything from tax evasion to commodity price manipulation.

Now, Levin will be lending his hand to helping business clients "navigate the path to understanding and complying with complex state and federal laws and regulations."

NOT GETTING THE 'AUDIT THE FED' FUSS – FORMER GAO OFFICIALS, via Josh Zumbrun for the WSJ: "Former officials and employees of the Government Accountability Office are growing dismayed by the debate over whether their agency should be allowed to review the Federal Reserve's monetary policy decisions.

"These onlookers suggest critics of the proposal are maligning the GAO by saying it would put political pressure on the Fed, potentially influencing interest rate decisions in a way that could hurt the economy."

SPEAKING OF GAO... Comptroller General Gene Dodaro will be testifying at the Senate Appropriations Committee tomorrow to defend his budget request. He'll be appearing alongside Doug Elmendorf, the outgoing director of the Congressional Budget Office.

REGULATORS GET THE 'W' AT SCOTUS: Lydia Wheeler writes on the latest court ruling that clears the runway a bit for regulators: "The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that federal agencies do not have to follow procedures for notifying the public and collecting comment when changing the interpretations of rules, effectively removing steps from the process that can take months and sometimes years to complete." 

OBAMA UPS VENEZUELA SANCTIONS: As Jordan Fabian makes his triumphant return to The Hill as our new White House reporter: "President Obama is imposing new sanctions on seven Venezuelan officials whom the administration accuses of committing human-rights violations and acts of public corruption.

"The White House said Monday the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro poses a national security threat to the United States."

ICYMI: AMERICANS GET MORE CONTROL OVER CREDIT SCORES. Via Tim Devaney: "Credit reporting agencies will institute several reforms to better protect consumers from inaccurate information and medical debts, the New York attorney general's office confirmed Monday."

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