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Overnight Finance: Smooth path for Commerce pick after hearing | Treasury nominee to defend foreclosure record | GOP tax turmoil

Overnight Finance: Smooth path for Commerce pick after hearing | Treasury nominee to defend foreclosure record | GOP tax turmoil
© Greg Nash

Trump's Commerce pick admits to unknowingly hiring undocumented worker: President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE's pick for Commerce secretary on Wednesday admitted to unknowingly employing a possible undocumented worker in his Florida home.

Wilbur Ross told the Senate Commerce Committee during his confirmation hearing that one of roughly 12 workers he employed in his home was unable produce proof of legal status when he checked recently.

Ross said he immediately fired the employee, who had a Social Security card and driver's license when the worker was hired. Ross said he paid all necessary taxes on the employee.

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"When I was getting ready for this hearing, I wanted to recheck all of our present and former employees," Ross told the panel, insisting he was deceived. I've got more on how senators took his comments here: http://bit.ly/2jAACSP.

Smooth sailing (or flying, or shipping) for Ross: Wilbur Ross appears likely to cruise to confirmation Wednesday after a cordial confirmation hearing. He was asked extensively about how the Trump administration will approach trade, infrastructure, shipping (across land and sea), and tech issues. Here are some of the other highlights from his hearing:

Mnuchin to defend foreclosure record: President-elect Donald Trump's pick for Treasury secretary will start his confirmation hearing Thursday by defending his record at a bank accused of illegal foreclosure practices in an attempt to head off Democratic attacks.

Steven Mnuchin will try to defuse Democratic attacks on his tenure at California-based OneWest Bank, where he oversaw more than 36,000 foreclosures, in his opening testimony to the Senate Finance Committee, according to a copy of his remarks obtained by media outlets.

"Since I was first nominated to serve as Treasury Secretary, I have been maligned as taking advantage of others' hardships in order to earn a buck," Mnuchin will say, according to his prepared remarks. "Nothing could be further from the truth." Here's why, from me and The Hill's Naomi Jagoda: http://bit.ly/2iKuiUX.

Brown asks for FBI files tied to Mnuchin company: A top Senate Democrat is pressing the FBI for any information it may have about a possible probe into a film production company with deep ties to President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Treasury Department.

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After a public records request indicated that there could be "enforcement proceedings" involving the company, Relativity Media, Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBrown says Biden's first moves as president should be COVID relief, voting rights Senators battle over Supreme Court nominee in rare Saturday session Sunday shows preview: Trump, Biden gear up for final sprint to Election Day MORE (D-Ohio) wants to know more. That company, which declared bankruptcy in 2015, once counted among its top investors Steven Mnuchin, Trump's nominee for Treasury secretary.

With Mnuchin set to appear before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday, Brown is arguing the public has a right to know if one of his business ventures is embroiled in an FBI probe. Here's more from The Hill's Peter Schroeder: http://bit.ly/2iKxVKh.

Happy Wednesday and welcome to Overnight Finance, where we're heading into the last full day of the Obama administration. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

Tonight's highlights include Republican turmoil over tax reform, the consumer bureau's suing the nation's top student loan financier and Trump's take on the Time Warner-AT&T merger.

See something I missed? Let me know at slane@thehill.com or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here: http://bit.ly/1NxxW2N.

On tap tomorrow

  • Senate Finance Committee: Hearing on the nomination of Steven Mnuchin to be secretary of the Treasury, 10 a.m.

Trump's border tax criticism clouds reform push: President-elect Donald Trump's criticism of a Republican tax reform plan could complicate the effort to overhaul the tax code this year. 

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Trump expressed opposition to a part of the House GOP blueprint known as "border adjustment" that would tax imports and exempt exports from the corporate tax.

Congressional supporters of the idea see it as a way to prevent companies from moving jobs to other countries. But Trump called the proposal "too complicated" and suggested that it would not be needed in addition to tax cuts.

"Under the border adjustment concept, if somebody is making a motorcycle or a plane in our country, they're getting a credit for the plane they make before they send it over to wherever it's going," Trump told the Journal. "And you don't need that plus lower taxes and everything else."
It's unclear how strongly Trump is against the provision. Naomi Jagoda explains: http://bit.ly/2jAoQIo.

But it didn't take long for Trump to change his mind: Trump said Tuesday that the border-adjustment provision in the House Republicans' tax plan would be discussed, after earlier criticizing the proposal.

"It's certainly something that's going to be discussed," Trump said in an interview with Axios published Wednesday.

Trump told Axios that border adjustments are "still on the plate" and that the Wall Street Journal article "didn't totally reflect [his views] accurately." http://bit.ly/2jyt9UW.

Consumer bureau sues nation's biggest student loan company: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is suing the nation's largest student loan company, charging it used "shortcuts and deception" to make borrowers pay more.

The regulator said Wednesday that Navient, formerly part of Sallie Mae, systematically worked to ensure millions of borrowers paid more than they needed to. Specifically, the CFPB said that the company regularly dragged its feet in helping clients successfully enroll in payment plans, giving them bad information and incorrectly processing payments.

"For years, Navient failed consumers who counted on the company to help give them a fair chance to pay back their student loans," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "At every stage of repayment, Navient chose to shortcut and deceive consumers to save on operating costs. Too many borrowers paid more for their loans because Navient illegally cheated them and today's action seeks to hold them accountable." Peter Schroeder has the details: http://bit.ly/2jArihY.

Trump: 'I haven't seen any of the facts' on AT&T-Time Warner merger: President-elect Donald Trump on Tuesday signaled a willingness to change his stance against the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, saying in an interview that he has not "seen any of the facts."

"I have been on the record in the past of saying it's too big and we have to keep competition," he told Axios. "So, but other than that, I haven't, you know, I haven't seen any of the facts, yet. I'm sure that will be presented to me and to the people within government."

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In a campaign speech in October, Trump said unequivocally that he would oppose the $85.4 billion deal because it would give more power to the mainstream media.

"As an example of the power structure I'm fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it's too much concentration of power in the hands of too few," he said, adding later, "Deals like this destroy democracy." http://bit.ly/2jArHRB.

Chinese President Xi warns against trade war: Chinese President Xi Jinping said Tuesday that there will be no winners in a trade war amid concerns over Donald Trump's threat to punish China with high tariffs.

Xi pushed back against the proliferation of protectionist measures and instead championed the importance of world trade for all nations against a backdrop of sweeping worries about globalization. 

"Whether you like it or not, the global economy is the big ocean that you cannot escape from," Xi said during remarks at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

"Any attempt to cut off the flow of capital, technologies, products, industries and people between economies, and channel the waters in the ocean back into isolated lakes and creeks is simply not possible," he said. Here's more from Vicki Needham: http://bit.ly/2jAv5Mh.

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Senators introduce dueling miners bills: Senators are rolling out two competing bills to help guarantee healthcare for miners and their families after lawmakers were only able to agree to a short-term patch late last year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBitter fight over Barrett fuels calls to nix filibuster, expand court Trump blasts Obama speech for Biden as 'fake' after Obama hits Trump's tax payments White House hoping for COVID-19 relief deal 'within weeks': spokeswoman MORE (R-Ky.) announced on Tuesday that he is filing legislation that would include a "permanent extension" for retired coal miners and their dependents.

The benefits are currently scheduled to expire at the end of April after senators include a four-month extension in last year's funding bill.

McConnell noted that his legislation also "calls on Congress to work with the incoming Trump Administration to repeal regulations that are harming the coal industry and to support economic development efforts in coal country."

But a separate bill, backed by a bipartisan group of senators, would address both healthcare for miners and their families as well as a separate pension fund that is heading toward insolvency. The Hill's Jordain Carney fills us in: http://bit.ly/2jAskKF.

NY gov: Eliminating state and local tax deduction would be 'devastating': New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) met with President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday to discuss several issues affecting his state, including the deduction for state and local taxes.

It would be "devastating on the state of New York, California, et cetera, if you didn't allow the people of this state to deduct their state and local taxes," Cuomo told reporters after the meeting.

The House Republican tax reform plan would eliminate the state and local tax deduction, and Trump's tax plan would cap itemized deductions for higher earners.

State and local governments have been working to preserve the deduction, and they argue that doing away with the preference would hurt states and localities' flexibility to make tax changes. Naomi Jagoda tells us about it here: http://bit.ly/2jAlh4L.

Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.comvneedham@thehill.compschroeder@thehill.com, and njagoda@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane,  @VickofTheHill@PeteSchroeder; and @NJagoda.