Overnight Finance

On The Money — Congress eyes powerful cartels driving prices higher

Members of Congress in both parties aren’t happy about forces beyond their control pushing inflation higher. Today we’ll also look at progress toward government funding and why fireworks are so much more expensive this year.

But first, see why NASA is investigating a mystery rocket that crashed into the moon.  

Welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan LaneAris Folley and Karl Evers-HillstromSubscribe here.

Lawmakers fear growing power of cartel-like blocs

Powerful industrial blocs or cartels are increasingly drawing the attention — and in some cases, the ire — of lawmakers who blame them in part for rising inflation. 

  • With sputtering supply chains driving inflation to 40-year highs, market forces of all sorts are coming under the scrutiny of both legislators and regulators.
  • A recurring theme is the power held by a few big companies in many different industries. 

Democrats tend to be the party more focused on market concentration in a handful of industries, but Republicans also are increasingly sounding alarms as inflation becomes the number one issue for voters. 

  • As an example of the rising interest, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act breezed through Congress earlier this month with bipartisan support.
  • The new law jacks up regulations on major container shipping companies, empowering the Federal Maritime Commission to crack down on the late fees charged by ocean carriers when they can’t offload their cargo in time. 

The World Shipping Council trade association, which represents foreign shipping behemoths like Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, blasted the bill, saying it is “appalled by the continued mischaracterization of the industry by U.S. government representatives,” adding that congestion at ports will continue “until the import congestion is remedied.”

The Hill’s Tobias Burns breaks it down here


💰 HOUSE FINISHES SPENDING BILLS 

House negotiators have advanced spending bills worth more than $1 trillion for the coming fiscal year as the chamber’s leadership seeks to put a bow on its messy appropriations work.

  • The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved two fiscal 2023 funding bills that cover the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), Education, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  • They were the final two of 12 annual government funding bills to pass out of the committee this year and their passage capped off weeks of partisan battles over how the government should be funded. 

But Thursday wasn’t without fireworks. A large chunk of the committee’s markup of the bill to fund the departments of Labor, HHS and Education was devoted to debate over abortion-related amendments. 

Aris takes us there.

✈️ CANCEL CULTURE

More than 300 flights have been canceled nationwide as of early Friday afternoon as the U.S. enters one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

  • An additional 3,000 flights have been delayed on Friday as airlines continue to struggle to have enough staffing to meet demand, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware.
  • Thousands of cancellations and delays are expected throughout the Fourth of July weekend, with demand for air travel currently at its highest level since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  

A pilot shortage has forced airlines to cancel and delay flights recently, and millions of seats have been made unavailable as a result. Airlines have placed blame on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for being short-staffed and lacking a staffing plan for the summer when demand for travel increases. 

The Hill’s Jared Gans has more here.

🧨 EXPLOSIVE INFLATION

Americans looking to celebrate July 4th with some fireworks could be facing some rough sticker shock.

Supply chain issues and rising shipping and labor costs have led to inflation rates not seen in decades, and the fireworks industry is feeling it as well. 

  • The trade group the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) released a report earlier this year stating that overall costs are up more than 35 percent, which could pose a challenge for sellers.
  • “Unfortunately, we had to pass some of the price increases on to the public,” Bruce Zoldan, head of the distributor Phantom Fireworks, told USA Today. “I would say from 2019 till ’22, [costs] have at least doubled.” 

Good to Know

A group of 15 Black current and former employees of tech giant Tesla sued the company on Thursday over accusations of racial abuse

Plaintiffs claimed that they were harassed based on their race, with colleagues and managers using the N-word and other racially charged terms, including “slavery” and “plantation,” in daily interactions, according to Reuters. 

Here’s what else have our eye on: 

  • The Republican National Committee (RNC) released a Spanish-language ad in four states Friday, targeting vulnerable Senate Democrats on the economy.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to dramatically limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions of power plants puts new pressure on Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to strike a climate deal with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you next week. 

VIEW THE FULL EDITION HERE

Tags airlines cartels fireworks flight cancellations flight delays inflation shipping costs supply chain Tesla
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