Overnight Finance: Trump promises farmers 'better deal' on NAFTA | Clock ticks to shutdown deadline | Dems worry Trump pressuring IRS on withholdings | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm

Overnight Finance: Trump promises farmers 'better deal' on NAFTA | Clock ticks to shutdown deadline | Dems worry Trump pressuring IRS on withholdings | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm
© Getty

Trump promises farmers a 'better deal' on NAFTA: President TrumpDonald John TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' MORE on Monday promised he would get a "better deal" from Canada and Mexico in talks to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

"I am working very hard to get a better deal for our country, for our farmers and our manufacturers," Trump said during a speech to the American Farm Bureau's annual convention in Nashville.  

The president said "it's not the easiest negotiation" because the country's North American neighbors are "making all of that money," but pledged he will "make it fair to you people again." 


Trump tempered his fiery rhetoric on trade in front of the group of farmers and agribusiness leaders, who largely support free-trade agreements like NAFTA. 

But his vague remarks will likely do little to reassure them about his past promise to "rip up" NAFTA and other pacts if they can't be renegotiated. 

Farmers and Republican lawmakers from agricultural states have lobbied the president in recent months to keep the deal. The Hill's Jordan Fabian reports: http://bit.ly/2AGsJAb.


Clock ticks toward shutdown deadline: Lawmakers return to Washington on Monday with just 11 days left until the next deadline to avoid a government shutdown.

Fights over immigration and figuring out top-line budget levels are dogging bipartisan negotiators seeking an agreement by the end of next week.

Democrats' demand to increase defense and nondefense spending equally has also emerged as a key sticking point in the talks.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTop Federal Reserve official: Further coronavirus stimulus bill may not be needed How governments around the world are passing laws amid the coronavirus crisis Stephen Moore: We're facing another 'Great Depression' MORE (R-Ky.) said he was "optimistic" lawmakers could reach a two-year deal to increase the budget caps, but it would require Democrats to send aside their demand for parity.

"Any agreement must provide our armed forces with the resources they need to fulfill their missions. That means setting aside the misguided notion that new defense spending needs to be matched dollar for dollar by new nondefense spending," he said.

Republicans argue that years of spending cuts have hollowed out the military, leaving it inadequately equipped to respond to a myriad of international challenges.

But Democrats have shown no signs of backing down from the requirement that domestic and military spending be increased equally. The Hill's Jordain Carney and Cristina Marcos get you up to speed: http://bit.ly/2AH78YB.


Breaking news: Frontrunner to chair House Financial Services panel announces retirement: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed RoyceEdward (Ed) Randall RoyceGil Cisneros to face Young Kim in rematch of 2018 House race in California The most expensive congressional races of the last decade Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia MORE (R-Calif.) announced Monday that he will retire at the end of this year.

Royce is now the eighth House panel chairman to opt against seeking reelection in 2018. 

He would have potentially faced a tough path to reelection given that his district has become more competitive. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDoes Joe Biden really want to be president? Trump team picks fight with Twitter, TV networks over political speech Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden MORE won it by around 9 points in 2016 even as Royce, who has served in the House since 1993, won reelection by 14 points.

Royce, a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee, was seen as a frontrunner to inherit the panel's gavel from Chairman Jeb HensarlingThomas (Jeb) Jeb HensarlingLawmakers battle over future of Ex-Im Bank House passes Ex-Im Bank reboot bill opposed by White House, McConnell Has Congress lost the ability or the will to pass a unanimous bipartisan small business bill? MORE (R-Texas), who is also retiring.

Without the Financial Services chairmanship, Royce have had to return to the House as a rank-and-file member and relinquish his Foreign Affairs gavel due to the GOP's rules limiting chairmen to three consecutive terms. The Hill's Cristina Marcos has more: http://bit.ly/2AHJ5bT.


Warren blasts Mulvaney for 'unjustified' actions at consumer bureau: Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Mass.) accused the acting director of the consumer bureau of using concerns about cybersecurity to sabotage the agency's oversight of the financial sector.

Warren, in a letter released Monday, said acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyOne year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Meadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows resigns from Congress, heads to White House MORE had been "hobbling the agency" by suspending data collection.

"I fear that the freeze in data collection has in practice fundamentally changed how the CFPB interacts with its regulated entities," wrote Warren to Mulvaney, also the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and deputy director Leandra English on Jan. 4. I explain here: http://bit.ly/2AHYOaR.


Happy Monday and welcome back to Overnight Finance. I'm Sylvan Lane, and here's your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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 Banking Committee: Hearing on fighting money laundering and illicit finance, 10 a.m. http://bit.ly/2CxMxrl.
  • House Financial Services Committee: Hearing on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. "Evaluating CFIUS: Challenges Posed by a Changing Global Economy," 10 a.m. http://bit.ly/2CxBcHW.
  • House Financial Services Committee: Hearing on "Legislative Proposals for a More Efficient Federal Financial Regulatory Regime: Part III," 2 p.m. http://bit.ly/2Cw04zI.


A look ahead: Lawmakers face a tight window to advance major legislation before election season kicks in and they head for the campaign trail. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has expressed interest in holding a vote on a bipartisan bill to rollback the Dodd-Frank Act.

Last month, the Senate Banking Committee approved the bill offered by Chairman Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoLobbying blitz yields wins for airlines, corporations, banks, unions Stimulus empowers Treasury to rescue airlines with billion in direct assistance White House, Senate reach deal on trillion stimulus package MORE (R-Idaho), by a 16-7 vote. Nearly a dozen Democrats have sponsored the legislation.

The Crapo bill seems likely to pass the Senate without issue, but House conservatives have already expressed opposition to the compromise.

The bill would exempt small and mid-size banks from the most stringent parts of Dodd-Frank and scale back federal oversight of the financial system as a whole. But it contains no efforts to rein in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which would have poisoned the effort for Democrats.

The bill's lack of restraints on the CFPB has already cost it support in the House. Several GOP members of the House Financial Services Committee told The Hill that they couldn't support a bill that doesn't touch the bureau, long loathed by Republicans and the finance industry: http://bit.ly/2AGh0lj.


Perdue calls on Canada to fully engage in NAFTA talks: Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerdueUN warns of global food shortage caused by coronavirus measures: report USDA closes office wing due to coronavirus but faces concerns on telework Federal judge cites coronavirus in decision blocking Trump admin cut to food stamps MORE on Monday urged Canada to more fully engage in the push to complete an update of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Perdue, who called the upgrade of NAFTA a top priority for the Trump administration, specifically asked Canada to step up and "get in the game" to modernize the 24-year-old three-nation agreement, during remarks to the American Farm Bureau Federation's annual convention in Nashville, Tenn. 

"All sides have to roll up their sleeves and get to work," Perdue said.

He asked convention attendees to talk to Canada's Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay "to get our partner to the north to get the deal done for them and for you."

The remarks closely echo those of U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House MORE, who said in the fall that he was "surprised and disappointed" by the resistance of Mexico and Canada to updating NAFTA.

Both nations have complained that many of the U.S. proposals put forth early in the talks were non-starters. The Hill's Vicki Needham explains: http://bit.ly/2AGjG2l.


Blue-state officials plot response to GOP tax law: Elected officials in high-tax Democratic-leaning states are looking at creative ways to prevent the new tax law from raising their residents' bills.

The new law, which passed in December with only Republican votes, caps the state and local tax (SALT) deduction at $10,000. GOP lawmakers said they hoped that would motivate high-tax states such as New York, New Jersey and California to curb their own taxes and spending.

But politicians in blue states view the tax law as an attack on them, and are pushing back. 

"We sort of have two choices. One choice is to step back and let this happen to us. Or the other is to get into the arena and fight like heck," New Jersey Gov.-elect Phil Murphy (D) said at a news conference Friday. "And this is New Jersey after all."

The tax law is just one of the ways Republicans have taken aim at Democratic-leaning cities and states in recent months. The Hill's Naomi Jagoda has more: http://bit.ly/2AGMYxV.


Dems concerned Trump officials may pressure IRS on withholdings: The top Democrats on Congress's tax-writing committees are concerned the Trump administration may pressure the IRS to produce withholding tables that would benefit Republicans politically but ultimately cause people to owe taxes next year.

In a letter to acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter on Monday, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats ask EPA, Interior to pause rulemaking amid coronavirus Democrats say more unemployment benefits needed in wake of record unemployment claims Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealDemocrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people One year in, Democrats frustrated by fight for Trump tax returns Pelosi forms House committee to oversee coronavirus response MORE (D-Mass.) said they are worried that the Treasury Department "may unduly influence the new withholding tables for the 2018 tax year in a manner that will result in millions of taxpayers receiving larger after-tax paychecks this election year but ultimately owing federal income tax when they file in 2019."

The IRS is expected to release guidance this month on tax withholdings from employee's paychecks that reflect the new tax law President Trump signed last month: http://bit.ly/2AH7bn5.


SEC halts trading of Chinese blockchain company: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday halted trading in shares of a Chinese blockchain technology company.

The SEC froze the purchase and sale of shares of UBI Blockchain Internet, a Chinese company that advertises blockchain programs and services. Blockchain is the distributed ledger system that serves as the foundation for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

The SEC said it froze trading of UBI shares because of potentially inaccurate information the company filed in its disclosures to the agency and "recent, unusual and unexplained market activity" around UBI stock since November.

The trading suspension spans from 9:30 a.m. on Monday through 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 22.

Founded in 2010 as JA Energy, the company changed its name to reflect its blockchain operations in November 2016. UBI was one of several companies involved or allegedly involved in blockchain or cryptocurrency technology that investors flooded with cash last year: http://bit.ly/2AH3QnS.


Trump: Hopefully Cohn will stay in admin for 'a long time' President Trump said Saturday that he hopes top White House economic adviser Gary CohnGary David CohnEx-Trump adviser Gary Cohn says economy could be reopened on 'incremental' basis Sunday shows preview: State governors and top medical officials prepare for next week of COVID-19 response On The Money: Trump says economy 'may be' sliding into recession | Dow suffers second-worst day in history | Coronavirus package hits roadblocks | Fed unleashes arsenal amid pandemic MORE will stay in his administration for "a long time."

"I hope so," Trump said during a press conference at Camp David, when asked if Cohn would stay on.

"Where is Gary?" Trump continued, turning toward Vice President Pence and top congressional Republicans standing by his side at the presidential retreat.

Cohn, who was in the audience, said he did not hear the question. Trump invited Cohn to the lectern, saying his chief economic adviser was pleased with the passage of the GOP tax bill last month.

"Now, if he leaves, I'm going to say: 'I'm very happy that he left.' OK? All right?" Trump continued, to laughs. "Come here, Gary." http://bit.ly/2AHiHPp.


SEC investigating Kushner business over use of visa program: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched an investigation into White House senior adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerCNN's Jake Tapper takes aim at Trump over coronavirus response: Do you have a plan? Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report Decentralized leadership raises questions about Trump coronavirus response MORE's family's real estate company regarding its use of a visa program, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The SEC is probing Kushner Companies over its use of the EB-5 program, which provides green cards to immigrants who invest at least $500,000 in certain U.S. businesses.

The commission subpoenaed the business for information about how it used the program in May, according to the Journal.
The commission is working with a similar probe out of the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office, which has been investigating Kushner Companies projects that were partially financed through the visa program.

Spokespeople for the SEC and the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment to the Journal. http://bit.ly/2AGplp2.


In case you missed it over the weekend:


Op-eds from The Hill's Contributors: