Overnight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax

Overnight Finance: NAFTA defenders dig in | Tech pushes Treasury to fight EU on taxes | AT&T faces setback in merger trial | Dems make new case against Trump tax law | Trump fuels fight over gas tax
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Happy Monday and welcome back to Overnight Finance, where we're soaking up the sun before the mosquitos get wise to the warm spell in D.C. 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.


THE BIG DEAL: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has never been more popular on Capitol Hill. As Trump threatens to withdraw from NAFTA and as his team works for more favorable conditions, lawmakers aligned with the president on most issues are speaking out in support of the deal.

Pro-trade Republicans, many representing agricultural exporters, say NAFTA is critical to the economic health of their states. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchNY's political prosecution of Manafort should scare us all Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders The FDA crackdown on dietary supplements is inadequate MORE (R-Utah), whose committee oversees trade, said lawmakers had "underscored that preserving NAFTA is vital for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on trade in North America, and that weakening the agreement would jeopardize American economic growth."

Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have ramped up their efforts to rally lawmakers against withdrawing from NAFTA.

John Murphy, senior vice president for international policy at the Chamber, said he was surprised during last week's NAFTA lobbying blitz on Capitol Hill at how much lawmakers have ratcheted up their engagement in the past few months.

"It has been a sea change since last October," Murphy said.

Murphy said that the consensus on Capitol Hill is to update the deal and avoid so-called poison pills that could doom the pact.

"They are strongly supportive of modernizing the agreement and lawmakers are pushing back against unconventional approaches that would reduce trade and push production offshore," Murphy said. The Hill's Vicki Needham breaks it all down: http://bit.ly/2FiZEyX.


So what? Trade policy is one of the areas where Trump splits the most from GOP lawmakers. Republicans helped former President Obama in 2015 approve a fast-track process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, while many Democrats opposed that deal.

Analysts say withdrawing from NAFTA could devastate U.S. agriculture while raising food and retail prices. While a full withdrawal from NAFTA seems less likely now than it was months ago, few things are certain under Trump. The president could seriously risk his standing with key congressional allies if he pulls the U.S. out.

What comes next: The seventh round of NAFTA talks are slated to begin Feb. 25 and run through March 5 in Mexico City.



Tech vs. taxes: Top technology trade associations are pushing the Trump administration to fight back against an expected European Union tax proposal.

Lobbying groups for major firms like Google, Amazon and Apple say the companies are worried by the expected release in the next two months of European Commission recommendations calling for taxes on unsold goods or digital advertising revenue. The Hill's Ali Breland tells us what they're saying: http://bit.ly/2GvDiJG.


AT&T strikes out: A federal judge overseeing the Justice Department's lawsuit against the AT&T–Time Warner merger rejected AT&T's request for records of communications between the agency and the White House.

AT&T had been preparing to argue in the upcoming trial that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE's animus toward CNN, a Time Warner subsidiary, had influenced prosecutors' decision to bring a case against the $85 billion deal. 

The order is a major win for the Justice Department, which had called the argument a "sideshow," and a setback for AT&T, which had attempted to use Trump's attacks on CNN to its advantage.

The Hill's Harper Neidig tells us why: http://bit.ly/2Gvv04P.


Gassed up: Voters are split on whether the federal gas tax should be increased to pay for infrastructure improvements, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Forty-six percent of respondents said that raising the tax would is a good idea, while 44 percent said it's a bad idea. The 2-percentage point difference falls within the survey's 3.4-percentage-point margin of error.

The survey comes after President Trump backed an increase in the gas tax during a meeting with lawmakers last week on infrastructure proposals.

Business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it's long past time to update the gas tax, which hasn't been raised in almost two decades. But conservatives are coming out against the tax hike, insisting it would hurt lower-income Americans the most.

Conservative push back... An analysis from two groups tied to Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch released Tuesday finds that nine out of the top ten states that would be affected the most by a proposal to raise the tax on gasoline by 25 cents supported Trump.


MARKET CHECK: Sluggish. The Dow Jones industrial average closed 1 percent lower today after Walmart's worst trading day in decades tanked the index. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 faired better, with 0.1 and 0.6 percent losses respectively.



  • The special relationship takes on fintech: Two top U.S. and British trading watchdogs have agreed to join forces on efforts to help financial technology companies navigate regulations. The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the United Kingdom's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on Monday released a cooperation agreement outlining how officials will share information, help businesses in one country operate in the other, and trade notes on best practices and changes in strategy: http://bit.ly/2GvxRe3.
  • Dems tell Equifax to do better: Every Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee signed a letter to Equifax on Tuesday asking that it give consumers who were exposed by the breach free credit monitoring and identity theft protections for at least three years. Equifax is currently offering the free service for one year: http://bit.ly/2GvykNl.
  • Buyback mountain: The Hill's Naomi Jagoda tells us how Democrats are emphasizing companies' stock buybacks to help make their case against the GOP tax law ahead of the midterm elections. Republicans, though, say those arguments just won't work with voters. More on the fight here: http://bit.ly/2Gxyaoj.
  • Buried bonds: The Street explains how tomorrow's Treasury Department bond auction could pose the next big test to Trump's economic policy: http://bit.ly/2Gsabaj.
  • Powell's pals: The Wall Street Journal tells us about Fed Chairman Jay Powell's two new advisers: http://on.wsj.com/2GxiHVE.



  • WaPo and Kaiser Health News take us inside the shady world of hospitals' health care financing agreements with patients