Overnight Finance: Trump digs in against China | Asks officials to consider $100B more in tariffs | Conservatives fear tariffs could kill tax-cut boost | Trump wants Dodd-Frank rollback done 'quickly' | House to vote on balanced budget amendment

Overnight Finance: Trump digs in against China | Asks officials to consider $100B more in tariffs | Conservatives fear tariffs could kill tax-cut boost | Trump wants Dodd-Frank rollback done 'quickly' | House to vote on balanced budget amendment
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Happy Thursday 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.


THE BIG DEAL: Trade remained the major focus of the financial world Thursday, as U.S. and Canadian leaders sought to ease rising tensions over President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE's tariffs and efforts to revamp NAFTA.

Trump on Thursday again criticized China, even as his own administration is trying to calm fears over a possible trade war between the world's two largest economies.


Trump took to Twitter to criticize news reports about China's retaliation against proposed U.S. tariffs on a variety of Chinese goods.

"The Fake News Washington Post, Amazon's 'chief lobbyist,' has another (of many) phony headlines, 'Trump Defiant As China Adds Trade Penalties.' WRONG!" the president tweeted.

"Should read, 'Trump Defiant as U.S. Adds Trade Penalties, Will End Barriers And Massive I.P. Theft.' Typically bad reporting!"


More tariffs? On Thursday evening, Trump ordered officials to consider slapping $100 billion in additional tariffs. "In light of China's unfair retaliation, I have instructed the USTR [U.S. Trade Representative] to consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate under section 301 and, if so, to identify the products upon which to impose such tariffs," Trump said in a statement.


On the other hand: During the day, White House aides sought to ease concerns over tariffs announced by the U.S. and China, playing down the potential economic harms.

Minutes before Trump's tweet, his new economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, tried to soothe those fears. 

"Technically, both countries have just proposed tariffs. Nothing's been enacted," he told reporters at the White House. "I think that's an important point. Nothing around the corner. There's going to be a big discussion about it."

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro also tried to quell rising concerns among U.S. farmers by vowing that the Trump administration will protect them from harm in the global tariffs fight.

Big Ag worries: U.S. agriculture has expressed increasing frustration about President Trump's trade policies and is urging him to avoid slapping sweeping tariffs on Chinese exports over fears that Beijing would retaliate against their products.

"We will do everything that we can to help them," Navarro said on CNBC about farmers. 

"It's unfortunate rather than China simply negotiating these things that they do fairly that they're basically responding to our legitimate defense with a tax on American farmers," he said.

China targeted major U.S. agricultural exports with tariffs among the hundreds of other products targets, stoking fears among American farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny PerdueGeorge (Sonny) Ervin PerduePlan to lift roadless rule in Alaska's Tongass national forest threatens economy House Democrat asks USDA to halt payouts to Brazilian meatpacker under federal probe From state agriculture departments to Congress: Our farmers need the USMCA MORE, who has expressed support for the tariffs, said the president asked him to assure farmers that the "we're not going to allow them to be the casualties if this trade dispute escalates."

After China announced its proposed U.S. soybean tariff, the American Soybean Association (ASA) again expressed its "extreme frustration" about the escalation of a trade war with the largest customer of U.S. soybeans.


The polls: A large majority of Americans believe the U.S. should take steps to close its trade deficit with China, but disapprove of President Trump's proposed tariffs and there are fears that a trade war could damage the economy.

According to the latest Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, 71 percent of voters say the U.S. should take steps to address a $375 billion trade imbalance with China. But 52 percent disapprove of the administration's proposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, including those from China, and 43 percent said they believe Trump's proposed tariffs will result in job losses.


Fallout for tax cuts?: Conservatives are also worried a trade war with China could wipe out the positive economic benefits of the tax-cut law and cost Republicans their majorities in Congress.

"What Republicans and President Trump did in December was create this enormous, pro-growth tailwind going into this November's elections, and I think that they've needlessly created this headwind that could erase all of those gains," said Andy Roth, vice president of government affairs at the conservative Club for Growth.

"This is a huge unforced error," he added.


The trading partners next door: On a more optimistic note, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that there is a "high chance" that the U.S, Mexico and Canada will reach a deal on a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

"We have a high chance of reaching a win-win-win deal for Canada, the United States and Mexico," Trudeau said, according to Agence France-Presse. 

He said that with upcoming elections in the U.S. and Canada later this year, he hoped to announce a deal on NAFTA at the Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru, later this month.

On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that President Trump also hopes to have a preliminary deal ready to announce during the April 13 summit.



  • "There are no winners in a trade war, only casualties." -- Texas farmer Wesley Spurlock, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA)
  • "None of the proposed tariffs are in place yet. The president is the best negotiator on the planet." -- White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley.



Trump says Dodd-Frank rollback coming soon: Trump on Thursday said bipartisan efforts to loosen strict banking rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis "should be done fairly quickly."
Trump said during a West Virginia event on tax policy that his administration is pushing to ease lending restrictions imposed by the Dodd-Frank Act. He appeared to refer to a bipartisan Senate bill to rollback Dodd-Frank that passed in March, but that House Republicans have refused to clear without further changes.

"It should be done fairly quickly," Trump said, addressing a banker participating in the event. "We're actually getting -- you won't believe this -- bipartisan support."

Trump went on to attack Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinNo one wins with pro-abortion litmus test Senate confirms Brouillette to replace Perry as Energy secretary Political purity tests are for losers MORE (D-W.Va.), who was an original co-sponsor of the bill the president appeared to tout.

"Does anybody believe that?" Trump said, referring to the bipartisan support for the Dodd-Frank rollback. "Maybe Joe won't, but most people." I'll walk you through Trump's comments right here.


House tees up vote on balanced budget amendment: The House is slated to vote next week on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution after lawmakers return from their Easter recess.

The measure would require Congress not to spend more than it brings in. The amendment, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.), would require a "true majority" in both the House and Senate to pass tax increases and a three-fifths majority in both chambers to increase the debt limit.

Bottom line: While conservatives support the measure, it has little chance of getting through the Senate.

Why a vote then? Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDuncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden Trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see, and hardly a voice of caution to be heard MORE agreed to give conservatives a vote on the amendment in exchange for their support to help advance tax reform.


"That's just not how it works." Democrats are lashing out at the notion that President Trump and GOP leaders may seek to eliminate some of the funding increases in the enormous 2018 spending package adopted less than two weeks ago. 

Republicans have come under fire in their districts during the spring recess after supporting the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill, which provides a huge bump in both defense and domestic spending, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to federal deficits. In response, Trump and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyWhite House calls Democratic witness's mentioning of president's youngest son 'classless' Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Nunes accuses Democrats of promoting 'conspiracy theories' MORE (R-Calif.) are reportedly in talks to tap an obscure provision of a decades-old budget law to prune some of the spending increases from the package.

Democrats, who supported the omnibus only after receiving funds for their domestic priorities, said any GOP effort to make after-the-fact changes would be a major betrayal.

"It would completely poison the well to the idea that there can be responsible bipartisan compromise," said Matthew Dennis, a spokesman for Rep. Nita LoweyNita Sue LoweyCongress braces for chaotic December Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Lawmakers bypass embattled Mulvaney in spending talks MORE (N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. The Hill's Mike Lillis reports.


Key House committee sets hearing on Trump tariffs: The House Ways and Means Committee announced on Thursday that it will hold a hearing on the economic effects of President Trump's tariffs on a wide range of imports.

Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm MORE (R-Texas) said on April 12 his panel will delve into the how the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports and duties aimed at hundreds of Chinese products will affect U.S. businesses and consumers.

"In enforcing our trade laws, we should always take a targeted approach to address unfair practices while avoiding harm to U.S. workers and job creators," Brady said in a statement. The Hill's Vicki Needham tells us what to expect here.


Small businesses struggle to find skilled workers: Hiring at small businesses in March dropped to its lowest level in years amid a tightening labor market that is making it harder to find qualified employees. 

Paychex, a human resources firm, released a report that found hiring at small businesses fell to its lowest point in March in more than seven years.

Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO, told CNBC that the top problem for smaller businesses is "finding and recruiting the best workers that are qualified for the job."

"So small businesses have a little tougher time than large businesses when the unemployment rate is where its been, at 4.1 percent for five months now, at such a low rate," Mucci said. 

He said small businesses don't have the recruiting strength and resources of larger firms to find the workers they need as the labor pool shrinks. Vicki Needham and Rebecca Savransky have more here. 


Mulvaney hits back at Warren: Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyFox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats The key impeachment hearings are before an appeals court, not the House Judiciary panel Schiff says investigators seeking to identify who Giuliani spoke to on unlisted '-1' number MORE, the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), is firing back at Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenGabbard moves to New Hampshire ahead of primary LGBTQ advocates slam Buttigieg for past history with Salvation Army Saagar Enjeti unpacks why Kamala Harris's campaign didn't work MORE (D-Mass.) after she questioned his actions and leadership of the bureau.

Mulvaney told Warren in a letter the CFPB made public Thursday that he has a different take on what is actually happening at the bureau and suggested that her frustrations are a consequence of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, which she spearheaded.

Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman who is also the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said he too was frustrated with what he perceived to be a lack of responsiveness, transparency and accountability at the bureau when he was a member of Congress and sat on the House Financial Services Committee.

"I encourage you to consider the possibility that the frustration you are experiencing now, and that which I had a few years ago, are both inevitable consequences of the fact that the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act insulates the Bureau from virtually any accountability to the American people through their elected representatives," he wrote.

The Hill's Lydia Wheeler dives into the messy battle here.


MARKET CHECK: Steady. Stocks enjoyed another day of notable gains as markets took a breath amid trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 240 points, just shy of a 1 percent gain, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 index rose 0.5 percent and 0.7 percent each.



  • Some clients of the Wells Fargo's wealth-management division were steered into investments that maximized revenue for the bank and compensation for its employees, according to Bloomberg.
  • The National Taxpayers Union Foundation (NTUF) is arguing in a new paper that stock buybacks benefit workers and the economy, pushing back on criticisms from Democrats.
  • Democrats are lashing out at the notion that President Trump and GOP leaders may seek to eliminate some of the funding increases in the enormous 2018 spending package adopted less than two weeks ago. 



  • President Trump on Thursday broke his silence on Stormy Daniels, saying he had no knowledge of a $130,000 payment his personal attorney made to the porn star days before the 2016 election.
  • CNBC has a map of the big-box stores closing in 2018.
    Mick Mulvaney wrote an op-ed to downplay what's expected to be an underwhelming first quarter growth report.