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Republicans Move Towards Unity On Budget

Senate Budget Committee advances budget in party-line vote. The Hill. “Before final approval, the panel accepted an amendment from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) that increases the Pentagon’s war funding account from $58 billion to $96 billion … The Senate vote suggests Republicans are unifying around the idea of providing the Pentagon with additional flexibility in its spending through the war funding account … The House and Senate are expected to hold floor votes on their separate budget resolutions by the end of next week. If they both pass each chamber, [Budget Chair Sen. Mike] Enzi has already said he hopes to reach a conference agreement by April 15.”

Boehner aims to sideline Tea Party on budget votes. Politico: “…Republican leaders intend to employ a parliamentary maneuver to boost defense spending by $20 billion without any corresponding spending cuts … [Then] will try to pass a permanent fix to the ‘Sustainable Growth Rate,’ a formula by which the federal government reimburses doctors who serve Medicare patients … If they’re able to clear the two measures, a battered leadership will go into the Easter recess with some pep in its step, as it tries to extend highway funding, begin work on annual appropriations bills and raise the debt ceiling.”

Republican budgets would transfer wealth upward, says NYT’s Paul Krugman: “Think about what these budgets would do if you ignore the mysterious trillions in unspecified spending cuts and revenue enhancements. What you’re left with is huge transfers of income from the poor and the working class, who would see severe benefit cuts, to the rich, who would see big tax cuts.”

McConnell Presses States To Resist Climate Regs

Sen. McConnell gives states guide to skirt EPA implementation of Clean Air Act to protect climate. NYT: “Since Mr. McConnell is limited in how he can use his role in the Senate to block regulations, he has taken the unusual step of reaching out to governors with a legal blueprint for them to follow to stop the rules in their states. Mr. McConnell’s Senate staff, led by his longtime senior energy adviser, Neil Chatterjee, is coordinating with lawyers and lobbying firms to try to ensure that the state plans are tangled up in legal delays.”

Obama to propose fracking regs, aims for middle ground. Politico: “The Interior Department’s rules — expected to be released as soon as Friday — are the federal government’s most comprehensive foray to date toward regulating the technology at the heart of the U.S. oil and gas boom, addressing worries such as potential dangers to drinking water. They will also offer oil and gas supporters new room to accuse President Barack Obama of seeking to throttle fossil-fuel production, despite his repeated boasts about the nation’s booming energy supplies. At the same time, the rules fall short of environmentalists’ biggest demands for oversight of fracking operations — let alone some groups’ calls for an all-out ban.”

Wages Are Key To Growth

Wages more critical than ever to economic recovery. Bloomberg: “Wages have become even more critical as households, still shaken after being caught with too much debt when the recession hit, remain unwilling or unable to tap home equity or let credit-card balances balloon to buy that new television or dishwasher. By not overextending themselves again, Americans are only spending as much as their incomes will allow, meaning that 70 percent of the economy is riding on how fast pay rises.”

Pension cutting trend leaves out police and firefighters. NYT: “…Gov. Bruce Rauner of Illinois has traveled the state promoting his proposal for more than $2 billion in cuts to pensions for public employees. All public employees, that is, except police officers and firefighters … [He] was following the lead of other Republican governors in the Midwest … While no one would dismiss the risks that police officers and firefighters face daily, they are not the only public employees whose work is dangerous. Statistically, at least, there are far more dangerous public sector jobs.”

Escalating rhetoric between House Dems and WH over TPP. The Hill: “[The U.S. Trade Representative] held a classified briefing this week for members … ‘It was a process of baffling them with bullshit rather than providing us with the truth,’ [Rep. Mark Pocan] said at a Thursday press conference … ‘The press conference today was part of an increasingly desperate set of attacks that hard-core trade opponents are trotting out because they’ve realized the facts are not on their side,’ the U.S. official told The Hill.”

Push For Gas Tax Hike

Credit rating agency backs gas tax hike for highway fund. McClatchy: “Other proposals to shore up the federalHighway Trust Fund – using one-time changes in corporate taxes or continuing to bail it out with general funds – are too subject to political whims, Fitch Ratings said.”

China winning support from other nations for its infrastructure bank. NYT: “…with Britain, France, Germany and Italy signing up to join the new bank, despite direct pleas from Washington to steer clear, the question is whether the Obama administration mishandled a significant challenge from China, and what it might have done differently …”

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