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Highway Bill Advances, But Not In The Clear

Senate breaks filibuster to consider transportation bill. Roll Call: “…the minority splintered … with Minority Leader Harry Reid; his heir apparent, Charles E. Schumer of New York and No. 4 Democrat Patty Murray of Washington voting to filibuster the bill and the No. 2 Democrat, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, voting to advance it to the floor. The final tally was 62-36…”

Resistance remains over funding provisions. HuffPost: “The money is compiled from 16 different provisions that include unspent funds from a Treasury Department program aimed at helping homeowners, as well as cuts in Social Security benefits to ‘fugitive felons.’ The largest chunk — $16.3 billion — comes from a reduction in a Federal Reserve bank subsidy. Those offsets have raised some eyebrows among a sizable number of Senate Democratic caucus members, and ire from House Democrats and a handful of Republicans…”

Social Security provision riles Dems. HuffPost: “… the measure cuts off benefits to people who are ‘subjects of a felony arrest warrant and for whom the state has given notice that they intend to pursue the warrant.’ … it would allow the commissioner of Social Security to continue payments to people with felony warrants as long as there’s ‘good cause.’ [Sen. Barbara] Boxer said Tuesday that the provision had been ‘cut back to protect the vulnerable people so I feel good about it.’ But the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities said in a statement that it hasn’t been cut back enough, since ‘the estimated savings of $2.3 billion over 10 years makes it clear that the proposal means cutting off all Social Security and SSI benefits for hundreds of thousands of Americans.'”

Republicans flip on tapping oil reserves for revenue. Politico: “…with fracking ushering in a new domestic oil boom that has lifted the U.S. production to its highest level since the 1980s, it is easier for many Republicans to justify selling off some of the SPR.”

Bernie For $15

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduces $15 minimum wage bill, reports OurFuture.org’s Emily Foster: “The bill, titled ‘Pay Workers a Living Wage Act’ would in steps move to a $15 minimum wage by 2020, starting from $9 in 2016. In addition, it places provisions for the minimum wage to be “indexed to the median hourly wage” after 2020. The unfair tipped minimum wage of $2.13 will also be eliminated gradually … ‘when low-wage workers get a raise they spend their money in local businesses and that creates more jobs, not less,’ explained Sen. Sanders.”

While Biden pushes $12. Bloomberg quotes: “I’m not a redistributive guy. But the fact of the matter is, when you concentrate all of the wealth in one place, people don’t have the money to buy the widgets that you make.”

“Hillary Clinton will give her next economic speech, on incentivizing long-termism over ‘quarterly capitalism,’ Friday at 1:30” tweets Bloomberg’s Jennifer Epstein.

Politico digs in to Jeb Bush’s record on ethics: “…Jeb Bush accused President Barack Obama of waiting too long to remove tainted appointees… But Bush’s eight-year record shows he often stood by appointees who were mired in scandal or mismanagement until long after damaging revelations emerged, and in only three reported instances clearly fired agency heads — including one in the wake of a sexual harassment allegation and another who was implicated in a kickback scheme.”

Breakfast Sides

New Social Security trustees report bolsters case program is structurally sound, says LAT’s Michael Hiltzik: “…they declared that the program’s fiscal health has improved over the last year, for predictable reasons: The economy is improving, and workers’ wages are rising. The trustees moved the projected exhaustion date for the combined trust funds of the program’s old-age and disability segments one year further out, to 2034 … no comprehensive change to Social Security is necessary. What’s needed is for the economy to keep improving, and for a higher share of profits to show up in working Americans’ paychecks.”

“Small Exporters Back Obama on Export-Import Bank” reports NYT: “While opponents contend that most of the bank’s money benefits corporate giants like Boeing, General Electric and Caterpillar, the small-business owners invited to the White House underscored supporters’ counterargument that most of the bank’s beneficiaries are smaller companies. Mr. Obama’s guests included the owners of Love & Quiches Gourmet in New York, Ferra Coffee in Texas and Bob’s Red Mill in Oregon.”

New immigration law enforcement strategy will allow most undocumented immigrants to stay. NYT: “…the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants — up to 87 percent — would not be the focus of deportation operations and would have ‘a degree of protection’ to remain in the United States … [The other] 13 percent … have criminal records or recently crossed the border illegally, making them priorities for deportation under guidelines the administration announced in November and put into effect July 1.”

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