Business & Economy

Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico pressure builds; Big tariff vote Wednesday

NO RELIEF IN SIGHT FOR PUERTO RICO: House Republicans are officially ruling out passing legislation to help Puerto Rico before the island defaults on a May 1 payment.

“I don’t see how we reach that,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday in a meeting with reporters.

{mosads}Lawmakers are struggling to craft a bill with enough support to help the debt-laden U.S. territory. And time is running short, with a $422 million payment due May 1.

But McCarthy would not even go so far as to predict that Congress could address the problem before a much larger payment comes due on July 1. On that date, the island is slated to pay creditors roughly $2 billion. The Hill’s Peter Schroder explains what’s at stake and what’s taking so long:

MCCONNELL: HOUSE MUST MAKE FIRST MOVE: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that the upper chamber will wait for the House to pass legislation on Puerto Rico’s growing debt crisis as lawmakers struggle to reach a deal.  

“We’re going to let the House go first on Puerto Rico. We know it needs to be dealt with, and we’re in discussions with them about what ought to be done,” he told reporters.

Senators in both parties have rolled out legislation aimed at tackling Puerto Rico’s financial crisis, but they remain deeply divided over giving the island access to bankruptcy courts:

RYAN: WE’RE WORKING ON IT: Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Tuesday responded to criticism from “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda about a Puerto Rico relief bill, insisting that Congress is focused on relief for the island.

Ryan told “CBS This Morning” he was shocked to see Miranda address him directly on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday. The Speaker said he was settling in to watch HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

“I turned it on like 10 minutes early and that was on — that guy came on the stage and started throwing my name around. That was very surreal,” he said:

LEW: ‘THE CRISIS IS NOW’: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Congress is running out of time to act on Puerto Rico.

“The crisis is now,” he said in a recent interview with Univision. “There is an urgent need for Congress to act because the alternative to congressional action … is chaos for 3.5 million Americans who call Puerto Rico home. That’s not acceptable.”

But while Lew is urging Congress to step on the gas, he also made clear that the administration is not ready to sign off on a bill that is currently being crafted by House Republicans.

Lawmakers are still huddling privately to try and come up with a bill that can garner enough support from both parties. Lew said the administration is trying to play a helpful role but aired concerns with an earlier draft version of the bill:

SENATE VOTES TO INCREASE WIND ENERGY FUNDING: The Senate passed an amendment Tuesday that would keep funding for wind energy research and development at its current level and restore a cut that appropriators had put into their bill.

The amendment, from Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), would provide $95.4 million for the Department of Energy’s wind program, up from the $80 million in the bill proposed by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

Alexander, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees energy and water spending bill, is a frequent critic of wind energy, which he says gets too much government assistance and should compete on its own.

The Hill’s Timothy Cama tells us more:

SCHUMER OPEN TO INTERNATIONAL TAX REFORM THIS YEAR: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Tuesday said he is interested in working with other lawmakers to see if an agreement on international tax reform can be reached as soon as this year.

“I’m game to do it because I think it’s really important for American competitiveness,” he said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on business tax reform.

Schumer, who is expected to become Senate Democratic leader next year, discussed international tax reform last year with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and now-Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said earlier this month that lawmakers are building off those discussions and that the timing of a bill will depend on when consensus can be reached. The Hill’s Naomi Jagoda tells us what needs to happen:

HAPPY TUESDAY and welcome to Overnight Finance, where we’re wondering which house in Westeros is Paul Ryan’s favorite. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

Tonight’s highlights include a flurry of action around tariffs, taking the temperature of the American fiscal sentiment, a push for Zika funding and the toll of regulations.

See something I missed? Let me know at or tweet me @SylvanLane. And if you like your newsletter, you can subscribe to it here:


  • House Education Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions: Hearing entitled “The Persuader Rule: The Administration’s Latest Attack on Employer Free Speech and Worker Free Choice,” 10 a.m.
  • House Agriculture Subcommittee on Biotechnology: Hearing entitled “Focus on the Farm Economy: Factors Impacting Cost of Production,” 10:30 a.m.
  • House Small Business Committee: Hearing entitled “S is for Savings: Pro-Growth Benefits of Employee-Owned S Corporations,” 11 a.m.
  • House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade: Hearing entitled: “How Can the U.S. Make Development Banks More Accountable?,” 10 a.m.
  • Senate Budget Committee: Hearing to examine better budgets and better results, 10:30 a.m.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS: Join us on Tuesday, May 10 for Internet of Things: The Next Frontier in Tech Innovation. Policymakers and industry leaders will discuss public-private partnerships for developing and implementing cutting-edge mobile technologies, and the policies and regulations necessary to ensure the security of these new tools. Sponsored by Visa. RSVP here.

WEATHERING THE STORM: Did you miss last Wednesday’s event, Weathering the Storm: A Forum on Navigating Volatile Markets? See the full video, photos, and event highlights from our discussion on financial security at every age, featuring Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Reps. French Hill (R-Ark.), and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif). Sponsored by the Indexed Annuity Leadership Council.

SENATE DEMS: SKIP BREAK TO PASS ZIKA FUNDING: The upper chamber’s top two Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate should not leave town until it’s taken up emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

“I believe this is a serious public health challenge, so serious we should not leave Congress this week and take a recess without passing the president’s emergency budget supplemental for public health and the Zika virus,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “The mosquitoes are not going to be on recess next week.”

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) added senators “can’t go on break without taking care of this emergency.”

“When the Senate finishes its work on energy and water, we must move to the Zika legislation,” he added.

Their comments come as senators have been locked down in negotiations over emergency funding for the Zika virus. The Senate is currently scheduled to leave town, likely on Thursday, for a weeklong recess. The Hill’s Jordain Carney walks us through the trouble:

MCCONNELL MOVES TO WRAP UP ENERGY BILL: Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is moving the Senate toward wrapping up its first appropriations bill of the year.

The Senate Republican leader filed cloture Monday on the energy funding bill and a substitute amendment. The move sets up an initial procedural vote for Wednesday, unless lawmakers can get a deal to speed up their work.

Leadership is hoping to clear the energy and water appropriations bill through the upper chamber this week.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said on Monday evening that senators are making “good progress” on the legislation.

“We hope to continue to do that and wrap the bill up soon,” added Alexander, who has been managing the appropriations bill for Republicans:

LOBBY GROUPS PRESSURE HOUSE ON TARIFF VOTE: Two business groups are pressing lawmakers to support a measure on the House floor that would streamline the application process for tariff relief.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce each issued key vote alerts on Tuesday for a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill (MTB) that is scheduled for House consideration on Wednesday.

Interest groups issue key vote alerts to let lawmakers know they will be assessing their records based on how they vote on a particular bill.

The bipartisan tariff legislation would overhaul the process for reducing or eliminating tariffs on imported inputs and products not available domestically. The Hill’s Vicki Needham tells us what’s going on:

STUDY: FED REGULATIONS COST ECONOMY $4 TRILLION EACH YEAR: Federal regulations cost the U.S. economy $4 trillion in one year, according to a new study.

A report issued Tuesday by George Mason University’s libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center says the accumulation of regulations implemented since 1980 held the economy back by $4 trillion in 2012.

If the federal government had issued no new regulations over the last three and a half decades, the economy would be 25 percent larger, the study said.

That would translate into an additional $13,000 in the pocket of every American.

“If the cost of regulatory accumulation were a country, it would have the fourth largest GDP in the world,” the authors of the study wrote. The Hill’s Tim Devaney has more:

CHAMBER CEO PREDICTS LAME DUCK TRADE DEAL VOTE: A top U.S. business leader expects a vote on a massive Asia-Pacific trade agreement after the November elections.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue said Monday that election-year pressures will force the Senate to vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a lame-duck session to protect several vulnerable Republican incumbents.

“It’s going to be the closest vote for Senate in a long, long time, and there are four or five people that are running that are in the Republican caucus that would be at risk, perhaps, if they voted for it right now, today,” Donohue said during remarks in Hannover, Germany, on Monday:

VOTERS FEAR FOR COUNTRY’S FISCAL HEALTH: Voters are most concerned about the nation’s fiscal health amid a spirited campaign for the White House, according to a new monthly poll released Tuesday.

The April fiscal confidence index is at 49 — levels below 100 reflect negative sentiment — showing that voters want Democratic and Republican presidential candidates to offer plans that address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges, according to data released by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

“As candidates make their case to voters nationwide, it’s clear that Americans want a plan to secure our fiscal and economic future,” said Michael Peterson, president and CEO of the Peterson Foundation.

“Voters expect candidates to put forth fiscal solutions and demonstrate how they will put the nation on a sustainable long-term path,” Peterson said:

WYDEN UNVEILS BUSINESS TAX PROPOSAL: Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) rolled out a proposal on Tuesday to simplify the rules for how businesses deduct the costs of equipment and other capital investments.

The discussion draft was unveiled on the same day that the Finance Committee held a hearing on business tax reform. The revenue-neutral proposal keeps “accelerated depreciation,” which allows businesses to write off investments more quickly than they depreciate.

During the hearing, Wyden said his proposal would make the tax code fairer for small businesses. He said the current tax code “tells small businesses that their dollar is worth less” compared to sophisticated businesses.

Wyden’s proposal would replace the current cost-recovery system with a more streamlined one. Naomi Jagoda tells us all about it:

HOUSE DELAYS FLOOD INSURANCE REFORM VOTE: House leadership on Tuesday afternoon postponed a vote on a popular flood insurance reform bill that’s expected to pass.

The bill, called the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, will likely receive a recorded vote Wednesday instead of a voice vote this evening, according to an aide to one of the bill’s authors. Lawmakers are trickling into Washington tonight for the workweek and the bill’s sponsors were told that leadership wanted to wait for as many representatives as possible to vote for the bill.

“Leadership’s floor staff just pushed it to tomorrow for a recorded vote,” said Joni Shockey, press secretary for Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), who sponsored the bill. “We still have strong support behind it. Nothing has changed, they just simply decided to move it to tomorrow.”

Spokesmen for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy declined to comment. McCarthy controls the House floor schedule.

The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act, introduced by Ross and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) clarifies that privately issued flood insurance policies meet a federal requirement for homes in flood-prone areas. It was passed unanimously out of the House Financial Services Committee in March:


Write us with tips, suggestions and news:,;, and Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane,  @VickofTheHill; @PeteSchroeder; and @NJagoda.

Tags Chuck Grassley Chuck Schumer Dick Durbin Harry Reid Jack Lew Jeff Merkley Kevin Brady Lamar Alexander Mitch McConnell Paul Ryan Rob Portman Ron Wyden

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