Ben Weyl

Wham! Bam! Comic Book Ads Target SEC Chairwoman

The comic book-like frames show hideous monsters oozing through Washington and attacking the White House.

Housing Actions Shored Up by Stronger Finances

The improving financial health of the Federal Housing Administration, partly the result of a recovering housing market, is giving the Obama administration room to take executive actions on affordable housing.

Republicans Pressed to Block Obama Housing Actions

Add affordable housing to President Barack Obama’s list of unilateral actions on which he’s flexing his muscles at an unfriendly Congress.

Hensarling Looks to Claim New Role: Deal-Maker

Long derided by critics as an inflexible ideologue, House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling is about to reach a major compromise to reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, potentially boosting his standing as he flexes his muscles in the next Congress.

House Eyes Terror Insurance Vote as Negotiators Near Agreement

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the House will vote next week on a plan to extend the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act ahead of a year-end deadline, as congressional sources reported significant progress Thursday toward a compromise agreement.

Overheard: Jeb Hensarling Swallows Hard

"Not the first time that I've swallowed hard in my congressional career."  

— House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, regarding his support for a continuing resolution that includes an extension of the authorization of the Export-Import Bank.  

Ben Bernanke Collection Shows Fed Chairman's Train of Thought

It looks increasingly likely that we won’t have Ben S. Bernanke to kick around much longer.

Bernanke’s second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve ends in January, and he’s been mum about his plans.

White House Nominates Rep. Watt to Housing Agency; GOP Opposition Likely

President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he would nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the regulator that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but the initial response from some lawmakers and industry representatives suggests a sharp political fight over his confirmation.

Watt, a North Carolina Democrat and former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, would replace Edward J. DeMarco, who has been at odds with the Obama administration on major housing finance issues since becoming acting director in 2009.

'Gang of Eight' Forecasts Immigration Bill Next Week

A day after labor and business groups struck a deal on a new guest-worker program, key senators said they are within reach of finalizing an immigration overhaul proposal.

Members of the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of eight,” which is crafting a comprehensive immigration bill, said they have not signed off on a proposal just yet, but are likely to unveil it next week.

Bernanke Hardly Dovish Before Senate, Sees Sequester as Risk to Economy

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke strongly defended the Fed’s monetary stimulus before a Senate panel on Tuesday, saying Congress itself is placing a “significant” burden on the economy with the sequester and urging lawmakers to replace the deep budget cuts set to take effect Friday with more measured, long-term deficit reduction.

Appearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Bernanke gave his most explicit condemnation to date about the sequester’s $85 billion in across-the-board cuts and encouraged lawmakers to craft a more thoughtful plan that would not undermine the economy.

White House Is Taking the Fight to Avoid Sequester Beyond the Beltway

The White House is aiming its latest warnings about the dire consequences of deep across-the-board spending cuts at an audience beyond the Beltway, issuing a new report Sunday that breaks down the effects on every state.

Ahead of a black-tie dinner that President Barack Obama is hosting for the country’s governors, the administration released details on how each state would be hurt by $85 billion in spending reductions slated to kick in at the end of the week. The White House has been ratcheting up the political pressure on congressional Republicans to work toward a budget deal that would replace the sequester.

Finance Panel Sets Lew Confirmation Vote for Tuesday

The Senate Finance Committee scheduled a vote for Tuesday on Jacob J. Lew’s nomination to succeed Timothy F. Geithner as Treasury secretary.

Lew is expected to easily win the panel’s backing despite questions about his investments and criticism from some Republicans about his role in budget negotiations, clearing the way for confirmation by the full Senate in the following days.

Treasury Nominee Lew Looks on Track for Confirmation After Hearing

Jacob J. Lew emerged relatively unscathed from his nomination hearing to serve as Treasury secretary, putting the administration’s choice to replace Timothy F. Geithner on a likely easy path to confirmation.

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told reporters after the hearing that he would schedule a vote on the nomination after the Senate returned from next week’s recess. Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the panel’s top Republican, said he had not decided whether to support Lew, but suggested he would not hold up the nomination on the Senate floor if approved by the panel as expected.

Lew Faces No Blockade to Treasury Approval

Barring an unexpected revelation or major slipup, Jacob J. Lew almost certainly will secure a relatively smooth path to approval as Treasury secretary after a confirmation hearing Wednesday that lawmakers will use as a forum to score political points against Obama administration fiscal policies.

Republican senators have raised questions about Lew, currently the White House chief of staff, on issues ranging from his honesty in representing administration budgets to Congress to his background in finance and his personal investments. But Lew so far hasn’t drawn the sharp criticism from the GOP that has greeted several other of President Barack Obama’s nominees on Capitol Hill.

Senate GOP Again Lines Up Against Consumer Agency Nominee

Senate Republicans say they once again have the votes to block President Barack Obama’s pick to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

In a letter to President Barack Obama on Friday, 43 GOP senators vowed to block the recent nomination of Richard Cordray to direct the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. After Republicans filibustered Cordray’s nomination in December 2011, Obama made Cordray a recess appointee in early 2012; that appointment expires at the end of this year, and Obama wants him confirmed for a full five-year term.

Republicans Call for NLRB to Shut Down in Wake of Court Ruling on Appointees

Senate Republicans won an important victory over President Barack Obama on Friday, when a federal appeals court ruled that his appointments to the National Labor Relations Board a year ago were unconstitutional. GOP lawmakers quickly responded by calling for the appointees to resign and for the board to shut down.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 3-0 that Obama overstepped his constitutional authority when he made three appointments to the NLRB while the Senate was on a holiday break in January 2012.

Obama Nominates White to SEC, Cordray to CFPB

President Barack Obama is making a case for strengthening oversight of the financial industry with his nominations of former prosecutor Mary Jo White to be chairwoman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

“We passed tough reforms to protect consumers in our financial system from the kinds of abuse that nearly brought the economy to its knees,” Obama said in a White House announcement. “But it’s not enough to change the law. We also need cops on the beat to enforce the law.”

Senate Democrats Tell Obama He May Need to Hike Debt Limit on His Own

Senate Democratic leaders urged President Barack Obama on Friday to be prepared to lift the debt ceiling “without congressional approval” if Republicans block legislation and default is imminent.

The letter from Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and other Democratic leaders signaled they are taking seriously warnings from Republicans who have said they might be willing to see the government shut down rather than allowing a debt ceiling increase without concessions from Obama on spending cuts.

Though He Lacks the Classic Resume, Lew Will Likely Be Popular Choice to Head Treasury

Although White House Chief of Staff Jacob J. Lew has relatively little experience dealing with the financial industry, that may not matter all that much if, as widely reported, President Barack Obama intends to nominate him on Thursday to be the next Treasury secretary.

Outgoing Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, like most of his recent predecessors, brought to the job deep familiarity with financial markets. But with budget negotiations — rather than responding to financial crises or crafting new banking laws — the order of the day for the next Treasury head, many on and off Wall Street view Lew as a sound choice.

Lawmakers Eye Policy Actions on Debt Limit
Government is expected to run out of borrowing authority by February’s end

With the fight over fiscal cliff issues only just resolved, the battle lines already are being drawn and important policy and economic implications measured for a coming showdown on the federal debt ceiling.

The federal government is expected to run out of borrowing authority by the end of next month, and both parties are readying a high-stakes game of chicken, with Republicans hoping to leverage new spending cuts in return for a debt limit increase and Democrats promising to hold firm in opposition.