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  • A key Democratic U.S. senator on Monday backed a Republican plan to advance legislation key to a Pacific trade deal. “The trade package currently before the Senate is a blueprint for trade done right,” said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
  • For President Barack Obama, an encouraging vote on his trade agenda and a harrowing tragedy in South Carolina showcased the promise and peril of his presidential end game. Hand-wringing over a stinging setback for Obama's trade package in Congress last week gave way to sighs of relief at the White House on Thursday when the House took the first steps to put the legislation back on track.
  • President Barack Obama and top Republicans in Congress joined forces Wednesday on a quick, bipartisan rescue attempt for the administration's trade agenda, left for dead in the House last week in a revolt carried out by Democrats and backed by organized labor. Officials said the Republican-controlled House would vote Thursday on a stand-alone bill to give Obama the enhanced negotiating authority the administration seeks as part of an effort to complete a 12-nation trade deal with Pacific Rim countries. In addition, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a firm pledge that the Republican-controlled Congress will pass legislation "in a timely manner" providing continued aid to workers who lose their jobs because of imports — a key demand of Democrats.
  • The U.S. economy is growing moderately after a winter swoon and likely strong enough to support an interest rate increase by the end of the year, but concerns remain over the recovery of the labor market, U.S. Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday. With the economy still on track to grow as much as 2 percent for the year, the central bank's latest policy statement keeps it on track for at least one and perhaps a second rate increase later this year.
  • The debate in the economics community over the Trans-Pacific Partnership continues. In Monday’s Washington Post, Lawrence Summers, who promoted a series of free-trade agreements during the nineteen-nineties, when he worked in senior posts at the Treasury Department, said, “The repudiation of the T.P.P. would neuter the U.S. presidency for the next 19 months.” Summers also provided a series of reasons to be skeptical of the treaty, however, writing, “A reflexive presumption in favor of free trade should not be used to justify further agreements. Concerns that trade agreements may be a means to circumvent traditional procedures for taking up issues ranging from immigration to financial regulation must be taken seriously.
  • The House of Representatives just voted down a crucial piece of President Obama's trade agenda in a 302-126 vote. The vote is bad news for the Trans Pacific-Partnership, the controversial trade deal Obama is currently negotiating. The House rejected a bill that would have extended funding for trade adjustment assistance programs, which help workers who have lost their jobs due to foreign competition find new work. The program is traditionally supported by Democrats, but Democrats voted no because they knew passing it would advance the TPP, which most Democrats opposed.
  • The House of Representatives on Friday delivered a blow to President Barack Obama's signature goal of strengthening ties with Asia but could try again as soon as Tuesday to reverse defeat of a measure central to a Pacific Rim trade pact. In a dramatic vote, Obama's own Democrats, as well as Republicans, rejected a program to give aid to workers who lose their jobs as a result of U.S. trade deals with other countries. The measure was soundly defeated in a 302-126 vote.
  • Jun 10 2015
    Three Cheers for ‘Obamatrade!’
    As far as I can tell, there are two general objections to the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) the White House is pushing for. The first one is wrong, but at least substantive. The other, which has picked up some currency on the Right, is simplistic and partisan. So there’s something for everybody! First, some background. The Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal with Asian nations that the White House and congressional Republican leadership both want, would still have to survive an up-or-down House and Senate vote, regardless of what happens with the TPA (TPA, or “fast-track” negotiating authority, as it used to be called, has already passed the Senate and is expected to come up for a vote in the House soon.)
  • The U.S. Federal Reserve should delay a rate hike until the first half of 2016 until there are signs of a pickup in wages and inflation, the International Monetary Fund said in its annual assessment of the economy on Thursday. The fund's report comes amid signs that some rate setters at the U.S. central bank are also pushing for rate hikes to be delayed until there are clearer signs of a sustained recovery. U.S. data has been mixed and the economy shrank 0.7 percent in the first quarter.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday said she expected the central bank to raise interest rates this year, as the U.S. economy was on course to bounce back from a sluggish first quarter and headwinds at home and abroad waned. Yellen spoke amid growing concern at the Fed about possible market volatility once it begins to raise rates, and a desire to begin coaxing skeptical investors towards accepting the inevitable: ending a 6-1/2-year stretch of near-zero interest rates.
  • The Senate passed a pair of trade protection measures Thursday, and voted shortly afterward to start debate on the fast-track bill that President Barack Obama needs to secure his massive and controversial free-trade initiatives with Asia and Europe. One measure, which reauthorizes trade preferences for some African countries, faced little opposition, and passed by a vote of 96 to 1. But the second, a customs and trade enforcement package, was approved more narrowly, with 78 voting in favor and 20 opposed.
  • Republicans take infighting for granted. The GOP establishment and Tea Party insurgents have been waging a bloody battle for the heart and soul of the party for years now. Democrats aren't used to this kind of rancor — particularly between party all stars. So when President Barack Obama slammed Elizabeth Warren over the weekend as "a politician like everybody else" whose "arguments don't stand the test of fact and scrutiny"?
  • One of the most common objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to complete in the next few months, is its lack of rules against currency manipulation. Critics such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) charge that for more than a decade, Japan and China have been stockpiling dollars in an effort to artificially reduce the value of their currencies. That allegedly gives them an unfair advantage in international markets. These members of Congress want to add rules to the TPP (which doesn't include China but includes Japan and could set a precedent for future trade deals) to stop countries from depressing the value of their currencies.
  • A group of pro-trade Senate Democrats announced on Tuesday that they will vote against a fast-track trade measure, effectively blocking the bill from being debated by the Senate. After a lengthy meeting on Tuesday, the Democrats said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not guaranteed sufficient concessions on worker protections. With McConnell refusing to budge, Democratic leaders predicted that they can muster 41 votes to block the bill this afternoon, after both parties plot further strategy at private party lunches.
  • The Pacific trade agreement faces its first test in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in a knife-edge vote that may hold the key to President Barack Obama's diplomatic pivot to Asia. "This is going to be an old fashioned cliffhanger," said a senior Senate Democratic aide. The Senate vote is one of a likely series of congressional hurdles to be overcome that will hinge on the support of a handful of Democrats. The White House has launched a campaign blitz directed at them in support of granting the president authority to speed trade deals through Congress.
  • U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is a very smart man who’s at home in the military-industrial complex, but he’s not very sharp on trade issues. Case in point: Carter’s recent claim in a speech at the start of his Asia trip: “We already see countries in the region trying to carve up these markets.” That was Carter’s attempt to show his support of the Obama administration’s big push to obtain fast-track authority to win eventual passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership — the implication being that without TPP, America will lose ground in Asia. But all Carter did was show that when it comes to economics, he’s stuck in an earlier century.
  • President Barack Obama fought back on Thursday against the biggest domestic obstacle to the Pacific trade pact he wants to conclude before he leaves office: the trade skeptics in his own Democratic party. Trade unions, environmental groups and high-profile Democrats like Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have come out swinging against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, saying it would send American jobs overseas. "When people say that this trade deal is bad for working families, they don't know what they're talking about," Obama told a group of about 200 volunteers and donors with Organizing for Action, an advocacy group formed by his former campaign team. "I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.
  • By one estimate, American individuals and businesses together spend 6.1 billion hours complying with the tax code every year. Lots of that time is likely compressed into these last few weeks before April 15. But while people pore over TurboTax forms, they may not be thinking about bigger income tax questions: have we always paid income taxes? (No.) Do all countries? (No.) If I find a pirate's chest full of gold doubloons in my lawn, do I have to report that? (Yes.) We have you covered. Below we present things you may not know about income taxes.
  • They are very convincing when they call. They have a Washington phone number and can cite your financial history down to the cent. They say you're under investigation, in danger of losing your home, or worse, your freedom -- unless you pay thousands of dollars on the spot. But they're not real. And you're not in trouble. Not unless you take it seriously. This is a scam.
  • Taxes are one of the few constants in life, but what happens when you change the way you do your return? People move or get divorced, tax preparers pass away. There is always the lure of do-it-yourself - the number of people using tax software to file, like Intuit's TurboTax, increases by 6 percent annually, according to the Internal Revenue Service. And then there is the reverse exodus of people who have decided their financial lives are too complicated, and they need to hire a professional. With so many changes, consistency takes a beating. If you are on the wrong end of it, you could end up drawing the dreaded attention of the IRS. Here are the items that can trip up taxpayers when they switch the way they do their taxes: